I noticed a wasp on the side of my bee hive clutching what looked like the head of a bee, before flying off. Then I noticed a bee running through the grass, seemingly confused and in a panic. I wondered if it had been attacked. A couple of wasps were buzzing around in the grass in front of the hive. Another one seemed to fly off with the head of a bee. So I put a terracotta tile in front of the hive and lay down in the grass to watch.....

wasps-attacking-bees 005a_0.jpg

At first sight all seems fine and the colony of about 30,000 gentle, hard working bees are relaxed and busy bringing in pollen and nectar...


wasps-attacking-bees 007a_1.jpg

Suddenly a menacing wasp appears above the bees.....


wasps-attacking-bees 011a_0.jpg

Then the wasp dives down and assaults a bee in 'a completely unprovoked attack', upending it (slightly out of focus at the top of view)


wasps-attacking-bees 012a.jpg

Wasp and bee roll around on the entrance board to the hive, here the wasp is up-ended


wasps-attacking-bees 014a.jpg

They fall off the crawl-board onto the terracotta tile I have just put in front of the hive, still locked in combat...


wasps-attacking-bees 016a_0.jpg

Another wasp comes to join in the attack...


wasps-attacking-bees 019a.jpg

The second wasp swoops in to tip the odds against the bee...


wasps-attacking-bees 020a.jpg

Then another wasp arrives and it's three against one.... the rest of the beehive carries on working as if nothing has happened, the priority of the gentle bees being to feed their brood in the hive and build up their winter stores.



The wasps work together mercilessly and seem to be getting the upper hand.... this vicous attack reminds me of  the behaviour of some of the recent London rioters


wasps-attacking-bees 028a.jpg

And when I see this picture I can't help think of pictures of attack helicopters hovering over their target... it's frightening how close man's behaviour is to this. I fear that civilised behaviour is a very thin veneer. The wasps are displaying the very same basic instincts that were used by our ancestors in their struggle to survive and ultimately to dominate.


wasps-attacking-bees 033a.jpg

The wasp is now really 'putting the boot in' with its sting in the abdomen of the bee; wasp no 2 overhead can hardly hold himself back from giving the bee a good kicking too.


wasps-attacking-bees 034a.jpg

Now attacking the bee's head....


wasps-attacking-bees 035a.jpg

Oops, the wasp is underneath, this calls for some 'intervention'.


wasps-attacking-bees 037a.jpg

The fight continues into the jungle of rough grass...


wasps-attacking-bees 041a.jpg

"Keeping up the pressure"


wasps-attacking-bees 044a.jpg

Even the wasps are beginning to find this a bit sickening and lay off for a while. The bee, heavily wounded, somehow climbs back on to the terracotta and crawls towards home.


wasps-attacking-bees 045a.jpg

Making some more progress home...


wasps-attacking-bees 046a.jpg

Ouch. That is a completely unexpected surprise attack. This dramatic shot of the key knock-out strike reminds me of a scene in a wrestling or boxing match. I can hear the crowd roar and surge forward....  



Wasp leaping into the air 'arms' vertical in victorious display


wasps-attacking-bees 048a.jpg

Innocent bee in agony from vicious wasp attack


wasps-attacking-bees 049a.jpg

You can feel the bee's agony, its cry for help, it's terror and confusion, "why me?"  As an onlooker, you want to help but don't know what to do.


wasps-attacking-bees 050a.jpg

Trying to hang on to life... there is so much good work to be done in the hive


wasps-attacking-bees 051a.jpg

Turning around on the spot. She doesn't know where the next attack might come from.... terrified....


wasps-attacking-bees 052a.jpg

wasps-attacking-bees 053a.jpg

Kissing the ground and praying for help


wasps-attacking-bees 054a.jpg

Sudden irrational fear or on-rush of pain?




wasps-attacking-bees 057a.jpg

Not again? This is too horrible.



wasps-attacking-bees 067a.jpg

"You might not be able to see me, but you can probably hear me."


wasps-attacking-bees 068a.jpg

"I'm right behind you; you cannot get away"


wasps-attacking-bees 069a.jpg

"There is no escape"


wasps-attacking-bees 070a.jpg

"I didn't push her"


wasps-attacking-bees 072a.jpg

Still refusing to give up and climbing back into the ring


wasps-attacking-bees 073a.jpg

I really want to intervene, I can't bear this


wasps-attacking-bees 074a.jpg

wasps-attacking-bees 075a_0.jpg

wasps-attacking-bees 077a.jpg

Now she's going crazy. I think she may be blind, she is climbing up and falling down in frantic haste. This is what I saw another bee doing earlier. My suspicions of what was going on then are now confirmed.


wasps-attacking-bees 079a.jpg

wasps-attacking-bees 080a.jpg

"You could have intervened... why didn't you?"


wasps-attacking-bees 086a.jpg

Back again....


wasps-attacking-bees 092a.jpg

Nearing the end....


wasps-attacking-bees 093a.jpg


wasps-attacking-bees 135a.jpg

wasps-attacking-bees 156a.jpg

wasps-attacking-bees 161a.jpg

wasps-attacking-bees 164a.jpg

That's it. Over. Attack started 15:47 on 13th August 2011 in broad daylight on a perfectly ordinary day, with the bees going about a normal day's work in warm sunshine. Finished in the death of one bee at 16:02, 13th August. This is probably happening every day, 'in our own backyards' ; 'under our noses' while we go about our daily work in relative peace, hardly aware of the turmoil all around us.

wasps-attacking-bees 169a.jpg

Are you a wasp or a bee?