Sing one’s supper

Hi blog.

The worst of the heat has passed, and in fact we’ve had some rather cool nights recently.

Signs of the approaching end of summer are around us – the days are noticebly shorter than they were just three weeks ago, the air has a different smell, I no longer hear the bush warblers, and different cicadas are singing.

Ah, cicadas – city folk complain just how noisy these insects get (an attitude I find a bit rich coming from a nation that pipes music onto beaches and into mountains!), but I would suggest very few notice the changes in the songs as summer progresses and different cicadas become more active.

This post is another stumbled-upon event, in this case a wasp dragging the carcass of a cicada.

“Can’t talk… eating…” The wasp was blissfully ignorant of the phone camera lens just centimetres from its face.

At first I suspected the wasp was a hornet, but it would appear to be a kind of paper wasp – in this case Polistes jokahamae (sorry, I couldn’t find an English common name) – which is known locally as seguroashinagabachi (背黒脚長蜂), literally “black-backed long-legged wasp”.

Distantly related to the Japanese giant hornet, this wasp is also equipped with a potentially lethal sting – it’s venom can trigger anaphylaxis – but is not particularly aggressive.  This wasp is omnivorous, so I imagine that it was trying to tear the carapace of the cicada apart to get to the juicy bits.

As for the cicada, it was fairly easy to identify with a guidebook.  The transparent wings and blue tinged body readily identify as Hyalessa maculaticollis (again, I am unable to find a common English name), which is known as minminzemi (ミンミン蝉) in Japanese, a reference to its particular song.  These cicadas don’t tolerate the heat as well as some other species, so their songs become more predominant during the later part of summer.

Getting these pictures was pretty much a fluke – actually stumbling across this particular scene, the fact that the wasp didn’t seem to mind me sticking my phone in its face, and that my phone battery lasted long enough to get a decent shot – it died seconds after turning on the camera!


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