[Syrphidae] FW: Advanced hunting behaviour or what?

Francis Gilbert Francis.Gilbert at nottingham.ac.uk
Tue Aug 14 13:57:50 BST 2012

Dr Francis Gilbert
Associate Professor of Ecology, School of Biology
University Park, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 115 951 3215
website: www.nottingham.ac.uk/~plzfg

From: Wittsell, Rasmus - Xylem [mailto:Rasmus.Wittsell at Xyleminc.com]
Sent: 14 August 2012 12:38
To: syrphidae at nottingham.ac.uk
Subject: Advanced hunting behaviour or what?


Today I observed an unusual thing as I was having lunch in my garden. Being a former ecology student (at the university in Lund, 1980s) I recognized that this could be of interest to the right persons.  In short, this is what I saw and I also propose an explanation, however far-fetched:

A wasp (species undetermined) landed on the table in front of me. It looked strangely deformed, so I took a closer look. The wasp was actually piggy-backing a hoverfly (also species unknown). Obviously the wasp had caught the hoverfly, but it was just holding on to it in a way that reminded me of a mating embrace. It immediately occurred to me that the fly may have been fooled into allowing the wasp to mount it. If this was so, it would further imply that the hoverfly was a victim of its own mimicry strategy because the wasp had developed a hunting strategy that capitalizes on it.

I don't have any more information, as the insects promptly flew away. The fly was still alive and it seemed to be actively participating in the flight(, though it was probably just trying to escape). Both insects were of equal size and the wasp was of a rather small species, though I didn't have time to observe it for more than a few seconds. I live in Sjöbo in southernmost Sweden.

Best regards

Rasmus Wittsell
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