This praying mantis is eating a yellow jacket. Eating is not the right word; this praying mantis is butchering a yellow jacket, disassembling it, undoing it. And all the while, the yellow jacket is still alive, trapped in the clutches of the mantis’s claw. The yellow jacket wrestles against its captor. It attempts to sting and writhe from the vice grip, but the mantis has its prey played perfectly. It holds the yellow jacket far down, at the joint of the body, rending the stinger useless.
Apparently, the Praying Mantis vs. Yellow Jacket phenomenon is fairly common, though I had never heard of it. I found dozens of videos on Youtube, all of which are interesting and worth a look, but rarely is Youtube better than real life. In this case, the mantis had positioned itself next to the entrace to a hanging yellow jacket trap, and as the unsuspecting yellow jackets approached, attracted by the scent of the fresh bait, the mantis snatched them out of the air. At one point (before I had my camera with me) the mantis was clutching two yellow jackets–one in each claw. In the time of plenty, the mantis was stocking up.
But two turned out to be too many for the greedy mantis, and by the time I returned with my camera one yellow jacket had escaped. With both claws free, the mantis abandoned his efforts for a double helping and began devouring the one unlucky yellow jacket. I watched as the mantis bit into the head, removed the protective outer shell, and began picking at the soft inner flesh (click on the photo below for a close up). It was horrible and fascinating.
But most fascinating was that even with the top of its head ripped off, the yellow jacket still buzzed and pricked, determined to fight to the end against the forces of mantis and nature.