Assassin Bug

Pselliopus sp.
Pselliopus sp.

I was in one of the restored prairies at Caesars Creek State Park in Warren County, Ohio. a couple of weeks ago for a meeting. After the meeting I had a chance to go out with some of the folks for botanzing, birding, and a little insect hunting. I came across two of these Assassin Bug nymphs while we were out walking. This one was the smaller of the two, but was posed nicely for me. It’s hard to get these down further to get an exact ID.

OwlFly Eyes

owl_fly_eyes_Ululodes.JPG-5742Check out these eyes on this insect. It is an Owlfly (Ululodes species) most likely quadripunctatus. These insects are related to Antlions and  Lacewings, They somewhat resemble dragonflies but have clubbed antennae and fold their wings over their backs. Like Dragonflies and Antlions these insects are predatory both as larva and adults. The adults will come to lights at night but are said most often fly at dusk and dawn. This particular individual wasn’t in the best shape but I got this interesting shot of its eyes.

 

Mothapalooza was awesome

Yes, I sadly ignore this blog. I am considering turning it into a photo blog but anyway. Mothapalooza was awesome, all the cool people were there. Got to hang out and rub shoulders with some of the top moth people in the country. Found lots of ticks, butterflies, beetles, and other arthropods as well. Hopefully they will have this event again in the future.

Here are some daytime photos.mothapalooza-5322 mothapalooza-5332 red milkweed longhorn beetle - Tetraopes tetrophthalmus-5342 mothapalooza-5376 mothapalooza-5386 mothapalooza-5388 mothapalooza-5445 mothapalooza-5464

The brightly-colored Harlequin Bug, (Murgantia histrionica)

My long ignored blog, bugging has been a bit slow for me this summer and life got in the way. I’ve been seeing a bunch of these Harlequin Bugs around the yard the past couple of weeks as summer put on its last hurrah. These stink bugs feed on plants like cabbage, cauliflower, and turnips. Theses insects have piercing mouth parts that the use to suck sap from the plants, this damages the plant and also gives a path for other pathogens to enter the plant. When present in large numbers they can be quite destructive. In the first set of images you can see some freshly hatched nymphs and the barrel shaped eggs. The female typical lays a dozen eggs on the underside of a leaf and the eggs hatch in a few days. Notice the freshly hatched ones that don’t have the black markings yet. These nymphs will go through several stages before becoming adults.

 

Here are some slightly older nymphs notice they are very similar to the newly hatched nymphs above

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally after 50-80 days and multiple molts the nymph becomes an adult.

MayFly Nymph and Adult

My long ignored blog deserves some love. I’ve really been into aquatic insects recently and while wading around in a vernal pool I came across a MayFly Nymph. I captured it in a container and brought it home to take pictures of it. I ended up making a couple of small aquariums to make photography a little easier. It took about 120 shots but I got a pretty cool image of a swimming nymph

 

 

 

 

I caught a few more of them and raised them to adulthood. Below is a picture of an adult. These will only live for a few days, just long enough to breed.

 

 

 

 

 

Mayflies belong to the order Ephemeroptera and there are approximately 630 species in North America alone. In Ohio where I live there are around 114 species. Mayflies are very intolerant of polluted waters and are often used as one of the indicators of water quality. At times these insects can be a nuisance as they tend to emerge in mass coating every surface. They will only be around for a short time however, once they mate the females will lay thousands of eggs and both will die. The eggs will hatch and a new brood of nymphs will spend a year in the water to repeat the cycle.

The Brown Lacewing

Well bug season is winding down but I’m still finding a few around. The other evening I found this Brown Lacewing on the porch. These insects are not as showy as their brilliant green cousins but up close they are equally striking.  These insects are dead leaf mimics and I can certainly see why. If you look at the wings they have long veins much like a leaf. All of the Lacewings are important predators of other insects especially aphids.

Here are a couple of close ups of this insect. It was really curious and allowed me to move in close and do some 3x shots.

This shows some details of the back and wing attachment also some nice detail in the antennae (click on the image large image)

 

 

 

I got great eye detail in this shot. Not only did it hold still for this it was actually looking at the camera. (Click on the image for larger view)

 

 

Photographing Ants is hard work

I posted this on Google+ today but I wanted to go into more detail here. I’ve been spending too much time reading Alex Wild’s blog http://myrmecos.net/ and his work has inspired me to pay closer attention to ants.  Today was very windy and the quite cool so I was searching trees and tree trunks for insects. I came across an ant that was crawling about on a dead limb in a oak tree. I shot about twenty shots of this ant (Camponotus pennsylvanicus, the eastern black carpenter ant) and the one below is the only one that was not horrible. Ants are quite the challenge, not only are they small (although this one was quite large), they are highly mobile, they are also highly reflective, and they are also fairly uniform in color/shape. In the twenty shots I encountered just about every problem. I over exposed, under exposed, had motion blur from the wind, hand the any move away, blurry focus, body in focus but eye blurry, etc. My hat is off to the people that successfully photography ants.

 

Composition in insect photography

One topic that came up at BugShot 2011 that resonated with me was trying to control backgrounds to improve the quality of insect images. This is an area I have been trying to improve on this year and one that I am trying to devote some time and thought to. When shooting macro cluttered backgrounds are a problem we all have to deal with. Some tips from Bugshot were to shot up where possible to use the sky as a uniform background. Relocate the insect to a different location such as a different leaf, a different plant, or even into the studio. Hold something behind the insect to provide a uniform background, such as a piece of paper, a photo, or even a leaf. Another technique is to force the background out of focus. This can be an effective technique and can provide additional depth in the image when it is possible. Last week I was wondering around the edge of the field behind my home and came across a bee nectaring on a flower. My first instinct was to go 1:1 and zoom in on the bee. But as I was composing I realized that by lowering my angle on the shot, moving back a bit away from the bee/flower, and shifting slightly I could capture both the bee and and out of focus flower in the background. Here is the result

I like this image for several reasons. By stepping back I manged to grab some great background details, the nice greens, the out of focus flower that balances nicely against the flower the bee is on, increased depth of field around the bee resulting in both the bee and the flower in sharp focus, and with a little flash I got a nice catch light on the bee’s eyes. I also think by stepping back and including more detail the image tells a better story. You can imagine the bee working the flowers collecting nectar vs a close up of the face of the bee.

 

BugShot 2011

If you read any of the nature blogs I imagine that you have heard about the BugShot 2011 workshop. Over the labor day weekend I had the opportunity to attend this event. I rolled out of the house at 6:30am Friday morning and after a very smooth drive I arrived at the venue by 2:00pm. Most folks were checked in by early afternoon and I hooked up with another attendee TK from Canada and we went out bug hunting. We all met for an excellent supper, brief introductions by the instructors, and general socialization. After dinner we went out to some black lights that had been hung up for more bug photography.  Bright and early Saturday morning things got under way with presentations by each of the leaders. The workshop leaders were Alex Wild, Thomas Shahan, and John Abbott. Each instructor had a very different style and I was very interested to learn from them. The instructors had a challenge that the group was split between entomologists with cameras and limited photography experience  and photographers who shoot photos of insects. The instructors did a good job balancing the two groups with maybe a slight bias to towards the less experienced photographers. Saturday and Sunday were a good mix of classroom presentations and field work taking pictures of insects. The field work consisted of splitting into groups with the instructors with them providing field instruction. Monday morning came far to early and by 1:30 in the afternoon I was head home. The drive home was not as a smooth as the drive over but still I was home by 9:30. The high points for me were the instructors, the wonderful people I got to meet, and some of the lively discussions we had. The low point was probably some of the basic equipment discussions and some of the photography basics. However saying that I don’t believe the instructors had much choice in the matter as a lot of the people in attendance got something from those discussions.  The food was excellent and a special thanks should go out to all those involved in selecting and providing the food. Shaw Nature Reserve provided an excellent venue and the onsite cabins were very nice. I will admit I headed out to a hotel after the first night as the mattress in my bed didn’t provide enough support for my bad back. I’ve had a couple of people ask me if I would attend a second BugShot. The answer would be it depends, if it were a repeat of this year I would say No. However if the instructors were to provide a second track targeted at the more advanced photographer I would be very interested. I think with the talent of the leaders it would be very easy to cover both groups. I really hope to see this workshop succeed.

Now for some pictures from the event.