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Archive for the ‘Bugs’ Category

Yesterday my friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer and I were photographing flowers in different parts of her garden when she excitedly called out to me that she had spotted a ladybug inside one of the irises. I rushed over and spotted a tiny Multi-colored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis) feverishly crawling around inside of a beautiful yellow bearded iris.

I had a mental picture of composing an image in which the viewer would looking from the outside into the interior of the flower.  That meant that I could not get too close to the ladybug. It also meant that the ladybug had to cooperate by crawling into the right part of the frame. I watched and waited and eventually was able to capture the kind of artsy image that I had imagined.

ladybug in iris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I love ladybugs and was thrilled to spot this one on Monday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. When I posted this photo on Facebook, one viewer noted that this is a Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis), a non-native species that has become the most common species in the United States since it was deliberately introduced into the country in 1916 in an attempt to control the spread of aphids.

How can you tell a native ladybug from the Asian ladybug? Several sources on-line note that the Asian ladybug has a white marking behind its head in the openings of what looks like a black M, as you can see on the ladybug in my photo. If you are interested in learning more about the differences, check out this fascinating article at thespruce.com, The Differences Between Ladybugs and Asian Lady Beetles.

Whether native or not, this ladybug in my eyes is beautiful. If you want to see something really cool, click on the photo and check out the details on the ladybug’s front foot. I never knew that ladybugs have two tiny toes.

 

ladybug

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Milkweed plants provide a wonderful habitat for all kinds of creatures, including this Large Milkweed Bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus) that I spotted earlier this week at Green Spring Gardens. These  bugs go through a fascinating series of physical transformations as they move though different nymph phases. A little over six years ago, I studied these bugs  pretty closely and documented their stages of development in a posting that I called Life phases of the large milkweed beetle. Be sure to check it out for more information and fascinating photos of these colorful little bugs.

I really like the combination of colors in this simple shot, colors that remind me a little of Christmas. However, I doubt that anyone would choose to feature this image on their annual Christmas card. 🙂

Large Milkweed Bug

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Insect identification is really tough for me. When I saw this insect crawling about on the top of what I believe is a Shasta daisy, I was pretty sure that it was a beetle. Beyond that, I really had no idea what it was. A quick search on the internet made me conclude that it was a kind of scarab beetle.

I posted a photo on the website bugguide.net and asked for help. Responders provided a couple of possibilities and it looks most likely that this is an Oriental Beetle (Exomala orientalis) or (Anomala orientalis). In some ways it’s not that important to identify my subject, but it is something that I strive to do as much as I can and I usually end up learning a lot in the process of figuring out what I have shot.

I took quite a few shots of this beetle and especially like this one, because the beetle raised its head momentarily and I was able to get a look at its cool forked antennae. I also like the way I was able to capture some of the drops of water on the petals of the daisy.

In case any viewer is worried that I have given up on dragonflies, I can reassure you that I still have shots of lots of beautiful dragonflies to be posted and am always seeking more. I just figured that I would mix things up a little and provide a little glimpse at the world through my macro lens.

Oriental Beetle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love ladybugs but don’t see them very often.  I was therefore pretty happy on Monday when I spotted this one crawling around in the vegetation at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetlands Refuge. So often a ladybug will keep its head so close to the vegetation that it’s hard to see it, but this one cooperated by raising its head, almost like it was posing for me.

ladybug

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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While exploring Meadowood Recreation Area in Lorton, VA last month with fellow photographer Walter Sanford, I observed this Giant Water Bug (Lethocerus americanus) perched in the vegetation at the edge of a small pond. The bug’s size and its pose remind me of a tree frog—it’s over 2 inches (5 cm) long.
I have since learned that these bugs are nicknamed “toe-biters” and am happy that I didn’t get too close to it.
Giant Water Bug
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Late in the summer, there is a great abundance of flying and crawling insects—they are everywhere. I enjoy photographing many of them and generally I will try to identify my subjects when I post their photos.

In this case, however, I didn’t get a close enough view or a sharp enough shot of this cool-looking insect for me to be confident in any identification. (Alas, the photo is clear enough for me to realize that I need to clean my camera’s sensor, for I can see a bunch of stops in the beautiful background of what is often called “sensor dust.”)

Still, I really like the insect’s pose at the top of the vegetation, a pose that somehow brings to mind the “King of the World” moment in the movie Titanic.

bug

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As we move deeper into spring, I am increasingly walking around with my macro lens on my camera and I view anything that moves (and some that don’t) as a potential subject. I recently captured some images of a shield bug that I spotted on a rotten bug. Most often people refer to these insects as “stink bugs,” but I figured I’d attract more readers with the word “shield” than with the word “stink.” There are a lot of different kinds of shield/stink bugs and I have not been able to identify the species of my little bug.

The bug was quite active and I remembered again how difficult it is to stop action when using a macro lens at close range. I am pretty happy with the shots I was able to get. The first one gives a good view of the shield shape and shows how well camouflaged this species is for the environment. The second images shows some of the details of the back and I can’t help but love the simple, smooth background. The final image shows the bug resting for a moment, having successfully made it to the top of an obstacle.

After a winter with few macro subjects to photograph, I am relearning a few techniques and rekindling my excitement for insects and other macro subjects. I’m pretty confident that you’ll be seeing a lot of macro shots in the upcoming weeks and months.

stink bugstink bug

stink bug

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s difficult not to feel a bit like a voyeur when you spot a pair of ladybugs mating. They consummate the act in public view and their bold coloration makes them almost impossible to miss. Still, there is just something loveable about ladybugs and I doubt that many readers will find these images objectionable.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Whether you call it a ladybug or ladybird or lady beetle, everyone enjoys seeing these brightly colored members of the Coccinellidae family. Little kids love them, gardeners like the fact that they consume aphids, and there is something cute and cheery about their appearance.

My good friend and fellow photographer Cindy Dyer spotted this ladybug during a quick trip that we made to Green Spring Gardens, a county-run historical garden not far from where I live. Cindy has already posted images on her blog of some of the many flowers in bloom that we observed yesterday—I got sidetracked by searching for insects and didn’t get as many flower photos.

Later in the year, I will almost certainly see lots of ladybugs, but this was the first one of the spring, so it is special for me.

ladybug_may_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray as fall arrives in my local marsh, but there are still occasional spots of bright color, like this beetle that I encountered yesterday, crawling down a withered leaf. I have not been able to identify it, but its bold pattern and colors remind me of the art and fashions of the late 1960’s, when no combination was too wild. I graduated from high school in 1972 and still recall wearing some pretty wild-looking clothes.

Somehow I think the pattern on the beetle’s back would work well on a necktie. I guess it’s a commentary on how my life has progressed that I now think more in terms of neckties than tie-dyed t-shirts.

colorful_bug_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I continue to be fascinated by the metamorphosis of bugs and was happy to spot these familiar bright red milkweed bug nymphs recently at my local marshland.

Last year, I closely followed the development of Large Milkweed Bugs (Oncopeltus fasciatus) and documented my observations in a posting called Life Phases of the Large Milkweed Bug. I was a bit surprised when that posting turned out to be my fourth most visited posting of the year (it was since slipped to number six on the charts), because it was as much an educational posting as one to highlight my photos.

When I spotted these bugs, there were several clusters of them and the individuals seemed to be gradually separating as they sought out food. The bugs go through five phases (instars) as nymphs before they become adults and these look to be in one of the middle phases of development, judging from the size of the “wings.”

In case someone is not familiar with these bugs, I am attaching a photo from last year of adult milkweed bugs to give an idea of what these nymphs will eventually become.

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bug8_5x7blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I probably should have come up with a more creative title for this posting than the name of the featured insect. I mean, really, how many readers will be enticed to read a posting about a Dusky Stink Bug (Euschistus tristigmus)?  I word “stink” is enough to turn off some people.

Stink bugs are pretty much all shaped the same, but they come in different colors and patterns, many of which are similar, so identification is not always easy. In this case, for example, I had to determine if the shoulders were rounded or pointed to distinguish between two brown stink bugs—they look pointed to me.

The stink bug was hanging upside down, feeding on a plant that I can’t identify, when I encountered him. He seemed to be feeding, although I never did get a look at his face in order to verify my assumption. The upside down perspective is a little odd and I thought about rotating the image, but ultimately decided to leave it with its original orientation.

shield_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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It’s hard enough to identify moths and butterflies when they are fully grown—it seems almost impossible to do so when they are caterpillars, like this fuzzy white caterpillar that I encountered today at my local marshland park.

The caterpillar had so much long hair that it was hard to see the actual body, which might have been quite small for all I could tell. It was crawling around in the cattails on a day that featured intermittent rain. If you look closely at the first shot, you can see little water drops near what I think is the area of the head.

The second shot may look like it was done with flash, but the darker background was caused merely by changing the settings on my camera and deliberately overexposing the image.

fuzzy2_blogfuzzy1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) are very destructive, but also very beautiful and I sought to highlight both of these aspects in this image.

There were quite a few plant with holes chewed in them in one area of the marsh and I suspect that Japanese beetles were the culprits (this one sure looks guilty). I like the coloration and the reflectiveness of the insect’s body.  I’m not completely sure, but  I think that I see my own reflection as well as the sky in the part of the shell near the beetle’s head.

This was a situation in which I really enjoyed having my new 180mm macro lens. It allowed me to frame it the way in which I wanted without scaring away the beetle (and I did not have to do much cropping at all).

beetle_chew_blog© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As I was photographing sunflowers this past weekend, I came across this Dogbane Beetle (Chrysochus auratus), peering over the edge of a leaf. I can not confirm if it was responsible for the hole in the leaf, but I do like the way that the hole looks in the photo.

I took this shot at the minimum focusing distance of my 55-250mm telephoto zoom (3.6 feet (1.1 m), even though it looks like it was photographed with a macro lens. Often when shooting nature shots, I’ve found it best to make do with the lens that is on the camera at that moment, rather than risk losing the shot by changing to the best lens for the situation.

Dogbane Beetle lorez

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I was out yesterday on a trip to photograph sunflowers, but couldn’t resist capturing images of insects that my fellow photographers and I discovered, like this beetle—probably a blister beetle—on a chicory flower.

chicory_bugA_blog

In many ways this image was part of an experiment for me. I was using a camera that is new to me, a used Canon 50D that I recently purchased, and this was my test run with it. The Canon 50D is several years old and is far from the bleeding edge of technology, it’s a considerable step up from my Canon Rebel XT. I also was trying to shoot macro-like photos with a telephoto zoom, because my macro lens has been acting up and is now on its way to Canon for repair. Finally, I jumped a couple of versions of Photoshop Elements and discovered today that the interface has changed considerably between versions 9 and 11, so it was interesting trying to work on this image.

Once I get the hang of my new camera and new software, I’m hoping to improve that you’ll be able to see some improvement in the quality of my images.

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Last summer I confessed to being obsessed with Red Milkweed Beetles (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus) in one of my postings and initial signs this summer suggest that the fascination remains strong.

This past weekend, I spotted several of my little red friends when visiting Green Spring Gardens, a local county-run historical garden, and I stalked them like a paparazzo, trying to get a good shot. I particularly like this image, in which the beetle is staring down at me from a partially eaten leaf. (I don’t know if it was the one that chewed up the leaf.)

The colors of the photo may suggest Christmas, but I am not sure that there would be much of a market for this as a Christmas card image.

redbug1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Some bees seem to be really tidy when they are gathering pollen, but this bee was a total mess, with pollen sticking all over its legs and underside. The bee looks to be some kind of honey bee, although the striped markings on its lower body seem a little unusual.

Often when I am shooting a macro shot, I am so worried about the technical aspects of the shot that I forget that photography is also an art. This image helps remind me that photography remains a creative pursuit, a fusion of art and science.

pollen_1a_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As you walk through certain areas of my local marsh, the air is filled with the fragrance of the wild roses, probably Virginia Roses (Rosa virginiana), which, according to Wikipedia, are native to eastern North America.

I stooped down closer to draw in the perfumed air and my eyes were attracted to the bold pattern of a beetle that was gathering nectar from the flower.  It appears to be a kind of Flower Longhorn beetle,  which I have tentatively identified as a member of the species Strangalia luteicornis. 

Check out the entry in Bugguide, one of my favorite on-line sources of information on insects, if your want additional information on this species.

long_beetle1_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As I was checking out the cattails that are growing like crazy at my local marsh, I spotted this little beetle chewing on the soft insides of a broken cattail.  I immediately recognized him as a Spotted Cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata), a species that I encountered numerous times last summer when photographing flowers.

I really like the texture of the immature cattail, both on the outside as well as on the inside, and the bold design of the beetle.  I think that those elements and the varied shades of green make for a cool, graphic image.

cucumber1_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Last summer, my favorite photographic subject was the Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) and I was really excited on Friday to see that they are once again present at my local marshland park.

It continues to be a challenge to get close enough to capture the wonderful details of the dragonfly and to manage the background so that it is not too cluttered. I am happy to have gotten a few good images of male Blue Dashers to start the season, with the promise of more shots to come.

dasher1_blogdasher2_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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After spending most of their lives underground as nymphs, the 17 year cicadas (Magicicada septendecim) spend the few weeks of their adult lives looking for love. The males are very loud in their “singing” as they seek to attract females. I watched one cicada couple go through a very brief introduction and courtship phase and then suddenly they were mating.

I guess that you have to move quickly when your days are numbered.

love1_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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From a distance, I couldn’t tell why the stems of this plant were bright red in color, but when I got closer, I realized it was covered in little red insects. I think that these might be aphids, but I am not completely sure. There were ladybugs in some nearby plants, and if these are in fact aphids, the ladybugs may be in for a feast.

Does anyone have a better idea what kind of insects these are?

bugs_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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What do you get when you place two six year old boys in an outdoor environment filled with cicadas? You get a whole lot of energy and excitement. One of the boys came running up to me with a cicada perched on his fingertip and almost desperately asked me to take his picture. How could I refuse a request like that?

I decided that the best backdrop for the cicada was the colorful t-shirt that he was wearing. I am not sure exactly what was displayed on the shirt, but it seemed to be some sort of monsters and superheroes, which somehow seemed to be appropriate.  Be sure to click on the photo to get a higher resolution of the cicada, which is a really cool-looking insect (in a slightly creepy way).

boy_cicada_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Like Paul Revere’s call in 1775, the cry went out in early May, “The cicadas are coming, the cicadas are coming.” After 17 years in the ground, the cicadas of Brood II  (Magicicada septendecim) were coming back in force. The Washington Post ran a story with the sensationalist headline of Bug-phobic dread the looming swarm of Brood II cicadas” and hysteric anticipation gripped the metro D.C. area.

Like most of the snowstorms forecast in this area, the invasion of the cicadas has been underwhelming. I had not seen a single cicada until I traveled to Manssas, VA for a cookout and the got to see and hear a large number of these scarey-looking insects. Apparently we are past the peak moments, but the noise in some places was just short of deafening and there were some bushes that were covered with the giant insects.

I was struck by the contrast between the fierce look of this cicada and the delicate beauty of the purple iris on which he was perched.

beast1_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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It took some time for this tiny insect to ascend to the top of this leaf, which may have looked like a mountain to him, and once there he seemed relax and pose for me, as though he was really proud of his accomplishment.

I don’t have any idea what kind of insect he is and would welcome any additional information (or even guesses) from fellow bloggers. To aid you in identification, I have loaded a higher resolution view that you can access by clicking on the photo.

littleinsect_1a_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As I was looking in my neighbors’ garden for flowers to photograph, I came across this cool-looking little spider, which I have not yet been able to identify.

The spider was really small, maybe a half-inch (a little over 1 cm) in size and didn’t sit still too much, so it was quite a challenge to photograph him. I really like his eyes and his hairy legs, which look almost like they are transparent.

One of the things that I especially like about spring is that insects reappear and give me photo opportunities like this one.

spider2_blogspider3_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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This ladybug was not in a very good position for me to get a shot, but I usually try to photograph every ladybug that I see, so I took the shot, totally oblivious to the fact that she was not the only bug in the frame.

Occasionally, when I am photographing a flower or an insect, there is an additional insect in the photo that I notice only when reviewing the  images, what my friend Cindy Dyer calls a “bonus bug.” How did I miss almost a dozen bugs in my viewfinder?

Can anyone identify the little bugs?

bugs_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I really enjoy the challenge of trying to photograph insects and this ladybug was a relatively cooperative subject. She sat still for quite a while, which allowed me to experiment a little with techniques. The first show was taken after she started to move a little.

The light was fading a little, so I decided to see what would happen if I used my pop-up flash. It’s obvious to me that I risk having a hot spot, which is most visible in the second shot, but it seems that the additional light helped to bring out some additional details. I have seen the fancy setups advertised that use dual external flashes, but don’t think that I am ready to make that kind of financial commitment. Perhaps I will experiment with a cheaper, LED light or possibly a ring light and see how well they work.

ladybug2_blogladybug1_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Do you prefer to take photos alone or with others?

Normally I prefer to shoot alone, to move at my own pace and shoot whatever catches my eye at a given moment. However, there are advantages to working side-by-side with another photographer. The other person can serve as a spotter and point out opportunities and subject that you might have otherwise missed. It’s also interesting and instructive after a shoot is done to compare images and see the same scene through another set of eyes.

Friday late in the afternoon, I noticed that my neighbor, friend, and photography mentor, Cindy Dyer, was out in her garden taking photos of her beautiful flowers. Cindy, a noted photographer, has been a constant influence on my photography this past year, encouraging me and inspiring me. She loves this time of the year, when nature explodes with color, and her blog is full of beautiful images of flowers of all varieties (and lots of other cool photos too).

When I started shooting with Cindy, I was shooting a lot of flowers and a few insects, but gradually moved to shooting more insects than flowers. Somehow my eyes are attracted to insects. Shortly after joining Cindy in her garden with my camera and tripod, I spotted what I thought was an interesting looking insect. Upon closer examination, it turned out to be a pair of mating moths, that together were about one inch long (2.5 centimeters). They were positioned in such a way that the only way to capture them was to shoot from directly overhead. I had real problems with depth of field as I got my macro lens as close as it would let me get.

I challenged Cindy (in a friendly way) to photograph this couple and she took up the challenge and posted an image in her blog. It was an interesting challenge pitting Nikon against Canon and teacher against student as we explored the limits of our macro lenses and photography skills.

This little incident helped to remind me of the benefits of shooting with someone else, especially someone who gently pushes me forward. It usually works best for me when we travel somewhere and shoot side-by-side part of the time and wander on our own the rest of the time—the best of both worlds.

moths_mating_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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