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Posts Tagged ‘insects’

Every now and then when I am focusing intently on an insect and trying to set up a shot, other insects creep into the frame. Only later, when I am looking at the photos on my computer screen, do I realize that they are there. My friend, Cindy Dyer, likes to call them “bonus bugs.”

This morning as I was looking at some recent wasp photos, I realized that there was a black shield bug in one of them. The shot is not that great technically, but I think that the combination of the two very different insects makes for an interesting photo, particularly because the wasp seems to have noticed the shield bug.

To me the moment is reminiscent of the bar scene in the Star Wars movie in which all kinds of different alien creatures are interacting. Click on the link to a You Tube video if you’ve never seen this classic piece of film history.

This photo really is begging for a clever caption and I’d welcome any suggestions.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you ever get in the mood for a single color? This evening I am in an orange mood. (As a disclaimer I should mention that I drive an orange car, so orange plays a larger role in my daily life than it probably does for most others.) To scratch that itch, I decided to post some photos from late May of an orange poppy and some of the insects that visited it.

May was the month when I first started getting more serious about photography and these photos were an early indication to me that I was improving. I still enjoy looking at them, remembering some of the early twists and turns of the photography journey on which I have embarked.

As I think back, I feel like I was just learning to walk. Now I can walk with much greater confidence. I look forward to being able to run.

Visiting bee

Visiting hoverfly (flower fly)

Visiting ant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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My eyes were so attuned to dragonflies yesterday that my first thought when I stumbled upon this insect perched at the top of a plant was that it was a tiny dragonfly. The pose especially looked familiar.

The more I looked at it, however, the more I realized that the legs and winds were all wrong and the head, which in this profile shot looks a bit like a dragonfly’s, was really different. From another angle it sort of looked like a fly, but not any fly that I had ever seen. What is it?

I think that what I have here is a robber fly (from the insect family Asilidae). So far I have not been able to get any more precise in identifying this guy’s species. The description of robber flies in Wikipedia, however, is pretty. scarey.

“The short, strong proboscis is used to stab and inject victims with saliva containing neurotoxic and proteolytic enzymes which paralyze and digest the insides; the fly then sucks the liquefied meal through the proboscis.”

Yikes! That description alone is enough to bring back flashbacks of alien movies and zombie thrillers.

I may not sleep well tonight.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A flash of emerald green whizzed past my eyes as I was walking in a meadow near my hotel in Massachusetts. What could it be? I waited a few minutes and recognized the familiar flight patterns of a dragonfly.

Most of the dragonflies that I see are drab by comparison with this one that is almost tropical in the brightness of its color. I am pretty sure this is a female Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis). For more details about this dragonfly check out BugGuide.

Female Eastern Pondhawk

I stayed for a while longer in the meadow to see what else might appear and was pleased when a pretty bluish-green dragonfly flew into view. At first I thought it was a Blue Dasher but after examining him more closely I realized he was a different type.  I think he is a male Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis).

Male Eastern Pondhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What do bees do when it’s raining? I never really gave the question much thought until this morning when I saw a really cool photo by the unUrban Studio showing a bee seeking shelter in an orchid in an early morning rain. In an earlier post today I showed a bee clinging to the underside of a leaf for protection from the rain.

During a walk in the light rain this afternoon I was pleased to also discover the bee shown below, sheltered inside of a red hibiscus flower. He appeared to be completely protected and may have been napping. As you can probably tell, I had to lighten the image a little to reveal the bee more clearly. This caused the sky, which was light already, to go totally white and produced an effect that I really like.

I enjoy walking in the rain and sometimes carry my camera under an umbrella if it is not raining too hard. From now on I’ll make a point of peeking into flowers and under leaves to discover more secret hiding places of the bees.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of my earlier post identified my obsession with the red milkweed beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus). As I hang around the milkweed plants, it’s hard not to notice another really colorful creature, especially because this seems to be its prime mating season. After a little research I’ve started to become better acquainted with the large milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus). Wikipedia provided me with some good information to start and BugGuide added some additional details. I am still getting used to shooting with my macro lens so I apologize in advance that not all of the photos are super sharp. I think they help, though, in explaining some of the traits of these fascinating bugs.

It has been relatively easy to get shots of the mating milkweed bugs and my research identified why. Milkweed bugs while mating can remain connected for up to 10 hours, according to Wikipedia. Yikes! I guess those television commercials about seeing your doctor after four hours don’t apply to these bugs.

What happens after mating? An article from the Life Sciences Depart at the University of Illinois at Urbana noted that a female lays about 30 eggs a day and 2,000 during her lifetime. Egg-laying begins 1 to 15 days after mating and peaks at about 20 days.

A few days ago I came across this group of milkweed bugs. The photo is technically lacking (it was hard to get the needed depth of field) but it gives you an idea of what the large milkweed bug looks like in various stages of development. As a “true” bug, milkweed bugs undergo incomplete metamorphosis. They go through a series of nymph stages, known as instars. For the large milkweed bug there are five instars. Buzzle has an article that explains the bug’s life cycle.

At each stage the bug is covered by an inflexible exoskeleton that constrains its growth. Periodically he bursts out of the exoskeleton and can grow to twice his size in minutes as the new exoskeleton develops and hardens, according to the Buzzle article. Here’s a shot of a bug in one of the earlier nymph stages.

As the milkweed bugs get older the wing pads increase in size in each molt. In the next three photos the wing pads are visible but not yet really prominent.

The wings on this nymph are much more prominent, leading me to think he might almost be an adult. The Buzzle article noted that the entire process of metamorphosis, from egg to adult takes 4-8 weeks, depending on the temperature of the habitat.

Once the large milkweed bug has become and adult (as shown in the last couple of photos) mating begins 5 to 12 days after the last molt for females and two to three days for males, according to the University of Illinois article. And the circle of life continues.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Bees were the very first insects that I tried to photograph close up when I got interested in macro photography a few month ago. (You might say I followed the advice of Julie Andrews as Maria in The Sound of Music when she said, “Let’s start at the very bee-ginning, it’s a very good place to start.”) It was a challenge without a macro lens but I managed to get some pretty good results by shooting at the extreme end of the focusing capability of my digital SLR.

Since that time I have “graduated” to a macro lens and to more exotic insects, but from time to time I am drawn back to the bees. Today, for example, as I was reviewing  images from a session that included colorful butterflies and dragonflies, I realized there were also a few images of bees that I wanted to share.

Most of the time I try to feature a single photo in my postings, but tonight I couldn’t make up my mind. Like Shakespeare’s Hamlet I was caught up in an internal struggle, “Two bees or not two bees, that is the question.”  I’m including them both—I don’t want to decide which is better.

As I end this post, the words of an old Carly Simon song come to mind, “Nobody does it better…bee-bee you’re the best.”

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I have always admired my friend Cindy D’s photos of an unusual dragonfly that she has featured in her postings.  He is called a Halloween Pennant dragonfly (celithemis eponina).

Wikipedia has some interesting information about this dragonfly including the fact that, “Sexual activity normally occurs between 8 and 10:30 am.” Who knew? I imagine there are scientists somewhere keeping track of the mating habits of the different species of dragonflies using stopwatches.

Today I was happy finally to see a Halloween Pennant dragonfly at Brookside Gardens and take some photographs of him. I love this shot but his wingspan was really wide. I decided to crop out part of the wings so that you can see the details of his face and his wings. I find that dragonflies have wonderfully expressive faces and didn’t want you to miss this face. How can you not love such a face?

I’ll soon be on the lookout for new dragonflies to photograph. Do they have one named for all of the American holidays?

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Focus on the eyes! That’s one of the first tips that I was given to improve my shots and I tried to follow that advice when photographing this red milkweed beetle. (One of my earlier blogs chronicled my obsession with these little creatures.)

I like the way the antennae turned out in this photo. They remind me of a Texas longhorn steer’s horns which, according to Wikipedia, can extend to 7 feet (2.1 meters) tip to tip.

Can you imagine a red milkweed beetle with an equivalent antenna span?

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Red and green—they are colors that I usually associate with Christmas. As the temperature climbed to 105 degrees yesterday in the Washington DC area I could easily be forgiven for letting my thoughts drift to a cooler season. While I was photographing lotus flowers and waterlilies in the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, though,  I encountered these colors in an unexpected place—in dragonflies. Over the last few months I have taken lots of photos of dragonflies, mostly blue ones (especially the blue dasher) and an occasional, brown, white, or amber one. One time I saw—but was unable to photograph—a green one but until yesterday I had never even seen a red dragonfly. My photos of these two dragonflies are not technically perfect but they show the vivid colors of these two types of dragonflies. I think the red one is a Ruby Meadowhawk and the green one an Eastern Pondhawk. As we enter into our 11th consecutive day with high temperatures over 95 degrees, we all could use a little Christmas, in both the air temperature as well as in our hearts.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As I start out with this blog I am posting a few of my favorite photographs. This is a close-up of what I am pretty certain is an Eastern Swallowtail butterfly. I shot it on 1 June at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, VA. I love this unusual perspective. It reminds me a little of a hang glider.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


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