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Posts Tagged ‘ladybug’

There always seems to be something fun and whimsical about ladybugs, like this one that I spotted last Saturday at Occoquan Regional Park. This is probably an invasive Harlequin Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis), rather than a native ladybug, but I still find it to be beautiful.

The Harlequin Lady Beetles, also known as Multicolored Asian Lady Beetles, may assist with control of some aphid pests, but may also harm native and beneficial insects and are considered by many to be pests.

My interests tend to be primarily photographic, so I tend not to make distinctions between weeds and flowers or between native and invasive species in the way that others, such as gardeners and farmers, may need to do. I am trying to capture my subjects as well as I can and I am pretty happy with the way this particular image turned out, given the small size of the ladybug and the fact that it was moving about as I was trying to get a shot.

ladybug

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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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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Those of you who know me well are probably surprised that I have not yet posted an insect photo from Paris. I have chased after a few hornets and flies, but came up pretty much empty-handed. Yesterday, however, I came upon this cool little ladybug on top of a pole blocking off a pedestrian zone and finally captured an urban insect photo worth posting.

All things considered, the ladybug was quite cooperative. She—the ladybug might be a male, but the name causes me to assume it is a female—crawled around the spherical surface on the top of the pole, giving me a number of different views. I do not have a true macro lens with me, but I do have a 24mm lens that is sharp and lets me get pretty close.

I initially tried shooting downward at the ladybug, but the results were not very exciting. When I bent down so I was at eye-level or maybe slightly lower, I got a cool, out of focus street background that I really like.

I do not know enough about ladybugs in France to know if this is a domestic one or is a foreign visitor—there are certainly plenty of those in Paris, present company included.

 

ladybug in Paris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The milkweed plants were dirty and dried up, but I knew from past experience that there might be ladybugs crawling around on them. The first two plants that I checked were full of aphids, a favorite food of ladybugs, but I did not see any ladybugs at all. As I approached a third plant, I saw a flash of red and spotted a small ladybug crawling quickly down the stem of the plant. I was not as close as I could have like to have been, but managed to capture some images before the ladybug disappeared from sight.

I like the way that this shot turned out because the reddish-orange of the ladybug really stands out against the blues and greens in the rest of the photos. In case you are curious, the little specks of yellow are aphids. In this case, the aphids were safe, for this ladybug seemed to be in too much of a hurry to stop for a snack.

ladybug

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Dragonflies have to eat too, but I was a little shocked when I stumbled upon this Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) munching on a ladybug or two yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Woodbridge, Virginia. Although I know that dragonflies are fearsome predators, I guess that I am not used to thinking of ladybugs as prey—they are usually depicted as cute, which is why they are seen so often on children’s clothing and furnishings.

dragonfly and ladybug

© 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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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.

ladybug1A_love_blogladybug2_love_blog

© 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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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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Ladybugs are often considered symbols of good luck and many people look at them as cute. Consequently, you have probably never considered them as menacing (assuming that you are not an aphid), but that is the descriptor that came to mind when I first looked at this head-on image of a ladybug that I photographed yesterday.

Perhaps I am just not used to looking eye to eye with a ladybug, but this one seems to have a deadly serious look on its face, like it was not happy that I was disturbing it.

I took the shot in my neighbor’s garden, using a macro lens and a hand-held diffuser to cut down on the intensity of the sunlight. Although I stopped down the lens to get some additional depth of field, the back portion of the ladybug, including its rear legs, are out of focus, which helps to draw attention to the face.

The change in seasons means that I will probably be featuring fewer birds in my blog than during the winter, and a whole lot more insects and flowers.

ladybug1a_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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We’ll have more ladybugs in our neighborhood even sooner than I expected.

My neighbor and photography mentor, Cindy Dyer, has ladybug larvae in her garden as I showed in a recent posting. Some of them have already entered the pupa stage, the final stage before adulthood. Once metamorphosis is complete, the shell splits open and a full-grown ladybug emerges. Initially, the shell is soft, but pretty rapidly the exoskeleton hardens and takes on the look that we associate with ladybugs.

Here’s a photo from today of a ladybug pupa. I think that it is probably from a Harlequin Ladybug (Harmonia axyridis), a type that is also known as the Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle. If you want to know more about the life cycle of a ladybug, check out the posting that I did last fall entitled Baby Ladybugs.

larva2_web

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I am going to have to brush up on my insect identification skills, but I think that this cool-looking insect is a larval form of a ladybug.

I don’t have a garden of my own, but one of my neighbors, fellow blogger and photographer Cindy Dyer, has a wonderful garden that is always full of colorful flowers and insects. I photographed this insect in her garden this afternoon.

The sunlight was a little too direct and the shadows are too harsh. I am happy, though, that I was able to pick up many of the insect’s details with my macro lens. In case you are curious, the bright red in the background is a group of tulips that are in full bloom.

As always, I welcome corrections or clarifications about my identification of my subject—there are lots of folks on-line with greater knowledge and experience in all of the subject areas in which I shoot.

insect_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Last weekend, I took some shots of Multicolored Asian Lady Beetles (Harmonia axyridia) in the larval and pupal stage and discussed the phases of ladybug development in a post called Baby Ladybugs. Yesterday, I returned  to see if I could find any fully developed ladybugs that had been in pupae the last time I encountered them. (Yes, I realize I would not be able to recognize them individually, but it’s nice to imagine that we’re gradually getting to know each other.)

So, what happened? I left the shoot thinking that I had not seen any adult ladybugs, but when I looked at some of the photos on my computer of different pupae, I was uncertain. Right outside of an empty pupa shell in one of the photos is something that looks like an adult ladybug, if I squint my eyes, tilt my head, and use a little imagination. What do you think?

Newly emerged ladybug?

If you haven’t been following this story, let me catch you up with a couple of photos. (I feel like I’m doing an intro for a new television series, Lifestyles of the Ladybug.Ladybugs start out as eggs and them become larvae. As they grow, they molt several times and each time they develop a new exoskeleton. Yesterday, I saw quite a few discarded skins that, at first glance, looked a lot like the larvae themselves. Here is what a ladybug larva looks like in a later phase of development. (I took some new shots of the larvae and pupae yesterday.) They are not as cute in this stage as they will become as adult ladybugs.

Ladybug larva

Once they are fully grown, the larvae enter into a pupal stage, somewhat akin to the cocoons into which caterpillars develop into butterflies. The pupae look a little bit like ladybugs themselves and are attached to leaves. While they are in this phase, the metamorphosis takes place in which they turn into ladybugs. Here is my favorite shots of a ladybug pupa.

Ladybug pupa

After about five days, a ladybug emerges from the pupa. According to ladybug-life-cycle.com, “When the metamorphosis is complete, the skin of the larvae will split open and the full grown ladybug will emerge, but it still won’t look like the ladybug that you know so well. It will look soft and pink or very pale for a couple of hours until its shell becomes hard.”

Was I really lucky enough to catch the ladybug just after it had emerged from the pupa? My response is a firm, “Maybe,” but others with more experience may be able to respond more definitively. Here is one last photo of the possible new ladybug, from a slightly different angle than the first photo, to help your deliberations.

Welcome to this world

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I know that ladybugs don’t really have babies, but, seriously, how many people will read a posting with words like “larva” and “pupa” in the title? A more accurate title would be something like “Larva and Pupa of the Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis).”

This past weekend I was wandering through a local garden when I spotted a strange-looking little yellow and black insect. Upon closer investigation, I discovered several more of them on the plant, along with some orange and black objects that I thought might be insects too, but they were not moving. This was a good excuse to take out my macro lens and to follow the old adage about shooting first and asking questions later.

After a bit of research, I realized that I had captured two different phases in the life cycles of a ladybug. Lady-bugs.org and ladybug-life-cycle.com offer additional details on the stages of development of a ladybug, but allow me to summarize for folks like me who don’t follow insects for a living. The ladybug’s life cycle is about four to six weeks long, with four stages (egg, larva, pupa, and adult). During the larval stage, the ladybug larvae shed their exoskeletons three times before the pupation stage begins. It is during the pupa stage that the metamorphosis takes place that is almost as magical as it is for butterflies and the insect that I photographed turns into a full grown ladybug.

Thanks to bugguide, I was able to identify my bug as the Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis). The article notes that the larvae look like tiny alligators and grow to be larger in size than the eventual ladybug. It describes the pupa as “an elongated dome shape, usually found attached to a leaf, with the spiky remains of the last larval skin usually clinging to one end. The branched spines of this skin are usually visible.”

It was fascinating to discover the details of what I had photographed—metamorphosis never ceases to amaze me. Here are a couple of my favorite shots of the ladybug larvae and several of different pupa. Be sure to click on them to see more details.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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We continue to fade to brown, with only muted color changes as the leaves begin to fall from the tree. As if to compensate for the lack of spectacular foliage, brightly colored flowers are still blooming. I managed to get some shots of equally colorful insects interacting with yellow flowers. When I see Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexxipus), they are usually in the midst of blooming flowers, but I was surprised to also see a shiny red ladybug near the center of a yellow flower.

Monarch butterfly on yellow flower

Ladybug on yellow flower

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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There is something about a ladybug that makes me smile. I don’t know if ladybugs trigger happy memories of my childhood, or if the bold patterns and bright colors simply appeal to my aesthetic sensibility. All I know is that I am happy when I encounter them and I am thrilled when I manage to capture their beauty in an image.

My photography mentor, Cindy Dyer, used to comment that a photo expedition was not a success for me if it did not include ladybug shots. By that modest standard, my photo shoot on Friday afternoon—just hours after a 8-hour transatlantic flight—was a definite success.

Sunday Lady

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last week when I was at a local garden I came across several pairs of ladybugs mating and several things really stood out to me.

First, the male ladybug is a lot smaller than the female. An article at ladybuglady.com (a great name for a website) points out that females are “usually” larger than males, but essentially it’s almost impossible for the average person to tell them apart until they are mating. If you really want to know how to tell male ladybugs from females the referenced article has photos from an electron microscope with detailed explanations.

The other thing that was obvious was the difference in color and spots between the two. The male is a medium orange with a few small light black spots and the female is a deeper shade of red with larger, darker spots. Wikipedia notes that there are more than 5,000 species of ladybugs (which technically are beetles and not bugs), with more than 450 native to North America. According to that article, the number, shape, and size of the spots is dependent on the species of ladybug. Does that mean these two ladybugs are different species?

Bugguide has some interesting factoids about names used elsewhere in the world for the ladybug. For example, “Ladybird” was first used in medieval England, perhaps because these beneficial predators of agricultural pests were believed to be a gift from the Virgin Mary—the “Lady.” Other European names have similar associations, such as the German Marienkäfer, “Marybeetle.” (Thanks to Gary for pointing out the correct spelling in German—I inserted the Umlaut to make it correct.)

So I am left wondering, will the little ladybugs that result from this coupling look more like mom or like dad?

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Who knew that the spots on a ladybug’s shell were water-soluble? That seems to be the case with this ladybug, who has only one remaining spot and a few drops of water, perhaps where other spots used to be.

Spotless ladybug–well almost spotless

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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