The photos that I post on this blog are just a fraction of all the photos that I take. With the warm summer weather in full swing I have been like a kid in the candy store for insects. Every night there is a new hatch, a new emergence or something that I haven’t yet seen this year. My walks include many stops and stalks of prey many thousands of time smaller than myself (much to the chagrin of my wife, she usually just keeps walking!). Many of those attempts are not successful but sometimes I catch my “prey” and shoot it with my camera. Here are a couple of my trophies from some of those hunts.
Burrowing Mayfly (Genus: Hexagenia sp.)
Mayflies are from the the taxonomic order of insects Ephemoptera, which literally translates into “short-lived wing” in Greek. This name accurately describes this fly. Like the Polyphemus Moth from one of my previous posts these flies emerge in their adult stage with only one thing on their mind; sex. They live, in their adult stage for only a couple of days. They breed and die. Hatches of mayflies usually occur in the millions or even billions. This ensures that at least some will avoid predation and pass on their genes to the next generation.
Bumble Bees (Genus: Bombus)
Bumble Bees are the flying Goliaths of the bee family. Queens of some species may be as large as the the end of your thumb. Depending on the species, they usually live in small colonies of fifty to a couple hundred individuals, depending on the species unlike their domesticated Honey Bee relatives that live in colonies of tens of thousands.
Butterflies (Order: Lepidoptera)
Butterflies are always diurnal, meaning that they are most active during the day. The close relatives the moths can be either diurnal or nocturnal. Butterflies come in all shapes and sizes and some are much harder to stalk that others. I try to stalk butterflies early in the day, before the suns heat has warmed them up. This gives me the opportunity to get a little closer before they flit away. However, most of the time I am stalking through the weeds with my camera outstretched in front of me shooting wildly trying capture them. It must be a comical site for someone driving or walking by. I know I have gotten some strange looks from hikers on trails. I just think about how much they are missing on their hike.
Meadow Fritillary Butterfly (Boloria bellona)
European Skipper Butterfly (Thymelicus lineola): Note how skipper butterflies hold their wing when resting. Unlike the Fritillary in the photo above, the skipper folds its wings back much like the wings of planes on an aircraft carrier.
Robber Fly (Genus: Efferia)
In my previous post titled Sheep in Wolf’s Clothes I shared photos of a robber fly that mimics bees as a means of protection from predators, and possibly camouflage from potential prey. The photo below is also a robber fly although not a bee mimic. It shares the same general body structure of the bee mimic. From a biological point of view we call this “structure equals function”.
Red Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes femoratus)
As the name suggests this beetle uses Milkweed as a host plant for its larvae. I found this male flying through my backyard. I quickly scooped him up and put him in the refrigerator for a couple of minutes. This slowed his metabolism just enough to snap a couple of shots before he flew away.
Six Spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sexguttata)
Tiger beetles are the fastest animals on foot on the planet, relatively speaking. If you could make a tiger beetle size of a cheetah, and put them in a race, the tiger beetle would blow the cheetah out of the water. On one of my many nature walks I saw these two chasing each other in the middle of the path back and forth. I became visibly excited because I suspected it was a courtship flight. Sure enough, moments later they landed several feet in front of me an began mating. I was proned out on the ground snapping away with my camera while my loving wife waited patiently for me to get the shot.
Next time you are out for a walk take your eyes off the trail in front of you look around. Stop and listen to the birds and insects, notice the small things. Most importantly put your cell phone away and turn off your iPod. Take in nature for what it is and I think you will be surprised.
Up Next: Dragons and Assassins