Category: Macro

Empty House

Hornet's Nest
Hornet’s Nest

My parents are remodeling their house, which is one of those processes that will, invariably lead to all kinds of surprises. This is a close up of a very large hornet’s nest that they found inside of one of the south walls — I’ve keyed it out as Vespa.

It’s always shocking to me that insects that people think of as dangerous and aggressive, like these hornets, can establish themselves next to humans and remain unnoticed for years before evidence of their existence is even discovered.

2012

So, 2012 has been pretty crazy. I started the year in Europe, where I had the opportunity to take a geometric morphometrics course and collect data for my master’s thesis. I applied to, and was accepted to a Ph.D. program in Lincoln, Nebraska … and, at the end of the year, I’ve decided to quit the program in order to take time off and focus on myself, because I’m really not sure that grad school is what I want to do with my life.

Oh, and I managed to take some photos during that time. Here are a few of my favorites from the year. I think that I’ve learned and improved a lot over the last twelve months.

Owl Butterfly
Owl Butterfly
Great Plains Rat Snake
Great Plains Rat Snake
Jumping Spider
Jumping Spider
Fiery Skipper
Fiery Skipper
Ringneck Snake
Ringneck Snake

Next year promises to be even more exciting, as I’m going to Australia. I’ve wanted to visit for as long as I remember, and I’m really excited to go. I’m going to be living in western Queensland for at least a few months , working and taking pictures of the local fauna. Afterwards, I hope to spend some time up north, for rainforests and crocodiles, and then spend some time in Sydney and the south of the country in the Spring and Summer. I’m looking forward to discovering a whole new continent of reptiles and arthropods. :)

Samalanders!

Salamanders are probably my favorite organisms on the planet. I know that I posted something this summer about how bombardier beetles are the best organisms on the planet, but I can pick favorites based on other qualities, and salamanders have plenty of those. For example, some mole salamanders (in the Ambystoma jeffersonianum complex) reproduce through a process known as gynogenesis. These entirely female lineages clone themselves in order to produce offspring — but they cannot reproduce without mating. Instead, they mate with males from closely related species, essentially stealing their sperm, without passing on paternal genes. (If anyone wants me to talk about this at length, I totally can, because it’s awesome.) Other salamanders are known for their remarkable ability to completely regenerate limbs that they have lost (axolotls, Ambystoma mexicanum are the model organism in which this has been most extensively studied, but the phenomenon of limb regeneration is well known from many, many salamander species) and their incredible longevity (olms in the genus Proteus can live to well over seventy years). The largest amphibian in the world is a salamander —Andrias davidianus can reach over four feet in length and weigh sixty pounds.

Basically, frogs are boring?

Anyway, the reason that I’ve been thinking about salamanders is that I’m in North Carolina for the annual Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting, and because this state has the world’s greatest diversity of salamander species, I took a few days before the conference to go herping with friends. The salamander catch wasn’t great — it’s a little late and a little dry — but poor salamandering in North Carolina is better than excellent salamandering almost anywhere else in the world, so I’m not really complaining.

Red-Cheeked Salamander, Plethodon jordani
Red-Cheeked Salamander, Plethodon jordani

Most people probably go to the Great Smoky Mountains to look at things like bears and foliage, but they are wrong — bears are everywhere, as are trees. If you take the time to flip over a few logs, though, you will almost certainly find one of these guys — and they occur nowhere else in the world. Red-cheeked salamanders are mildly toxic; they secrete a nasty mucus when disturbed, and the red color on their cheeks is generally thought to be warning coloration deterring potential predators.

Imitator Salamander, Desmognathus imitator
Imitator Salamander, Desmognathus imitator

The imitator salamander, Desmognathus imitator shares its range with the red-cheek, and takes advantage of the other salamander’s chemical defenses by mimicking its coloration in order to deter potential predators. This is a biological strategy known as Batesian mimicry, in which a harmless species mimics a toxic or otherwise dangerous one in order to improve its own odds of survival.

Soldier Fly

Soldier Fly
Soldier Fly

Here’s a little soldier fly that I found while out on a walk today. He was really a very, very handsome fellow, with those huge red eyes, and a bright green butt. He was also an extremely cooperative photo subject — I think I accidentally hit him with my camera three or four times before he very lazily flew away … only to land about three inches from where he was originally sitting.

Photo Details
Konica Minolta Pro Automatic 35mm F2.8 Lens reverse-mounted on a Canon T1i Rebel
ISO 100 at f/16, 1/100 sec
Diffuse flash
Image editing in Adobe Photoshop CS5

Hey, look at that, I actually changed the aperture on that lens. This is a historic occasion. And probably calls for beer.

It’s Finally Happened…

… there is now a large, annoyed wasp loose in my apartment. I probably need to catch her before the kitten does, since the kitten (a) does not know about wasp stings and (b) probably won’t be gentle with my photo subject.

Paper Wasp
Paper Wasp

I think that this is Polistes metricus, although it could be P. fuscatus. I don’t know. It’s a big damn red wasp. That my kitten wants to eat.

Photo Details

Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro Lens on a Canon T1i Rebel
ISO 100 at f/14, 1/125 sec
Diffuse flash in whitebox
Image editing in Adobe Photoshop CS5

Baby Hoppers

Do you like grasshoppers? Of course you do. If you’re not sure whether or not you like grasshoppers, allow me to prove that you do.

1) Awesome people like grasshoppers.
2) The people who read my blog are awesome.

3) Therefore, you, blog reader, must love grasshoppers.
Q.E.D.

So, here are some baby hoppers to make your day better.

Grasshopper Nymph
Grasshopper Nymph

Pretty sure this is a spur-throated grasshopper (Melanoplus), but I could be wrong. There are a lot of grasshoppers in Texas.

Grasshopper Nymph
Grasshopper Nymph

And this is some kind of slant-faced grasshopper. They are the cutest.

I would have caught more grasshoppers, but the flora of Texas is evil, and had different ideas

My pants. Covered in burrs.
My pants. Covered in burrs.

Also, I’m doing some paleo fieldwork in Nebraska this weekend, so expect gratuitous photo spam.

Photo Details

Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro Lens on a Canon T1i Rebel
ISO 100 at f/22, 1/160 sec
Diffuse flash in whitebox
Image editing in Adobe Photoshop CS5

Baby Salticid

I am pretty sure that this jumping spider spiderling (or maybe just a jumping spiderling?) is the smallest thing I’ve ever taken a picture of.

Jumping Spider
Jumping Spider

Photo Details

Konica Minolta Pro Automatic 35mm F2.8 Lens reverse-mounted with 36mm extension tube on a Canon T1i Rebel
ISO 100 at f/22, 1/160 sec
Diffuse flash in whitebox
Image editing in Adobe Photoshop CS5

New Reflector

I spent most of yesterday making myself a small reflector out of cardboard, white paper and aluminum foil (I am super, super cheap) and spent today testing it, first on a very perplexed kitten, and then outside on an actual insect.

River
River

Ah, the glare of reflected light in tiny kitten eyes. So charming.

Photo Details
Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro Lens on a Canon T1i Rebel
ISO 100 at f/11, 1/160 sec
Diffuse Flash
Image editing in Adobe Photoshop CS5

Weevil
Weevil

I think it works a little better on small things.

Photo Details
Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro Lens on a Canon T1i Rebel
ISO 100 at f/16, 1/125 sec
Diffuse Flash
Image editing in Adobe Photoshop CS5

Paper Wasp

I think my whitebox is making me stupid.

Paper Wasp
Paper Wasp

I’m fairly certain that this is the Apache Wasp, Polistes apachus, but I’d welcome any alternate IDs.


Photo Details
Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro Lens on a Canon T1i Rebel
ISO 100 at f/16, 1/100 sec
Diffuse flash in whitebox
Image editing in Adobe Photoshop CS5

Honey Bee

I’m pretty sure that most normal people, upon finding that a bee has flown into their house, do not spend thirty minutes trying to catch it in order to take its picture.

Honey Bee
Honey Bee

She followed me home when I was bringing the dog back from her morning walk, so I caught her, then baited her with honey to take a few pictures before letting her go. Judging from those corbiculae, she had better places to be.


Photo Details
Konica Minolta Pro Automatic 35mm F2.8 Lens reverse-mounted on a Canon T1i Rebel
ISO 100 at f/22, 1/100 sec
Diffuse flash in whitebox
Image editing in Adobe Photoshop CS5