Tagged: coleoptera

Best. Day. Ever.

So, I was at the pond yesterday. At the pond, I collected a very large wolf spider, a very small frog, and a very average-sized grasshopper. I also did a couple of sweeps with my net, which did not, at the time, seem to turn up anything interesting.

However, when I went to go put my net away today, I noticed that there was something moving around in there. So I turned my net inside-out to investigate. This is what I found.

Bombardier Beetle
Bombardier Beetle

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the best animal on the planet.

I know I say that a lot. If people ask me to describe crocodiles or toads or liver flukes or ichneumon wasps, I will probably tell you, at some point, that these are the best animals on the planet. And while all of those are excellent animals, they are not the actual best animals on the planet, because, like Highlander, there can be only one, and it is the bombardier beetle. (If you made me pick a particular species of bombardier beetle, admittedly, it would probably be Stenaptinus insignis and not a Brachinus, but dwelling on that would miss the point of this post, and also I might end up picking Metrius contractus instead, because I’m a contrarian.)

First of all, they are ground beetles, and carabids are my absolute favorite insects. They’re a beautiful, diverse group of (mostly!) predators that contains some of the coolest insects on the planet. Bombardiers are also a particularly beautiful group of carabids; instead of the black color that’s common across so many ground beetles, they go for flashier colors, like this lovely orange-and-blue Brachinus (they also come in lovely spotted patterns). And, of course, the defining feature of these beetles is their ability to eject boiling-hot chemicals from their butts. Crocodiles, what do you have on that? (Yeah, I said it.)

Okay, so, yes, creationists and ID people have co-opted them as symbols of irreducible complexity. This is an annoyingly stupid perspective to have on these beetles, and smarter people than me have dismantled these claims. It doesn’t for a second, demolish the pure awesome of these animals, or my delight at finding one.

Here, have a video of Stenaptinus in action.

Okay. That’s enough carabid linkspam for one day.

Shiny Things!

Dogbane Beetle
Dogbane Beetle

Here’s that dogbane beetle again, this time all gussied up in my whitebox.

Photo Details

Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro Lens with 36mm extension tube on a Canon T1i Rebel
ISO 100 at f/16, 1/125 sec
Diffuse flash in whitebox
Image editing in Adobe Photoshop CS5

Some Nebraska Natives

I’m moving to Nebraska in August, which means that I should be spending my last months in Texas herping, because the pickings are a lot slimmer up north. But, instead, one of my friends invited me to come up to his Permian paleontological field site in Nebraska this weekend. And since I’ll be doing a Ph.D. in a vertebrate paleontology lab starting in the Fall, I figured that it was probably a good idea to start to familiarize myself with some of the fossil sites in the state. I was spectacularly useless at quarrying things, but I had a good time, and killed a lot of ticks that were trying to suck my blood, so it was overall a productive weekend.

And I took pictures of things! Because that’s who I am, or something.

Lined Snake
Lined Snake

This is a lined snake, Tripidoclonion lineatum. It was a lifer for me, which is pretty awesome (especially from Nebraska, geeze).

Cope's Gray Tree Frog
Cope’s Gray Tree Frog

I am also pretty excited by the fact that this is the first gray tree frog that I’ve been able to narrow down to species. Hyla chrysoscelis and H. versicolor are basically distinguishable only from their calls, which can make IDing them pretty tough. However, since we found this little guy while he was calling, I can tell you that he is, in fact chrysoscelis, and not versicolor. And then the internet informed me that versicolor doesn’t even make it in to Nebraska, but I nonetheless felt all herpetologically talented for IDing a frog based on a call.

Dogbane Beetle
Dogbane Beetle

And here’s something with an exoskeleton, to keep you entomophiles quiet. This was probably one of the most annoying things that I have ever photographed — I was dealing with the fact that this beetle was both extraordinarily iridescent, and extraordinarily filthy, which meant that my flash was basically useless. I ended up relying primarily on natural light for this shot, although I did use a little bit of off-camera flash to brighten things up. Not a fun picture. But I did bring the beetle back with me, so I may try to clean him up and white box him later.

Photo Details

Lined Snake
Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro Lens on a Canon T1i Rebel
ISO 100 at f/10, 1/160 sec
Diffuse flash
Image editing in Adobe Photoshop CS5

Cope’s Gray Tree Frog
Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro Lens on a Canon T1i Rebel
ISO 100 at f/13, 1/160 sec
Diffuse flash
Image editing in Adobe Photoshop CS5

Dogbane Beetle
Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro Lens on a Canon T1i Rebel
ISO 400 at f/10, 1/160 sec
Off-camera diffuse flash
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