One year I won best sports photography from the Associated Press, for a picture after a high school football game. The little team no one had heard of had somehow been winning like crazy all season and was about to go downstate and vie for the Illinois title. They had one last game at home to cap it off -- an easy win, more of a send-off celebration than an real contest and the whole town turned out. But they lost. My shot was of the bench, four muddy guys crying into muddy towels. The caption: "... the Rockets will be staying home."
That camera was a Nikon, someone stole it just as things went digital and Nancy gave me a Panasonic Lumix, an autofocus that fit in my pocket. It had a Leica lens. In my tinkering I discovered an amazing macro on it and I started shooting flowers in her wonderful garden. Despite the rich colors, beautiful petals, and extraordinary detail it was still a point-and-shoot camera; the skill was really all in the gardening, not in the photography.
One day a fly landed nearby, a green fly, a long-legged fly, and I shot it.
|New Paltz New York|
What startling details! I immediately went after flys and bugs, and saw the strangest thing I had never known. What was that ball of water in that housefly's mouth? What was that spider doing on that dead grasshopper? That Box Elder Bug was actually wrapped up in a spider web! That ant, what jaws! These became armored vehicles -- legs covered with spikes, mouth parts that shot out, feet like icepicks, eyes wrapped all around... It's like pokemon, like predatory aliens, like so many micro robots with Artificial Intelligence ... but real.
From then on I used flowers as bait and backdrop. When I shot one I didn't recognize I identifed it the old fashioned way: I googled "flat faced hairy black fly with white eyes," or "shiny black wasp with purple abdomen," sifted through the images and nail it down from there. I started posting hits on an Entomology Facebook group where, if I couldn't identify them, someone certainly would. Judging from the speed and specificity of the response there are savants in that crowd I'm certain. The requirements for an amateur like me was that I say where it was taken, I had to have taken the pictures myself, and I was encouraged to add the Latin name if I could find it because common names are for ... normal people.
|All pictures in this Blog were from Chicago Illinois, unless otherwise noted.|
When I posted a video of 1,000 baby garden spiders fleeing their fetal spider-ball someone called it "a whole lot of No No No!" which I thought was funny but she got shut down immediately by a crowd which has no tolerance for jokes of this kind. And you must say where it was found. Once I said I shot a stink bug in Chicago, then corrected my self later -- no, it was in Michigan -- and got a bunch of likes for the correction.
So I've been hooked; I've taken thousands of arthropidic pictures -- insects and spiders mainly. I lost my first Panasonic sadly (with a whole lot of pictures on it, too!) but bought two more on ebay. It's a DMC-Z53 to be exact.
So many jaw-dropping pictures I wouldn't know where to start so I'll focus on a theme within a theme: bugs eating bugs. Many of these were accidental shots, the horror of which I didn't realize until later... And that's enough talk. This post is about pictures.
... like this one of a Spider Wasp, probably, (Auplopus carbonarius, Pompilidae) which bites the legs off of a young orb weaving spider (Neoscona crucifera) before taking it alive back to its nest to feed its young.. Woooohahaha.
.. Later I saw another one before the snipping began...
.. before you get too upset with the Spider Wasp, look at this one, in the mouth of a Robber Fly (Dysmachus trigonus).
|I actually saw this Cicada Killer Wasp (Sphecius speciosus) take the Cicada (Cicadidae) down in flight. After a wrestle and a sting, off to the nest we go.|
Millipede (Diplopoda Julida) that came to a sorry end in a cellar spider's web.
Ok, it's not an insect eating an insect, but at least these two American Dog Ticks (Dermacentor variabilis) still have chunks of my dog Anicca (Canis lupus familiaris) in their mouths.
A Yellow Paper Wasp (Polistes dominulus) enjoying the core of a young Orbweaving Spider.
... and another Orb Weaver (Araneus diadematus) with an ambitious project ahead; a Lightning Bug (Lampyridae).
I'm throwing this one in for comic relief. The Bumble Bee (Hymenopterais Apidae Bombus) is quite alive, it's a defensive posture I'd never seen before. I wonder why?
Maybe it's the Felis catus.
Maybe it's the Felis catus.
Jumping Spider (Salticidae) that I saw jump and catch this Midge (Chironomidae).
|Here's another, a different day.|
|... and by now we know what's going on here...|
Cellar Spider (Pholcidae) with a Crane Fly (Tipulidae latreille).
Orb Weaver with something -- a June Bug? (Phyllophaga?) -- apparently wrappen in celophane, for later.
Here is a Carpenter Ant (Camponotus pennsylvanicus) with a pillbug (Armadillidiidae).
|New Buffalo, Michigan.|
The spider of unknown species furtively emerged to feed on this live and tethered Horsefly (Tabanidae). It went on for hours.
|A Robber Fly with a hapless Green Bottle Fly (Lucilia sericata).|
|Here's that Boxelder bug (Boisea trivittata) in trouble. Maybe wondering what comes next...|
|A Yellow and Black Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia) with a Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus). The web ladder is the Garden Spider's signature reinforcement -- apparently they especially enjoy the larger prey|
So it's about the start of a new season and I'll pay special attention for mayhem in progress. Spring starts with ants and flies, then spiders come out and they dominate the summer. Summer brings all forms, from the pestilent Japanese Beetles and the legion Boxelder Bugs, to the bald-faced hornets, creepy plastic Earwigs, the centipedes, butterflies and moths. The smaller they get, often the more bizarre. Most of the summer, try stopping what you're doing for a moment and get down low, You'll find something fascinating.
I'm happy that I don't live at their scale -- I simply wouldn't stand a chance ... but seriously, how can you not really really like bugs!?