Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Light and dark on green

with 9 comments

It’s common to see insects on prickly pear cacti, Opuntia engelmannii. When I was wandering in a natural area in my neighborhood on July 19, 2011, I came across this insect, sometimes colloquially called a leaf-footed bug because of the way the dark portions of its rear legs flare out, reminding people of tiny dry leaves.

It’s also common to see small white masses on prickly pear pads. Usually those are made by cochineal insects, and that’s what I initially thought I was seeing here. I may have been right, but from the way this bug had gotten caught in the white fibers, I have to wonder if maybe this white had been created by a spider. At this point I don’t know whether the little disembodied pieces in the upper left are from spider prey or are remains of cochineal insects. If there are any entomologists in the audience who can clear this up, please let us know. In any case, there’ll be more about cochineal soon.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 11, 2012 at 1:16 PM

9 Responses

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  1. This is very impressive, Steve.
    Amazing details and texture. Great macro.

    Pablo Buitrago

    February 11, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    • Gracias, Pablo. I’m grateful for having a macro lens that can render details like these.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 11, 2012 at 2:12 PM

  2. I think you need to start a blog dedicated to insects. Your photos are some of the most amazing I have seen!

    Bonnie Michelle

    February 11, 2012 at 5:15 PM

    • Thanks for appreciating them, Bonnie. They’re a by-product of the much greater number of native plant pictures I take, and they make a good counterbalance.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 11, 2012 at 5:44 PM

  3. I do like seeing insects and spiders on your blog. 🙂 But I enjoy most everything you put up here. I love nature.


    February 11, 2012 at 5:31 PM

  4. […] The most recent post in this prickly pear series that’s been interwoven with spring wildflowers mentioned that it’s common when looking at the green pads of prickly pear cacti, Opuntia engelmannii, to see white splotches that cochineal insects, Dactylopius coccus, create as a form of protective covering. In past centuries various native peoples and then colonial Spaniards and the resulting Mexicans used the bodies of the insects found inside the white covering to make a valuable reddish-purple dye. Here’s a section of the Wikipedia article on the subject: […]

  5. I’d say it’s a spider web, but then again, hard to tell. Strange bug, however.


    February 13, 2012 at 10:40 PM

    • Thanks for your vote in favor of the spider. I believe the bug is a nymph, which is to say an immature stage (or instar, as entomologists say).

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 13, 2012 at 10:44 PM

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