Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

The red and the black

with 22 comments

Click for greater clarity.

No, not the novel by Stendhal, which I confess I haven’t read, but this red and black bug, which is perhaps in the genus Lopidea or Oncerometopus, on a Mexican hat, which is definitely Ratibida columnifera. Like yesterday’s photograph of a silverpuff seed head, I took this one on Harrogate Dr. in northwest Austin on August 13.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 23, 2012 at 6:13 AM

22 Responses

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  1. Your macro work is superb!!


    August 23, 2012 at 6:32 AM

  2. Just stunning…. The colors, the detail! Nice of the critter to set a nice composition, too. 🙂


    August 23, 2012 at 6:47 AM

    • A tiny bug it was, but its bright color drew me to it. And a nice composition it may have set, but it didn’t sit still for long, flying away after I’d taken only a few pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 23, 2012 at 6:53 AM

  3. I am not partial to piercing, sucking insects, but as these type go, this is a handsome specimen! Regarding the anatomy of the Mexican hat… Are the little nodes at the base of the cone the first ripening seed heads, or the source of the pollen? ~ Lynda


    August 23, 2012 at 7:08 AM

    • Sorry, but I have another colorful picture showing a fiercer piercer scheduled in a few days. As for the little nodes at the base of the column, they’re the disk flowers, which in this species are the fertile parts. The much larger yellow ray flowers turn out to be infertile in this species. Notice how the fused stamen columns of the disk flowers are similar to those of a sunflower and many other species in the sunflower family.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 23, 2012 at 7:38 AM

      • Such intrigue, now you know I will be watching with interest! 😉

        As for the flower I keep forgetting that flowers, as the layperson sees them, are the sum of their parts. However, as you have shown us in your photographs, in many instances the true flower is one part in that sum. Thanks for the clarification, Steve.


        August 23, 2012 at 8:26 AM

        • It’s like those old Flash Gordon serials that kept you hanging till the next episode.
          You’re right that in the composite family, known as the Asteraceae (formerly Compositae), each flower head is indeed made up of many small flowers. What we call “a” sunflower is actually dozens or even hundreds of tiny flowers.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 23, 2012 at 3:51 PM

  4. I have read this book a couple of times, very, very good. Also the picture; very very good.


    August 23, 2012 at 7:30 AM

  5. From reading those comments above.. this little guy stabs the plant for food?? Gorgeous photos.. really lovely colors here!!

    • I don’t know specifically about this red and black bug, but some insects do suck juices from plants (think aphids, for example). Some bugs—you’ll see one in a few days—are carnivorous and pierce other insects. The colors here really grabbed me, too, beginning with the scarlet of the bug.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 23, 2012 at 1:13 PM

  6. So – are the larger, yellow ray flowers what someone like me would refer to as petals? And this would be a composite flower, yes? And those very narrow green thingies around the bottom would be bracts?

    Apart from all that – what a handsome fellow! I can’t remember seeing any red insects except lady bugs and box elder bugs. He must have some great defenses against predators to be running around in that outfit that screams, “Here I am!”


    August 23, 2012 at 11:24 AM

    • Yes, the larger, yellow ray flowers are what many people would refer to as petals. As you pointed out, they’re not petals because Mexican hat has composite flower heads; each head is made up of many individual little flowers. I think you’re right that the green thingies are bracts.

      As for the bug, its bright red color is what attracted me. Had it been of some dull color, I probably would never have seen it. I wonder if the red announces that the bug tastes bad to predators.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 23, 2012 at 3:45 PM

      • Jumping in: The bright colored insects and toads do announce to their predators “Eat me and get sick!” However, some are mimics and have borrowed the color defense though they are not poisonous. Tricky!


        August 24, 2012 at 9:43 AM

        • In this case I don’t know if the bug really tastes bad to would-be predators or is just borrowing the threat, as you explained. I suspect that either way it would taste bad to us.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 24, 2012 at 3:38 PM

  7. Closeups of insects are always cool! Great shot Steve!

    Michael Glover

    August 24, 2012 at 10:47 PM

  8. Great capture!


    August 25, 2012 at 12:58 AM

  9. The red and the black had something to do with the French resistance during WWII … and the world of poetry.


    August 28, 2012 at 7:29 PM

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