Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘arthropod

One green succumbs to another

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Green Lynx Spider with Killed Bee on Goldenrod Flowers 7796

Remember the metallic green sweat bee that I photographed on my hand in Arkansas three months ago? On September 1st at Southeast Metropolitan Park I found a similar bee that had fallen prey to a green lynx spider, Peucetia viridans. The yellow of some goldenrod (Solidago spp.) that was already flowering added to the colorful if ghastly scene. In fact it was the goldenrod flowers that I’d stopped to photograph, and then when I got close I discovered the spider and bee on them.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 7, 2016 at 5:02 AM

Spider and polygons in the morning

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Spider and Nonagons of Light 8737

Another thing I saw on the grounds of the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, on June 20 was this tiny spider, the main part of which my 100mm macro lens resolved quite nicely. The morning sun in front of me lit up some strands of silk in the web while also causing the lens to create polygonal artifacts of light. Those nonagons have better definition than the red ones I showed you in 2013.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 26, 2016 at 4:30 AM

Crab spider on Texas thistle

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Spider on Texas Thistle Flower Head 2349

What would spring be if I didn’t show you at least one Texas thistle (Cirsium texanum)? This one carries the bonus of a tiny crab spider in the genus Mecaphesa.

Today’s photograph is from the Purgatory Creek Natural Area in San Marcos on April 27.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 20, 2016 at 5:07 AM

Bejeweled

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When I went to Great Hills Park on the morning of March 17th I found many little patches of ground blanketed with drizzle-bejeweled spiderwebs like the ones you saw last time surrounding a straggler daisy. Some of the webs had a noticeably dark funnel, and in one of those I glimpsed a spider waiting deep inside. After I knelt and got close with my camera to take pictures, the vibration from one of my movements prompted the spider to rush out toward what it incorrectly took to be prey, startling me in the process (things are magnified when you look through a macro lens). Fortunately the spider stayed outside the funnel long enough for me to make several portraits of it. I later learned from the BugGuide.net folks that this funnel weaver spider is in the genus Agelenopsis, whose members are called grass spiders.

Two days before my outing in Great Hills Park, Dale and Pat Bulla had alerted me to the National Wildlife Week Photo Contest being held by Austin Parks and Wildlife. I entered this photograph and it ended up winning first place. The picture will appear in the April issue of the Austin Treebune.

Funnel Web Spider in Spiderweb with Drizzle Drops 8222

If you’d like a closer view of this Agelenopsis spider, click the excerpt below.

Funnel Web Spider in Spiderweb with Drizzle Drops 8222 Detail

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 31, 2016 at 4:54 AM

Freeloading

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Dark Fly, Dead Bee, Dead Spider on Tatalencho 8237

When I was happily photographing tatalencho (Gymnosperma glutinosum) at Wild Basin on October 27th I came across this little drama that I had trouble understanding. Most conspicuous was the dead bee whose head-down posture on the flower stalk made it look like an airplane that had nose-dived into a crash-landing. We have to assume the bee had met its demise thanks to the spider that now too was upside down and immobile, and that I took to be dead as well. Standing on the bee’s upraised rump was by far the tiniest of the creatures in this arthropodal ménage à trois, a dark insect that appeared to be biting or sucking the tip of one of the spider’s upraised legs.

I e-mailed for help, which came quickly. From entomologist Alex Wild at the University of Texas I learned that the dark little insect is “a freeloader fly (probably Milichiidae or Chloropidae, hard to tell from the photo), taking advantage of the spider’s kill. As Joe [Lapp] said, this is a fairly common phenomenon, but since the flies are so small it is often overlooked.”

I also heard back from local expert Val Bugh: “The spider is not dead, it’s busy eating and crab spiders prefer to remain still, especially when their prey blocks them from view. The black fly, commonly called a freeloader fly (family Milichiidae) is actually just standing on the bee’s butt — it only looks like its face is touching the spider’s leg because of the angle. Really, the mouth of the fly goes down and it is probably waiting to scavenge some droplets while the spider feeds (or it is wondering whether or not it needs to leave because there is a big, scary camera pointing at it). Usually, spiders and other predators just ignore these little flies, which might walk all over both the predator and its victim.”

Joe Lapp added some more: “I think I’ve only ever seen this once on the prey of a spider other than a crab spider. I think crab spiders are preferential because they don’t masticate their prey like most do. Instead, they inject digestive fluids into holes and slurp out the yummy insides. That leaves opportunity for flies to go to town unharmed. I wonder if the venom or enzymes also assist the flies. In my mind, the wild thing is that these flies show up before the prey begins decaying.”

So there you have the explanation for this curious sight.

———–

I’m away for a few days. You’re welcome to leave comments, but it may take me a while to answer.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 20, 2015 at 5:06 AM

Old and new

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Firewheel Seed Head Remains Cobwebbed by Broomweed Flowers 7161

The old that the title refers to is a dry seed head of Gaillardia pulchella, known as firewheel, Indian blanket, and blanket flower. There are two new things: 1) the scaffold of spiderwebs covering the dry stalk and seed head  2) the many small but bright yellow flowers of broomweed, Amphiachyris dracunculoides, out of focus and partly polygonalized in the background.

Any resemblance to “The Starry Night” is purely coincidental; I doubt Van Gogh ever even heard of broomweed and firewheel, much less saw any. The only connection I can make to France, where that painter worked in the final years of his life, is the cul-de-sac at the end of Meister Lane in southeastern Round Rock where I took this photograph on the first day of October.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 24, 2015 at 4:50 AM

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