Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘bug

Sunflower and more

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From Twin Lakes Park in Cedar Park on September 24th, here’s a backlit back view of a sunflower (Helianthus annuus) with out-of-focus silver bluestem seed heads (Bothriochloa laguroides) beyond it. On one of the sunflower’s rays I noticed a tiny insect. Once I did, I brought my macro lens as close as possible to what turned out to be a true bug (as opposed to the common English use of bug to mean any kind of insect). Naturalist Ken Wohlgemuth says it might be in the genus Harmostes (which I showed a member of in 2015). Click below to truly enlarge the true bug.


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Discussions of taxes focus mostly on income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, and other overt forms of taxation. Many people don’t realize that low interest rates are a form of tax. For much of my life, and as recently as 2008, people who lived within their means could save some money and put it in a bank to get interest of 4% per year. As decades passed, compound interest would let a person’s savings grow to a nice nest egg for later in life. Since the financial crash of 2008, however, governments around the world have kept interest rates artificially low, so low that 1% has often been the best deal available. A big reason why governments have done so is that they continue borrowing extravagantly, and lower interest rates correspond to lower repayments of debt.

Another tax that often isn’t thought of as a tax is inflation. People in recent months have begun to notice it because so many prices have been rising. Among the most conspicuous are the prices of staple foods—have you been to the supermarket lately?—and of fuel. The price of natural gas has risen 100% in the United States this year, and 280% in Europe, as winter approaches and the demand for heating homes heads for its annual peak. According to one website, “The annual inflation rate in the US eased [!] to 5.3% in August from a 13-year high of 5.4% reported in June and July.” So even as thrifty people struggle to get pitifully little interest on their savings in a bank—the best rates are currently running at about half of a percent—the value of each dollar keeps going down.

Not only is inflation a hidden tax, but it’s the kind of tax economists classify as regressive. That means it disproportionately affects people who are the least able to afford it. A wealthy person doesn’t care if gasoline is $3 a gallon or $6 a gallon, or if a loaf of bread this year costs a dollar more than it did last year. But for a person who is living on the margins and who needs to drive to work, the dollar-a-gallon rise in the price of gasoline over the past year is painful, as is paying noticeably more for a cart of groceries to sustain a family.

Several years ago I would occasionally ask someone out of the blue: “Have you got your $60,000 ready?” That was the share of the national debt owed by each person in the United States, from newborn baby to centenarian. By 2019 the per-capita share had risen to around $69,000. By 2020 it had soared to almost $81,000. As of two weeks ago, the amount every single person in America owes was calculated to be $85,424.

I bring all this up now for a couple of reasons. One is that it’s distressing to watch helplessly as the money we’ve dutifully saved by living within our means is worth less and less each month. Another reason is that the current administration in the United States is pushing to “spend”—which means borrow—$3.5 trillion more than the trillions it has already borrowed. That will drive the national debt even higher; soon I’ll be asking you whether you’ve got your $100,000 ready to pay your individual share. Profligate borrowing will also further incite inflation, which, as noted, most affects the people least able to cope with it. To use a word that’s in vogue, all this is unsustainable. Our representatives in government have to find ways to begin paying down the national debt, not driving it ever higher. In short, just as individuals have to live within their means, so do governments.

(And let me head off potential criticism by adding that I was against the large increases in the debt under both Obama and Trump. Inordinate debt is bad no matter which party is responsible for it.)

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 6, 2021 at 4:27 AM

Yumptious yellow

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The other day the word yumptious popped into my mind. Wondering whether anyone had come up with it before me, I searched and found I wasn’t the first to use that portmanteau of yummy and scrumptious (with scrumptious having perhaps arisen as an alteration of sumptuous). Now I’m getting to use that adjective for the river primrose flowers (Oenothera jamesii) I went to see on September 25th at Tejas Camp in Williamson County, where I’d found the species for the first time in 2020.

Before each bright yellow flower emerges at the tip of a long stem, river primrose’s svelte buds are sculptural and textural, as you see below. Notice the reddish tips, above which strides a stilt bug in the genus Jalysus.

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One of the worst statements ever spewed forth from the mouth of a legislator came in 2010: “… We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it.” That’s not how laws are supposed to be made. Legislators aren’t supposed to vote on bills whose contents they and the people they represent aren’t aware of. The “representative” who made that infamous statement should have been summarily expelled from Congress for dereliction of duty and breach of ethics.

On September 8th I mentioned that in recent years I’ve gradually been crafting amendments to the American Constitution to fix things that are wrong with our government. The would-be amendment I described then involved contributions to political campaigns. Now I’d like to propose an amendment to deal with the horrid thought quoted in the previous paragraph.

Prerequisites for a member of Congress to be allowed to vote on a bill

A.  The member shall read the final version of the bill in its entirety.

B.  The member shall create an uncut video showing the member reading the entire bill, and shall post, at least 24 hours before voting on the bill, the complete video online in an easily accessible place where the public can view it.

C.  The member shall pass a test about the contents of the bill, such test to be created and administered by a non-partisan commission established for that purpose. The test shall contain at least 10 questions and the passing grade shall be set no lower than 80%. A member of Congress who fails may take one retest consisting of a randomly different set of questions about the bill. A second failure shall bar the member from voting on the bill.

D. Each revision of a bill that comes up for a vote shall trigger these requirements anew.

I’m optimistic that these requirements would greatly shorten the lengths of proposed bills and simplify their contents. What do you think?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 1, 2021 at 4:30 AM

More views of Texas bindweed

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You recently saw a Texas bindweed flower (Convolvulus equitans) with a basket-flower serving as a complementary concentric halo. On June 2nd I was working near a different entrance to Great Hills Park and found that another purple flower, the horsemint (Monarda citriodora), provided an out-of-focus backdrop for a softly questing Texas bindweed tendril. (Google turns up no hits for the phrase softly questing tendril, so today is my latest turn as a neologist.)

Jumping ahead to June 15th, I noticed that a Texas bindweed vine had twined itself around a Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera). Riding the flower head was a bug that entomologists call Calocoris barberi, which I’ve learned is most often found on Mexican hats. As far as I can tell, this bug has no common name, so maybe the Entomological Society of America should hold a contest to come up with one.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 30, 2020 at 4:44 AM

Bug nymph on four-nerve daisy

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In contrast to the willful four-nerve daisy flower head (Tetraneuris linearifolia) you saw last time, the flatness of this one that I found on the same April 1st outing had me aiming straight down at it.

You’ll remember that each “petal” of a daisy is actually an independent flower known as a ray flower. The rays (14 in this case) ray-diate out from the flower head’s center, which is made up of many smaller individual flowers of a different type, known as disk flowers. It’s common in daisies for the disk flowers to form overlapping spirals, some of which go out from the center in a clockwise sense, and others in a counter-clockwise sense. If you count the number of disk-flower spirals in each direction, you typically get consecutive Fibonacci numbers. There’s a confirmation of that in the following enlargements of this four-nerve daisy’s disk. Go ahead, count the number of spirals going each way and you’ll see:

In the unlikely event that anyone ever asks you if daisies know how to count, you can confidently and Fibonaccily say yes.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 13, 2018 at 4:35 AM

Looking and looking back

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When I knelt to photograph a yellow bitterweed flower head (Helenium amarum var. amarum) in Cedar Park on May 6th and looked through my camera’s viewfinder I found a bug staring straight back at me.

If you’re interested in photography as a craft, I used point 11 in About My Techniques to create this image.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 31, 2017 at 4:55 AM

Harmostes bug

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Harmostes Bug on Horesmint Flowers by Firewheel 7371

From June 8th, 2015—a year ago today—along Old Spicewood Springs Road, here’s a mostly side view of a bug in the genus Harmostes, which crowned some horsemint flowers, Monarda citriodora. The imaginary sunset in the background, whose warm colors contrasted so pleasingly with the green of the bug and parts of the horsemint that it dominated, was a firewheel, Gaillardia pulchella.

Note: I’m away from home and will be for a while. Please understand if I’m late replying to your comments.

UPDATE: Out of the blue, on August 29, 2021, a contributor to bugguide.net identified another of my pictures showing this bug as Harmostes reflexulus.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 8, 2016 at 5:28 AM

Speaking of antelope-horns milkweed

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Milkweed Bug on Antelope Horns Milkweed Leaf 2134

Speaking of antelope-horns milkweed (Asclepias asperula), as I did last time when I showed a snail on one, let me add that I also noticed a typical quota of milkweed bugs (Oncopeltus fasciatus) on the antelope-horns plants that I stopped to examine on the prairie in northeast Austin on April 22.

For a closer look at the milkweed bug, the better to see it staring back at you, click the excerpt below.

Milkweed Bug on Antelope Horns Milkweed Leaf 2134A

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 17, 2016 at 5:03 AM

Harmostes bug

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Pale Green Bug on Ageratina havanensis 7329

How about this bug in the genus Harmostes that I found on an Ageratina havanensis bush that was flowering way out of season on June 8th along Old Spicewood Springs Road? (Thanks to the folks at bugguide.net for quickly identifying the genus.)

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 2, 2015 at 5:29 AM

The red and the black

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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

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