Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘insect

You’ve gotta hand it to me

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On April 12th I wandered for close to three hours along the right-of-way beneath the power lines west of Morado Circle. It was spring and a lot was happening there. At one point I noticed a robber fly on a rock on the ground. I moved in slowly with my macro lens, hoping the insect would stay put. It did, and I took a bunch of pictures from several angles. The robber fly seemed unusually docile for one of its kind, and I suddenly wondered whether I could lift up the rock and take pictures that would have a less distracting background.

Slowly I put my left thumb and index finger around the rock to take hold of it, gradually stood up, and was relieved that the robber fly stayed on for the ride. After I held the rock out in front of me and was about to try for a few more pictures, the fly moved around a little, then walked off the rock and onto my hand. Robber flies are fiercely carnivorous, “robbing” other insects by pouncing on and devouring them, so I wondered whether this handy visitor might suddenly take a nip out of my skin. But no, the robber fly remained friendly, as polite a digital guest as any nature photographer could want.

For a classic three-quarter view of the subject with a better look at its characteristic “moustache,” click below.

If you’re interested in photography as a craft, the newly added point 30 in About My Techniques applies to these two portraits.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 17, 2019 at 4:49 AM

What is that?

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That’s what we wondered at the Doeskin Ranch on November 24th after Eve spotted this strange thing and waited for me to catch up from my picture-taking so she could point it out. I’d read about insects that cover themselves with objects to act as camouflage, and that’s what appeared to have happened here. To learn the specifics, I turned to local expert Val Bugh, who identified this as “a bagworm moth case (Psychidae). Our big species here is Oiketicus abbotii (if I’m correct in estimating your example is about 2 inches long [she was correct] — the small species are less than half as big). This bag is empty and the exuviae is sticking out the bottom, indicating a male eclosed and flew off. The females never leave their sac.”

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 29, 2018 at 4:39 AM

Ageratina havanensis does its thing

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A great floral attractor of insects in the fall is Ageratina havanensis, known as fragrant mist flower, shrubby boneset, and thoroughwort, and apparently in Spanish as the barba de viejo (old man’s beard) that corresponds to the fuzzier stage the inflorescence takes on after it goes to seed.

Click to enlarge.

The insect shown above working these flowers in my neighborhood on November 2nd is a syrphid fly, which you can see gains some protection by mimicking a bee. The stray seeds with silk attached came from the adjacent poverty weed bush that graciously put in an appearance here a couple of weeks ago. Below you’ll find a much larger and more colorful insect that was visiting the flowers, a queen butterfly, Danaus gilippus.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 4, 2018 at 4:56 AM

Multitudinous snout butterflies and two kinds of white*

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Where the previous post showed you a close and then an even closer view of an individual American snout butterfly (Libytheana carinanta), look at the swarm I found on some frostweed flowers (Verbesina virginica) on November 1st along River Place Blvd. I count at least two dozen butterflies in this picture. The autumn of 2018 has proved a good season for the species, which I’ve continued seeing in other parts of Austin as well.

This multitude of snout butterflies came as a bonus because what I’d stopped to photograph was some poverty weed (Baccharis neglecta), as shown below with another bonus in the form of native grape vines (Vitis spp.) climbing on the bushes. If you look carefully, you may also pick out one or two or three bits of breeze-wafted poverty weed fluff in the air; that’s how this species spreads its seeds.

* A search for “multitudinous snout butterflies” got no hits, so you are probably the first people in the history of the universe (after me) to be reading that phrase. Happy novelty to you.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 24, 2018 at 4:37 PM

American snout butterfly on goldenrod flowers

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On October 29th I photographed this American snout butterfly, Libytheana carinenta, on some goldenrod flowers that were growing around the pond at Central Market on North Lamar Blvd. If you’d like an even closer view from another frame that will better reveal how hairy the snout and head are, click the thumbnail below.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 23, 2018 at 4:55 AM

Roseate skimmer

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On October 4th I photographed a dragonfly that I take to be a roseate skimmer, Orthemis ferruginea.
Why the photograph doesn’t show six legs remains a mystery.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 16, 2018 at 4:40 AM

More from my hours on the Blackland Prairie

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While out on the prairie on October 27th looking for Maximilian sunflowers and finding plenty of them, I also came across a colony of goldenrod (Solidago altissima) along Bratton Lane whose flowers were happily fresh.

Some of the plants were simultaneously drying out and putting forth new flowers:

All those goldenrod flowers attracted a slew of insects, including this monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus):

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 1, 2018 at 4:42 AM

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