Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘insect

Texas has many things inimical to human skin

with 25 comments

On November 20th I worked my way into the median on E. Howard Lane to photograph some fruit-bearing possumhaws and yaupons (Ilex decidua and vomitoria, respectively). On a couple of the trees I noticed several furry little tan or grey bundles that I later learned aren’t bundles of joy, at least not where human skin is concerned. Fortunately I didn’t touch any of the critters, which bugguide.net has identified as Megalopyge opercularis, known as the southern flannel moth caterpillar, puss caterpillar, asp, and perrito (Spanish for ‘puppy’). The Bugguide entry for this species includes a cautionary note: “Occasionally, in outbreak years, puss caterpillars are sufficiently numerous to defoliate some trees…. However, their main importance is medical. In Texas, they have been so numerous in some years that schools in San Antonio in 1923 and Galveston in 1951 were closed temporarily because of stings to children….” You’re welcome to read a more recent account of envenomations.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 23, 2020 at 4:18 AM

Still more from Gault Lane at Burnet Road on October 11th

with 24 comments

⇧ Huisache daisy, Amblyolepis setigera, with a small insect.

⇧ Aquatic plants at sunrise.

⇧ Cardinal flowers, Lobelia cardinalis.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 12, 2020 at 4:32 AM

Bumblerod

with 27 comments

As the second yellow-on-yellow picture in two days, behold a bumblee (Bombus sp.) visiting goldenrod flowers (Solidago sp.) along Ross Road in Del Valle. The date was October 10, and the place was one I’d never worked at before, so you could say I had beginner’s luck. I could reply that I’ve been beginning my photography for more than 50 years now.

UPDATE: Robert Kamper (see comment below) has presented evidence that this is really a carpenter bee and not a bumblebee. I’ve left the original post’s title rather than changing it to something like “Carpentrod.”

Instead of a quotation today, how about listening to a two-piano dueling version of Rimsky-Korsakov’s famous “Flight of the Bumblebee”?

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 28, 2020 at 4:38 AM

Estigmene acrea

with 32 comments

“What’s that white thing?” That’s what I wondered when I glimpsed a little white area on one of several distant narrowleaf sumpweed* plants (Iva angustifolia) that were flowering in my neighborhood on September 29th. After I walked closer I saw that it was a moth**, which I take to be Estigmene acrea, known as the saltmarsh moth. An even closer look revealed that on the sumpweed it had laid some tiny pearl-like eggs, several clusters of which you can discern in the photograph. The three larger round yellowish areas interspersed across the bottom of the picture were out-of-focus broomweed flowers (Amphiachyris dracunculoides).

* Sumpweeds (which you might be surprised to learn that botanists put in the sunflower family) are close relatives of ragweeds. Like those better-known plants, sumpweeds’ airborne pollen at this time of year causes hayfever in susceptible people, including this photographer who sometimes sneezes his way through the autumn landscape for the sake of pictures from nature.

** Modern English moth developed from Old English moððe, where the ð represented the sound we now spell th. People must have found it troublesome—as we would—to pronounce two th‘s in a row and therefore dropped one of them (along with the supporting vowel that followed, thereby reducing the word to a single syllable).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 8, 2020 at 4:43 AM

South Fork of the San Gabriel River

with 33 comments

As often as I’ve photographed along the North Fork of the San Gabriel River at Tejas Camp in Williamson County, I’d never photographed along the South Fork till September 18th, when we visited the relatively recent Garey Park in the southwest corner of Georgetown.

All three of these landscape pictures show the eons-long erosive effect of water streaming against rock.

In case you’re wondering about the yellow-green stuff at the edge of the water, it’s duckweed (Lemna minor), which forms floating mats. On one such mat I found a tiny grasshopper.

Click to enlarge.

Here’s an unrelated thought for today: “Dear, sweet, unforgettable childhood! Why does that irrevocable time, forever departed, seem brighter, more festive, and richer than it actually was?” — Anton Chekhov, The Bishop (1902).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 6, 2020 at 4:24 AM

A colorful revisiting of Emerald Lake

with 37 comments

Hard to believe today marks three years since we stood at the edge of Emerald Lake in British Columbia’s Yoho National Park. Smoke from forest fires obscured the lake’s far shore but the turquoise color still came through to set off the slender red seed capsules of the fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium) in the first photograph. On a different fireweed plant there I found the caterpillar of a bedstraw hawkmoth, Hyles gallii.

Although it was only a week into September,
so far north some foliage was already beginning to turn colors.

I was attracted to a bush with small white fruits and reddening leaves
that I take to be common snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 7, 2020 at 5:00 AM

A bitterweed bud and bloom and beyond and a bee

with 18 comments

It’s been a couple of years since I showed you the common wildflower known as yellow bitterweed, Helenium amarum var. amarum. The native-bee-bedecked portrait above is from August 18th in Round Rock. At the same time I took what I believe are my first pictures ever of a bud in this species, so here’s one of those:

Toward the opposite end of the development cycle, here’s what a seed head looks like when it’s decomposing:

Many parts of the United States are experiencing a summer drought now. People longing for cooler and wetter times may find the following cold-weather fact welcome, and probably also surprising: if a lake has a solid covering of ice 12 inches deep, an 8-ton truck can drive on it. If you want to know how much weight other thicknesses of ice can bear, check out this chart. Notice that the relationship isn’t linear: doubling the thickness allows the ice to bear a lot more than twice the weight.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 26, 2020 at 4:38 AM

Widow skimmer dragonfly on poverty weed

with 52 comments

When I’d almost finished wandering the grounds of Hyde Park High School on the morning of July 30th I spotted a dragonfly. Slowly moving in on it, I managed to get close enough for this portrait with a 100mm macro lens. The subject is a widow skimmer, Libellula luctuosa. Latin luctus* meant ‘sorrow, mourning, grief, affliction, distress, lamentation, especially over the loss of something dear to one,’ and it seems the large dark patches on this dragonfly’s wings fancifully reminded people of a widow in mourning. (Never mind that this widow appears to be a male.) And speaking of grief over what has been lost, look at how Tennyson ended his poem “Ulysses” with triumphant resignation:

“Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
————

* English used to have the borrowed adjective luctual, meaning ‘related to or producing grief,’ but the word has fallen out of use. We mourn its disappearance and the chance to play off intelluctual against intellectual.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 15, 2020 at 4:27 AM

Two takes on sensitive briar

with 20 comments

From July 13th in northwest Austin, here are two takes on sensitive briar that relegate the flowers to secondary roles. In the first photograph, pride of place goes to the buds of the species, Mimosa roemeriana. In the second portrait, the color of the flowers works well to complement the iridescent green of a busily working metallic sweat bee (sorry, I don’t know what species.)

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 10, 2020 at 4:38 AM

Damselfly on western ironweed

with 87 comments

I’ve always found western ironweed (Vernonia baldwinii) hard to photograph. Not so this dameslfly on the buds thereof along Bull Creek on July 1st. In looking at John Abbott’s book Damselflies of Texas, I figured this damselfly was in the genus Hetaerina but I wasn’t sure about the species. Yesterday on bugguide.net entomologist T. Hedlund identified the species as Hetaerina americana, known as the American rubyspot. The one I photographed seems to have been a female.

UPDATE: from a different frame I’ve added a closeup showing the details in one segment of the abdomen and a part of the wing. Till now I hadn’t paid attention to the transverse black markings on the iridescent blue.

American Rubyspot Damselfly on Western Ironweed Buds by Buttonbush Flower Globe 1831 Detail

Unrelated thought for today: “Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” — George Santayana in The Life of Reason: The Phases of Human Progress. The last sentence is famous but often gets misquoted. Much worse, many people refuse to learn that lesson.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 28, 2020 at 4:40 AM

%d bloggers like this: