Bug Shot 2012

I recently attended an amazing insect photography course in Venus, FL at the Archbold Biological Station called “Bug Shot”.  It’s a great course for anyone interested in macro photography and especially those of us that have an interest in insect photography.  The course was taught by Alex Wild, John Abbott, and Thomas Shahan.  All three are extraordinary photographers with very unique approaches to getting incredible shots (Links to their work are below!).  The course covered basic photography and entomology information initially and then dove into some really interesting lectures on high speed flash photography (John Abbott), focus stacking techniques (Thomas Shahan), working with insects in the studio and achieving diffused flash(Alex Wild), and much more.  Pretty much everything was covered from the basics of photography/entomology to how to turn your images into a profit.

As an entomologist, I was really expecting a large population of entomologists to be present.  However, the course had video game designers, computer programmers, a herpetologist, and of course some entomologists.  Needless to say it was a very mixed group of people with different experiences, backgrounds, and photography styles!  It was awesome.  But, in the midst of a rather intimidating group of photographers, I managed to get some shots that I’m proud of so I thought I’d share them with you!

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So there are just a few of the many pictures I took while at Bug Shot.  The image processing was done with Lightroom 4.1 (which I’d highly recommend).  I know, I know…  I didn’t ID any of the images or at this point, but life has been pretty hectic for this entomologist!  So some time in the near future I will sit down and ID these guys and update the blog.  Until then just enjoy (or mock) my attempt at being a photographer!

And, as promised, here are the links to the instructors’ amazing websites!

Alex Wild: http://www.alexanderwild.com/

John Abbott: http://archive.abbottnaturephotography.com/gallery-list

Thomas Shahan: http://thomasshahan.com/

And…  just to make you all a little more jealous of how awesome Bug Shot 2012 was, here’s a couple more photos that were taken by Josh Mayes.

Early sunrise at the Archbold Research Station.

The Bug Shot 2012 group!

 So stay tuned for more details regarding the next Bug Shot workshop!

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BUG OF THE WEEK!

This week our hats are tipped in honor of a particularly unique bug, the giant water bug (Lethocerus americanus)!  Giant water bugs are Hemipterans which belong to the insect family Belostomatidae (about 100 species total).  They can be found across the planet in South America, Australia, Asia, and are the largest insect found in North America.   Their bite is incredibly painful and is rumored to be the most painful bite inflicted by any insect.   Due to the fact that giant water bugs know that they’re bad asses, they feed on anything that they think they can handle (turtles, frogs, snakes, big toes, etc…) and thus they have earned several nicknames such as “toe-biters”, “alligator ticks”, and “biting leaves”.

IDENTIFICATION

So as the name suggests… This is a GIANT bug.  Adults are found well over 2 inches long and more than an inch wide.  They’re bodies are a dark gray to brown with orange legs and highlights around the wings and thorax.  These color patterns allow the giant water bug to blend in with leaves and other debris in shallow pools of water.  Their front legs are more like spears that are used to hold onto prey while injecting an immobilizing toxin with its mouth parts.

WHY BUG OF THE WEEK?

Like I even have to tell you why I chose the giant water bug as the Bug of the Week…  We all know the answer.  But in case you’re thinking that you’ve missed something critical while reading this or that it’s a trick, I’ll tell you why…

Two Reasons.

Reason 1: Parental Investment!  These ruthless hunters are not only fierce killers, but they are also very caring parents.   Mating takes a long time and a huge amount of energy to complete.  Once the females have been mated and the eggs are fertilized, the females seek out their mates and oviposit (lay eggs) on the elytra of the males.  From this point on the males are left with the responsibility to protect the eggs and ensure a safe hatching for the new little, giant water bug babies.

Reason 2: Theatrical fake deaths!  Everyone hears that playing dead can deter wild animals and even humans that wish you harm.  Well to say the least, that doesn’t always work out.  Maybe that’s because we don’t SELL our fake death as well as giant water bugs do…  When approached by a larger predator, the giant water bug plays dead.  They float lifelessly atop the water and incase that isn’t enough they release a fluid from their rectum to really stress the fact that they are dead.  Often times, collectors mistake this escape tactic as an easy specimen to add to the collection…  However, a quick, surprise attack releases them back to the water while the human hits the floor in pain!

Pretty awesome!

GREAT IT’S BUG OF THE WEEK!  NOW HOW DO I GET RID OF IT???

Get rid of it?  You’re crazy…  Unless they’re attacking some of your friends in your decorative pond outside, I’d let them live long and prosper 🙂

And here is a video of the giant water bug hunting and gives some additional tid bits of information!  Enjoy the exciting commentary!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBnsUyfkaKY

BUG OF THE WEEK!

This is the beginning of what should become an epic portion of South Dakota Bugs… introducing the “Bug of the Week”!  The Bug of the Week will be a weekly posting that will focus on a single, South Dakota native insect and give you the run down on its identification, biology, and what makes this insect particularly awesome.

This week’s bug of the week is none other than the varied carpet beetle, Anthrenus verbasci (Linnaeus).  This particular beetle belongs to the family Dermestidae or commonly referred to as the dermestid beetles.  It is a common insect to find within homes, warehouses, museums, or any other location that provides adequate food supplies.

IDENTIFICATION

The varied carpet beetle adult is approximately 1/10 inch long.  It has a black body with irregular white, brown, and yellow-orange patterns stretching across the elytra or wing coverings.   However, as the adults age, the scales that form the irregular pattern and colors can wear off and reveal an all-black bodied beetle.  Their antennae, though short, are comprised of 11 segments with a club of 3 segments at the end.

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Varied carpet beetle eggs are incredibly small and ovular in shape.  They could easy be mistaken for a speck of dirt or debris, if noticed at all.  The eggs are oviposited around various locations and require approximately two weeks to fully develop depending on temperatures and humidity.

The larvae are ¼ inch long, dark brown, hairy caterpillar-like creatures.  The hairs can be used for defense and may be irritating when they come in contact with skin.  The larvae go through 7-8 molts (shedding of exoskeleton) over an extended length of time- 7-11 months!

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WHY BUG OF THE WEEK?

The varied carpet beetle has earned its place as bug of the week because of its palate.  While the adults seek out pollen or nectar to feed upon, the larvae choose a much different food selection…

Larvae of the varied carpet beetle are scavengers to say the least.  “But what do they scavenge?” you ask…  Well none other than a variety of animal products such as carpet fibers, leather, wool, feathers, horns, and bones.  They also tend to feed on various grains, dried peppers, and other plant matter.  But what bothers me as an entomologist is that they also feed on dead insects!  This especially worrisome for those of us that have insect collections on display or tucked away in our offices or homes.  All it takes is one carpet beetle larvae to squeeze into your collection box to ruin years of effort.

And it is because of this exceptional ability to eat the things we may take for granted that I salute you, varied carpet beetle!

GREAT IT’S BUG OF THE WEEK!  BUT HOW DO I GET RID OF IT???

Easy…  Sanitation!  Good sanitation practices are the most effective way to prevent and remove any carpet beetle problems.  Dry cleaning woolen or other tasty garments before storing them for long periods of time and sweeping carpets on a regular basis is a sure fire way to prevent infestations.

Please note that I do not take any credit for these photos (unfortunately)!  I found these online, but there was no credit information to site…  If you took these photos- well done!  And I hope you don’t mind me showcasing your work!!!

A Bit of Theology, Philosophy, and Entomology

Could you have answered this question better?  In arguments or debates we often tend to make things personal and lose sight of the science that brings back balance to the situation.  Below is the story of one entomologist that answered a question and in doing so brought back a balanced perspective and sense of humor to the debate and earned his claim to fame.

http://entomology.ucdavis.edu/news/matanshelomishortyaward.html