Friday, December 31, 2010

Probably the most abundant hexapods on Earth....

I thought today I'd introduce you to 'Springtails' (Collembola)

The name "Collembola" is derived from "Colle" = glue and "embolon" = piston or peg. This refers to the belief that the ventral tube has adhesive properties, that is, that it is a "glue-peg". However, the tube's function is primarily for excretion and maintaining water balance.

Springtails have the widest distribution of any hexapod group, occuring throughout the world, including Antarctica. They are probably the most abundant hexapods on Earth, with up to 250,000,000 individuals per square acre. They are found in soil, leaf litter, logs, dung, cave, shorelines, etc. There are about 6000 known species.

The one I photographed today, I found under a disguarded beer can in local woodland close to my home in Cranbrook Kent (U.K.)

A Globular Springtail-Dicyrtomina saundersi-Around 3mm

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Do Earwigs crawl into your ears and eat your brains?

It's obvious on my daily walks now that winter has us in its grip and the bugs and insects are keeping well hidden or have hibernated until spring.
Today the only thing I found to photograph was a common earwig.

However, look a little closer and despite its name and threatening appearance, the common earwig is a harmless and interesting creature.

Earwigs rest during the day inside damp crevices such as under bark or in hollow plant stems. They are scavengers and emerge at night.
Their pincers can give a small nip to a human but they are normally used to scare away predators and to help them tuck their wings away.
Males and females can be distinguished by their tail pincers, which are more curved in males than females.

 It was once commonly believed that earwigs would burrow into people's ears at night and lay eggs in their brains. In fact the story still circulates as an urban myth. Earwigs are not parasitic and would rather lay their eggs under a stone. The human ear, though about the right size for an earwig, is not an ideal resting place.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Common Earwig (Forficula auricularia )

Photographed using natural light only.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ice can be cool...

Whilst out walking our little terrier 'Herbie' today around some of the (frozen) local fields on what turned into one of the sunnier days of late I started to notice some of the fascinating patterns the ice had created in puddles.

And so....out came the 100mm macro lens and I set about trying to get some shots of the more interesting ones. I'm not over-keen on using the camera in such cold conditions as we've had recently but I only took a few shots before it was safely back in its bag with a little hand warmer to keep the interior dry and a reasonable temperature until I got home.

Ice formation

For anyone interested in such things the techy bit:
Canon 40d
Canon 100mm 1:2.8 USM Macro
Manual setting
White Balance: Daylight
ISO 200
Flash: Off

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The lake and the larva...

Today I ventured out to the lakes in Colliers Green hoping to get some photographs, however as I approached via a field that in summer is filled with the heavy scent of flowering clover and today was , well just slush really, it began to snow again and so what I found a few moments later surprised me to say the least.
There beside one of the smaller lakes was a Drinker Moth Caterpillar!
It wasn't curled-up in hibernation as you would expect (these large larvae are usually about during late summer and even into the autumn before hibernating to complete their growth in the spring) but appeared to be quite mobile.
Perhaps it had just woken from it's slumber for a drink? The caterpillar gets it's name from it's supposed habit of drinking the dew.I am fairly sure at 50mm it wasn't a fully grown adult, I have photographed them at over 75mm in early summer.

One of the lakes in Colliers Green today.

The Drinker Moth Caterpillar (Euthrix potatoria)


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Inverts at last...

Today was the first for ages when I felt comfortable with taking the camera out on my walks.
No snow overnight and a partial thaw.

To my delight (and surprise) I found a few inerts about today. A good number of 16-Spot Ladybirds that seemed to be quite active and feeding on the mildew on a row of fenceposts. A couple of small Leafhoppers as well as the Pea Weevil that I photographed and have added below.

These are tiny Weevils as you'll be able to tell from the disguarded metal clip that it's sitting on in the photo, the clip is 1.5mm wide.

Abundant in grassy places they nibble holes in the edges of peas, clover etc.


Back home, this little one turned up in the bath this evening.
A Cellar Spider (Pholcidae) - Pholcus phalangioides. Sometimes called Daddy Long-legs although this name also seems to apply to both Harvestmen and Crane Flies.

When they are disturbed or when they are under a threat of attack, they start vibrating in their web violently to scare off and discourage their enemy. Therefore, they are also known by yet another common name of vibrating spiders.

Photographed with a microscope objective.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

In The Beginning...

I'm making a start on this new blog today. It's  cold and snowy in Kent with little to offer in the way of interesting, outdoor macro subjects to photograph.
I plan to use the winter, or as I prefer to think of it "Non Bug Time" to use my camera on the odd day when I feel it's safe to do so for what will probably be landscape/countryside/weather photographs. Who knows though, I may feel the pull of macro is just too strong and revert to some non bug macros.

For today I'll settle for a photo of local woods owned and managed by The Woodland Trust

A well used local woodland walk