Friday, March 16, 2012

Spring, Spring,spring...

Things are really starting to hot up here in Kent now, over the past week we have had some reasonable temperatures and I have spotted a good number of invertebrates.
Just today I saw Small Tortoiseshell and Comma Butterflies as well as Honey Bees, Bumble Bees and Hoverflies.

I've also been seeing a few species of weevil starting to emerge.

Curculionidae Weevil
I'm not sure of the exact species of the weevil pictured here but think it probably belongs to the Curculionidae family.

A little background:
Curculionidae is the family of the 'true' weevils and is the largest of any of the animal families with over 40.000 species described worldwide. These weevils are quite diverse and can range in size from 1-40mm.

The warmer weather has also encouraged out the little jumping spiders...

Salticus scenicus-A Jumping Spider

This picture was a real challenge to get. It's made up of several shots that have then been combined (stacked) to comprise the final image. As this was a live spider there was inevitably a bit of movement of the legs (well, when you have eight, it's difficult to keep them all still.) There was also some movement of the camera (my fault) and so the software used to combine the images had to work hard to produce the end result.

The picture(s) below show the timeline of the images as they were shot, if you look closely you can see the movement I mentioned. The reason for the difference in colour of the final image is just that I decided to correct the ISO settings for a more natural look.

The next photograph is one that I've cribbed from my flickr photostream. It's an extreme close-up of the same species of spider.

I explained on flickr that this was the result of an experiment and that I'd post details here. So here goes...

For this shot I used a 28mm film camera lens reverse mounted to around 100mm of extension tube. I'd recalled a while ago one of my flickr contacts explaining about  multi-shot images taken by setting the camera to high speed/continuous mode as a means of getting several images to stack.

That's what I decided to try:I experimented with several ways of doing it but basically, I just set the camera on to a macro rail and held the shutter button in whilst I carefully pushed the camera slowly towards the spider. It took several tries to get anything worth saving at all but when I viewed this particular set of images, I was pleasantly surprised at how well they came out.

It's not however something I'd recommend: at least, not the way I did it. It's both time consuming and very hit & miss.I think I was just lucky here.

Bombylius major-A Bee-fly
I'd seen my first Bee-fly of the season a couple of days ago. Today though, as I stood beside a bramble patch, watching a comma butterfly basking in the sunshine, something caught my eye.
Stuck in the remains of a spider's web was this very damp and very deceased, bee-fly. I'm not sure exactly what happened to it, whether the spider was responsible or not but I decided to rescue it from the web and take a few close up shots as these are not that easy to get close to normally.

I dusted it down best I could and took a few photos of which this is one.

Bee-flies look menacing with the long proboscis but are actually quite harmless. If you hear a high-pitched whine close to low growing flowers, chances are it'll be a bee-fly. I always think of these as real harbingers of spring.

Entry from my diary for Friday March 9th:
Every morning I check on the caterpillars that I've been trying to raise at home as an aid to increasing my knowledge of species and their behaviour. Today, unexpectedly I was greeted with the sight of one having pupated.

 Moth pupa

Friday March 16th:
I didn't get to check on my caterpillars this morning until around 9am. When I did it was something of a shock that overnight this pupa had become a beautiful moth. I knew of course that this species over-winters as larvae but hadn't appreciated just how short the pupal stage is:a mere 7 days in this case.

Phlogophora meticulosa-The Angle Shades Moth
This fantastic, night flying moth belongs to the Noctuidae family and it's pattern varies quite a bit but tries to give the impression of dead, dried leaves when it's at rest.
It feeds on a variety of plants and is quite common in woodland,gardens and even urban areas.

As these are night-flyers, I found a safe and secluded part of the garden to put this one in until nightfall. Before doing so, I couldn't resist having the opportunity to take some further shots knowing that it wasn't about to disappear.

A real treat to see this little one fresh as a daisy and ready to go.I'm already looking forward to seeing what emerges from the next pupa.

Whilst in the garden on full 'bug-alert' recently, I came across this creature...

A Bark-fly
This tiny thing (less than 5mm) is a bark-fly or louse and belongs in the Psocoptera family. It rejoices in the name of Pteroxanium kelloggi and not a lot seems to be known about these little ones as this is only the second record of finds in my area, and I made the last one! No doubt under-recorded as so many bugs are.

Asellus aquaticus
Whilst we are on the subject of lice...this charming creature pictured above is a common freshwater louse. Again, these are common in many ponds and streams and are quite like the woodlouse in appearance.These feed on organic matter in the sediment and are about 15mm long.

Quite a mixed bag for this blog entry as you might expect as spring takes hold. I'll be back with you soon and who knows what the next entry will feature-I certainly don't!

Until the next time then...


  1. Nice post JJ... I'm going to have to try that shooting technique. Martin

  2. Thank-you Martin. Well good on you for giving it a try, be prepared to be frustrated is all I would say.

  3. Great blog JJ. Its great to get the background on the photography and valuable info on our little friends. this is my first year doing macro photography so it helps to get info on where to find different bugs. Keep up the good work JJ I'll look forward to the next one. Derek Cluskey.

  4. Thank-you Derek, I appreciate you taking an interest. I'll try and remember to add information on where I find these bugs as often as I can.


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