Friday, June 12, 2015

Tiny bugs and noisy starlings...

I want to begin this update with an example of just why macro-photography holds such a fascination for me. I have dabbled in other types of photography at times, but it's macro that holds my interest over and above all else. These first two photographs seem to illustrate the point nicely...

I was looking for sawfly larvae when I found this tiny fly the other day. There's nothing outstanding or particularly interesting in either the fly, or the photo and I almost overlooked it completely. But, I guess because it appeared to be fairly docile and sedentary in the late evening cooler temperatures, I thought to myself, why not try and get a closer picture? I'm so glad I did...

Just look at the detail a photo at x5 magnification reveals! The entire head seems to given over to those huge eyes. You have to wonder just where the brain is and how small it must be? It's this kind of revelation that still grips me and excites me. You never know what each photography session is going to reveal and even then, I sometimes get home and view the pictures on my PC and notice something I didn't even see at the time by viewing the camera's LCD screen.

I did eventually find some of the sawfly larvae that I had been originally looking for that day...

And then the next day I spotted this female sawfly egg-laying (apologies for the lack of sharpness in this photo, I am not very good with the little point and shoot camera) and as I didn't want to disturb her, I made a mental note to return and see if I could find any eggs.

A Birch Sawfly?

EDIT: Update on this from Flickr contact Steviethewaspwhisperer who says: Your sawfly I think is not Birch - I think those are the hairier ones with clubbed antennae.  Thanks for correction Stevie. By the way, why does the birch sawfly also seem to be called Cimbex femoratus?

I think this might be Craesus septentrionalis, the birch sawfly. They do seem to use various deciduous trees for egg laying. This was on alder, but confusingly, the alder sawfly is totally different in appearance, as are the larvae. (I did find an alder sawfly larva that I'll add a photo of shortly). I didn't get a chance to return for a few days but when I did, these are some of the eggs I found...

I think in this close up you can actually see the shape of the sawfly larvae...

Then I discovered these on another leaf nearby. Eggs and tiny larvae... 

The alder was also home to lots and lots of woolly aphids. There must have been hundreds of them at different stages of development. This one in my picture below was being attacked by what I think is probably an Anthocoris species nymph... 

        They seem to loose the cotton wool effect in their last moult...

A Woolly Aphid Moult (Exuvia)

And the fully-winged adult looks like this...

Here's the alder sawfly larva that I found...

An Alder Sawfly (Eriocampa ovata)

More eggs now...

I suspect these are green shieldbug eggs (Palomena prasina)

In July of 2013 I posted a blog update showing how I had found some of these eggs, but they had been parasitised (Link to that post is here) and I photographed one of the tiny wasps responsible shortly after it emerged. Well this time around, I spotted the wasp actually doing its dirty work on the still green eggs...

We keep hearing about the fact that our bees are in real trouble these days and so I was pleased to be alerted to a swarm in a field recently by a local walker...

I am guessing that this was just a halfway house whilst some of the workers were scouting for a new nest site? It might be just coincidence but somebody was telling me recently that a farmer had set up some hives fairly close to where these were spotted.

I have been observing lots of little speckled bush cricket nymphs in the garden over the past few weeks....

Leptophyes punctatissima ~ A Speckled Bush Cricket nymph
Leptophyes punctatissima ~ A Speckled Bush Cricket nymph

This cricket can often be found in domestic garden perching on bushes, leaves and flowers, even window ledges. The nymphs begin to emerge in May and then go on to develop into adults by late summer.

The first of these photos was taken using the full macro kit and the second, using the 100mm macro and a Raynox DCR-250 macro attachment. Speaking of speckled things; here's another, only this one was a lot faster!

(Almost) A Speckled Wood Butterfly

The garden also had a visit from a rather pretty moth...

Alabonia geoffrella ~ A Micro-moth

I'll wind this update up with a photo of a starling, also from the garden. I have been forced to take down the feeders that are attracting the starlings for a while. They are so noisy, fight each other over the food and also poo everywhere!

Until the next time...


  1. Super photos JJ, great detail.

    1. Thank-you Ian, much appreciated..

  2. Simply brill...I do love looking at these insects in macro, the eyes of the fly.. There is so much we don't get to see. So thanks for the lovely photos.
    Amanda xx

    1. Awe thanks Amanda. Thanks for the lovely comment ;-)

  3. Excellent post.
    The parasitoid wasps are one of the Trissolcus species - I've never seen them on P. prasina, only on Picromerus bidens, but well try this: .

    I had a single woolly aphid do a fly-past on me yesterday - took me a while to work out what I was seeing.

    1. Thank-you Ray. Thanks too for that link, I think I may have read that sometime before. These eggs are certainly not P.bidens and so it's interesting that you have only seen the wasps on that species.

    2. Your eggs are definitely P. prasina.

    3. ... and there is a comprehensive list of the wasp parasitoids of P. prasina here:

    4. Thanks for confirmation of the eggs Ray.I will have a good look at that link too, thanks for that as well...;-)

  4. Another cracking blog JJ! As interesting and beautifully illustrated as ever!
    Agree with your ID for the sawfly; rather confusing that Cimbex femoratus, is also called a Birch sawfly, which goes to show that 'common names' are pretty much useless! ;-)

    1. Hello again! ;-) Thank-you for yet another great comment. Yes, I have mixed feelings about common names as they can, as you say be worse than useless but, scientific/Latin names also puts some people off I have found, especially novices or amateurs who don't have the depth of interest.


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