Readers’ wildlife photos

January 9, 2020 • 7:45 am

Please send in your good wildlife photos, as the tank is running a bit low. Thanks!

Fortunately, Mark Sturtevant keeps putting photos in the pipeline, and we have some nice Hawaiian arthropods to see. (There’s another batch coming soon). His notes, IDs, and links are indented.

Our family had a trip to the Hawaiian island of Maui a couple of summers ago, and here are more pictures of arthropods encountered on that trip. There were some previous posts about this vacation in WEIT.

One day the family made an excursion to a beach area farther down the eastern coast where the boys could go snorkeling. I pretty much stayed in the woods with the camera. I did not get much save for the Hawaiian garden spider pictures shown earlier, and the wasp nest that is shown below. The nests of these wasps (known as the golden paper wasp, or Polistes aurifer) are very common on human structures, but I was glad to see one in a natural setting. This species also occurs on the US mainland. One of the wasps is carrying a twisted wing parasite. Can you spot it? Feel free to call out its location!

At a botanical garden I found this nice spiny-backed orb weaver (Gasteracantha cancriformis). This species is also common on the mainland, but this variable spider is the first one I had seen with red spines.

A related species is the Asian spiny-backed spiderGasteracantha mammosa, shown in the next picture. It should be called the ‘angry cat faced spider’.

For this trip I had borrowed an LED ultra-violet flashlight from a friend. These inexpensive tools are useful for spotting various arthropods at night, since a variety of them will fluoresce brightly under UV light. The best-known example are scorpions, but actually many arthropods do this. I brought the UV light to Maui specifically because there are scorpions and giant centipedes there (never saw any 🙁  ), but at night one could see about a hundred of these brightly glowing millipedes on our back patio. I have no ID other than ‘yellow striped millipede’ from online sources. Why are some arthropods fluorescent under UV light? Readers can give opinions!

Our vacation then moved from the southern region of Maui to the north, in the Hana area, which was an adventure that I was very much looking forward to. This area of the island is much less developed and is famous for its tropical rain forests. To get there one must drive across the island to the opposite coast, and then drive along the legendary Hana highway. This is a narrow two-lane road that winds along the coast, with steep sea cliffs on one side and tropical forests on the other. Frequent single-lane bridges are encountered as numerous streams cross the highway on their way to the sea. The jungle side is frequently broken by views of waterfalls. It was breathtaking, but also pretty tense driving. Here are some links to show what the area looks like: 1, 2, and 3.

We stopped at several points to see this or that natural wonder. At one stop I found this nice Asian praying mantis (Hierodula patellifera).

But one of the highlights of the entire trip to Maui (for me) was the jumping spider shown in the next pictures. This is a male giant Hawaiian jumping spider (Ascyltyus pterygodes), which is easily the largest species from this family on the islands, and it should be one of the largest jumping spiders in the world. I was quite beside myself.

He sat there calmly at first, but he was a jumping spider and that means photographing them is on borrowed time. After about a minute he looked up at me with their characteristic “what are you doing?” look, and leaped into the dense foliage and that was that. The video in the link above gives an idea of the size of this spider.

For my last picture to share from the Maui vacation, I have this gulf fritillary butterfly (Agraulis vanillae). This was taken at the Hana Forest Preserve on one of our last days in Maui. Gulf fritillaries are also found in the southwestern part of the mainland U.S., but this is the first I had seen them.’

21 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Wow, great photos Mark!

    Is the parasitized wasp the one on top of the nest, on the right? (I think I see a little “bug” riding on its thorax.)

    1. Not a bug there. But there is a small insect on the twig to the right. It looks like a fly. There are insects that are ‘up to no good’ as egg laying parasites in wasp nests.

      1. I’d not heard of twisted wing parasites until you mentioned them here, then I looked them up. Good grief! I never tire of marveling at the twisted life cycles of parasites, and here I use “twisted” in the sense of “bizarre.”

        I love and learn from your posts, as usual.

  2. I’ll admit it – I can’t find the wasp parasite. I’m waiting for the “D’OH!” moment when someone gets it.

  3. I think the second wasp from the top has the parasite. The strepsiptera I’ve seen stick out from under abdominal plates. I once saw six on a single paper wasp.

  4. Beautiful

    I think a key to insect photography is to only include a limited number of different colors – otherwise, the scene looks – perhaps to a novice immature eye – like “gross bugs”. That’d be me many moons ago.

    And lastly – the UV light is a brilliant idea no pun intended! I have one – with safety glass! – and I’ll try it out!… carefully!

    1. I must get a UV flashlight, they are very cool. I learn that not only are they good for finding fluorescent insects but they’re also great for locating pet urine stains in carpets.

  5. I suspect the reason many bugs fluoresce under UV light is just that (a) there’s no reason not to and (b) a whole lot of useful biochemicals fluoresce. Take a look at the rural nighttime spectrum in this figure. Not much UV light for predators to see you by; available illumination is mostly in the IR.

  6. Great shots. It is kind of nice that people who love nature, seek it out, photograph it, enjoy a trip to a remote tourist sight in a very different way than the typical traveler. There is so much culture and so many activities to enjoy in Hawaii, but someone who finds crawling through the weeds for critters deeply rewarding has a whole different perspective.

  7. No picture-winged Drosophila? Of course, you have to get into some remnant of native forest (typically up in the mountainous interior). As you probably know, they represent a flurry of island chain speciation that puts Darwin’s finches to shame – something like 700 species as I recall. I spent a wonderful sabbatical there 40 years ago (good grief, it really is 40 years) studying the evolution of patterns of gene expression in those flies.

  8. Nice Hawaiian arthropods, especially those spiders. Angry cat spider indeed!

    I’ve also driven on the Hana highway. Sketchy, but lots to do and see. And there’s the obligatory T-Shirt that reads: “I survived the road to Hana.” Iirc, there is the “Bamboo Forest” off that road as well. Very cool place to hike around in.

  9. When I was about four, I spent a lot of time wandering jungles near our house. There were two types of critters that really got to me. Giant (to me) spiders that wove webs between gaps in the highest part of the tree canopy, (and sat in the middle), and the jumping spiders. There were these narrow pathways in the jungle, and I would see those little spiders. As I approached, they would start to tense up, and I never knew when they would launch, although I always assumed they were aiming at my face.
    The spiders in the trees really bothered me at the time. Going back into jungles as an adult, the jumping spiders still get to me a little. I don’t know which particular species they were, but it was on the island of Kyushu.

  10. Superb pictures. I just got back from Maui where I spotted several Gulf Fritillaries in the Iao valley. But unlike you I am no good with a camera, so no pix.

  11. Fantastic as always Mark. Got the parasite straight away. I hope one day to photograph a winged male. The wasps and the Jumping Spider were my favourites. Once again it’s interesting to note the similarities and differences between the species you get in the Northern Hemisphere and we get here in Oz. Speaking of Hawaiian arthropods, did you get to see Theridion grallator “Happy Face Spider” there?

  12. That UV pattern looks “deliberate” – in the sense that it seems to reflect an existing pattern in the organism’s body. Could it be that it is seen by conspecifics, say?

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