Readers’ wildlife photos

We have a decent number of contributions now, but please remember to send in your good photos. Today’s batch of pictures comes from Rik Gern of Austin, Texas, whose words are indented:

I’d hate to see your Reader’s Wildlife Photos feature disappear, so here are some that might be of interest. Some of these are part of a batch that I sent you a few years ago, but you were unable to use because I didn’t understand your ten pictures per post rule and sent too many, so I have pruned that group and added some others. I hope I got the Latin binomials correct!

The main feature here is a Spineless Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia ellisiana), with guest appearances by various crawling and flying critters. It’s called a spineless cactus, but don’t let that fool you; the spines are just very small, but can be irritating nonetheless!

These pictures were taken in the Spring when the plant was in bloom. In the Spring the cactus adds new pads and flowers, but it also sprouts little rubbery looking protrusions that are apparently vestigial leaves.  When they fall off they leave white spots that contain the nearly invisible, but oh, so irritating little spines.

When the flowers bloom they are a beautiful yellow color, but I noticed that some of them turn a reddish color when they fold up again, and they sometimes look like a rotten fruit.

Of course, all sorts of insects love plants and this one was no exception. One insect that likes the prickly pear is the Cactus Bug, (Hesperolobops gelastops), and here are a whole bunch of them covering the petals of the flower.

Here is a solitary Cactus Coreid (Chelinidea vittiger) on a flower…

. . . and here is a group of them on a pad. (6)

The flower of the cactus is as pretty on the inside as it is on the outside, and who doesn’t love a pretty flower?

This bee (Diadasia diminuta) couldn’t resist, although the attraction no doubt had more to do with finding food than beauty, but who doesn’t love a tasty meal as well?


  1. Joe Routon
    Posted August 6, 2020 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Beautiful, fascinating photos! Thank you for sharing them.

  2. Posted August 6, 2020 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Anyone whose been around cacti knows the little spines are the worst.

  3. Janet
    Posted August 6, 2020 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    So interesting about the vestigial leaves and the white spots. These are terrific photos, thanks.

  4. Barbara Radcliffe
    Posted August 6, 2020 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Wonderful photos, thank you for sharing. Could you provide details of the camera and lens that you used?

    • Posted August 6, 2020 at 9:04 am | Permalink

      Hi Barbara,

      The camera is a Canon PowerShot SD400, and I used the digital macro lens on most of the photos. None of the pictures are taken directly from the camera though; they’ve all been played with in Photoshop; PS6 to be exact. I’ve sort of stumbled backwards into photography; I bought Photoshop in order to be able to design my own advertising, but found it to be the most wonderful toy and ended up spending a lot of time playing with it and manipulating pictures. As I got more into it I started thinking that it’s probably not cool to keep taking pictures off the internet to play with, so I started taking my own, and plants are good because they provide interesting textures to play with and manipulate, but one thing leads to another and all of a sudden it became fun to just try to capture the plants themselves. A friend gave me a much better camera, but I’m still trying to learn how to use it!

      • Posted August 6, 2020 at 10:03 am | Permalink

        When one discovers the many filter effects that these photo editing programs have, well, just be sure you don’t have anywhere to be! They are very fun.

  5. GBJames
    Posted August 6, 2020 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    More great pics!

  6. Posted August 6, 2020 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Nice pics. So what do these cactus-loving critters eat? Do they actually eat the cactus, its pears, flowers? Or are they there for other critters?

  7. Posted August 6, 2020 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Very nice pictures! I did not know the thing about the vestigial leaves.
    That picture inside the flower has glorious colors.

  8. rickflick
    Posted August 6, 2020 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Nothing like a zoom in to the micro world. Thanks for submitting.

  9. C.
    Posted August 6, 2020 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Those little spines growing out of the areoles are called glochids, and yes they can hurt like hell. Wikipedia offers some suggestions on removal from the skin, with tweezers being the most effective, but of course quite time-consuming. This particular species is “spineless” because it lacks the larger spines on the pads, aka the cladodes, which are actually enlarged stems used for water storage and photosynthesis.
    What is most amazing to my mind is how various tortoise species will devour prickly pear cactus, glochids and all. I had to remove some I had planted in a pen for some rescued box turtles because they nearly ate every bit of the plants! How they can do so seemingly without injury to the mouth, throat, eyes, is just amazing. Anybody who’s eaten nopales knows how tasty they are but thankfully we have the ability to remove the glochids first!

    The Opuntia species on the Galapagos are of particular interest to the giant tortoises and I would think that the arms race between a few of the cactus species and the tortoises is what has led to some Opuntia becoming tree-like to avoid being eaten while also driving the “saddleback” shell shape of the tortoises which helps them reach the higher cladodes. Neat stuff. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Posted August 6, 2020 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Very nice! I love the corrida. Do you suppose they might be a spider mimic?

  11. Mark R.
    Posted August 6, 2020 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    These were all great and the insects new to me. Not a lot of native cacti in western Washington…too wet. I grow a lot of varieties in a green house. Cactus flowers are my favorite.

  12. Posted August 7, 2020 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Very nice photos! Thanks for sharing these!

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