Readers’ wildlife photos

November 9, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today’s photos come from reader Matt Young, who often posts at the Panda’s Thumb site. Here he documents “the annual invasion of elder bugs”.  His words are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

We get invaded by box elder bugs (Boisea trivittata) every fall, so it is easy to get obsessed with them. They began in earnest around 2008, and I went outside and took the following picture. The bug is about 1 cm long, from stem to stern, not counting the antennas.

Box elder bugs display incomplete metamorphosis, that is, they develop gradually from egg to adult. Here are a bunch of nymphs. These are very small, perhaps at the toddler stage.

Here is an older one, perhaps a teenager. You can see what I assume are wings developing.

This one fell into a sink and became something of a captive. Here, it fell over on its back and displays its feeding tube.

I found this one while crawling on the ground among some rotted (but dried) horse manure. I assume it has just molted, and Mark Sturtevant informs me that the red pigment will disappear as melanin develops.

Here is an adult box elder bug in an actual box elder tree. Despite the compound leaf, which you can sort of see near the top of the picture, the box elder is a maple, also known as an ash leaf maple. The bug is perched on a bunch of seeds, which are decidedly maple seeds.

There are no box elder trees near me, but there are silver maples (or cultivars thereof), a black maple, and a red maple. The nymphs I showed above, however, were living on the ground, under a juniper bush.

Besides the box elder bugs, I have also found here and there some small milkweed bugs, which are supposedly related and often confused:

The red milkweed beetle has absolutely nothing to do with the box elder bug, but here it is anyway. I have yet to find a large milkweed bug.

Finally, I want to thank Mark Sturtevant for giving me some excellent tutelage and ultimately being the bad influence that encouraged me to buy a macro lens in place of those cursed extension tubes.

9 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

    1. Sony SEL30M35 for my trusty a6000 (ILCE 6000). The lens has a short working distance, 2.4 cm at 1:1, and no stabilization, but it seems satisfactory. I took the teenager and the red adult with this lens. I think I took the backswimmer with an extension tube, but the metadata do not tell me. Other pictures are taken with various cameras and cropped severely, as you can probably tell if you magnify them. My current project is to design a better diffuser that uses the camera’s built-in flash.

    1. This is actually my second post here, not to mention a lot of individual pictures on Panda’s Thumb. I am only a rather casual photographer, but I am old enough to have gobs of pictures since I got my first digital camera. That said, I always carry a point-and-shoot camera with a longish zoom lens, so I can get pictures you cannot get with a cell phone.

  1. Nice! Let’s see: this milkweed bug has a complete X on his back, while the box elder bug only had the bottom part plus some vertical trim around the thorax. This milkweed bug had black eyes; the box elder bug had red ones. But, are these features consistent?

  2. Nice bugs. Those milkweed beetles can give a nice bite, and if handled, they make a high pitched buzz that is unnerving.

  3. The feeding tube! Amazing! It looks like a straw. Also, the one with the developing wings! And I didn’t know these were true bugs (Hemiptera)-I’ve heard them called box elder beetles, which made me assume they were Coleoptera, but you can certainly tell from the photo of the feeding tube that they have bug mouth parts. Insects (except butterflies) seem to get overlooked by photographers, and it’s unusual that I get to see photos this beautiful and this well-observed of insects that most people would just see as pests if they even bothered to see them at all. Thank you. These are gorgeous.

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