Readers’ wildlife photos

May 10, 2022 • 8:30 am

Send in your photos, and please make sure they’re of the quality consistent with what appears in this feature.  With luck, a new link will appear on the sidebar today with the instructions, “How to send me photos”, with all kinds of useful information (including the email). Keep your eye peeled and get those photos ready.

Today we have insect and spider photos from regular Mark Sturtevant. His IDs, links, and captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Here are more pictures of arthropods taken near where I live, which is in eastern Michigan.First up a plume moth, so-named by their having wings that are divided into feathery plumes. One can see this better in the attached link. This particular plume moth is in the genus Geina.

Next up is a clear-winged sphinx mothHemaris thysbe. There are a large group of similar species of these diurnal moths that are clearly bumble bee mimics. This one was lingering over a large patch of bergamot. As it circled each flower, pausing to probe each floret, I could at times anticipate where it would be next and get into position to take pictures. There were still many misses, like the last one, but I still like how it turned out. Can you spot the weevil?

The odd-looking colony of insects in the next two pictures are bark lice. These belong to the insect order Psocodea (formerly known as Psocoptera), and that includes the parasitic lice that live on mammals and birds. But bark lice mainly feed on lichens and algae on plant stems. This species (Cerastipsocus venosus) is known as “tree cattle” because of their herding behavior, and that is a species where males grow wings while females remain wingless.

I was quite unfamiliar with their behavior as I’ve not seen them before. But this herd demonstrated that although they are kin to parasitic lice, bark lice are surprisingly alert and zippy. After the slightest vibration on their twig they rapidly began to spread out in sudden, synchronized little stampedes. In moments they were well dispersed.

Next up is a group of linden lace bugs (Gargaphia tiliae). Those black dots on the leaves seem to always accompany them, but I don’t know what they are. Maybe egg masses, or a fungus that grows where they feed? In any case, if you want to find lace bugs (there are many different species), look for the black dots on the underside of leaves. Lace bugs will not be far. Different species prefer different host plants.

Finally, here is a crab spider. The eye morphology and the relative length of its legs identifies it to be a ground crab spider in the genus Xysticus. She was feeding on a beetle when I started photographing her, but the disturbance made her drop it just before these pictures were taken. She looks annoyed with me in the last picture (Sorry!)

13 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. If I ever see about ten photos with exquisite detail of such tiny creatures, with practically individual personalities, I think Mark Sturtevant – great work!

  2. Bark lice: does their banding together help them discourage predators, as it looks like “eyes” are watching in all directions?

  3. The request “please make sure they’re of the quality consistent with what appears in this feature,” paired with a Mark Sturtevant collection, sets a pretty high bar!

    1. Thank you. But the truth is that most any DSLR or mirrorless camera can help people take similar pictures. An old used camera is still very good. 16Mpx bodies, which are considered “ancient” will still take great pictures with an old used lens. A relatively cheap way to get a solid start is to use a short focal length lens (35 or 50mm), mounted on extension tubes. This essentially converts the lens to a macro lens, and its how I got started. Use the camera flash, and diffuse the light. Look at the pictures, and adjust shutter speed and ISO and aperture accordingly. But try to keep the aperture between f/11 to f/16 for sufficient depth of focus.

  4. Gorgeous photos! I couldn’t find the weevil. The backgrounds are as beautiful as the bugs.

  5. Extraordinary. Thank you especially for the sphinx moth. I saw a group of these (or similar species) outside a restaurant years ago but I was with a group of people not inclined to investigate. I’ve wondered what they were ever since but never imagined they were moths!

  6. The bark louse is considered to be beneficial insect (at least here in Texas) which
    removes bad critters on oak trees. You can see their cottony webs wrapped around
    tree branches.

  7. This is a beautiful set, Mark. Thanks for sharing more of your masterful photos. I spotted the weevil. Blow up the 3rd sphinx moth photo and voila.

  8. Fantastic collection, Mark! Thank you. I spotted the weevil quite by accident when I double clicked for a closer look, and voila, it was right there. I love the fuzzy, furry look of the Sphinx moth, especially the brush tail.

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