Readers’ wildlife photos

December 6, 2022 • 8:15 am

Keep those photos coming in, and thanks to the people who answered my call for pictures.

One of them was reader Mary Rasmussen, who sent some lovely insect photos. Her captions and IDs are indented, and click on the photos to enlarge them.

I noticed butterflies, bees and flies covering the wild native Boneset plants flowering along the northern Lake Michigan shore, but wind made it hard to photograph them. Wind is a problem for photographing insects, so I tried planting 3 Boneset seedlings in a 16″ pot. They are easy to grow, bloom for weeks in August or early September and always attract a crowd. I drag the pot to a sheltered spot to photograph on windy days. The plants are perennial and overwinter well in my unheated (Zone 5b) garage. They last for years if I remember to water them once during warm winters. In a cold winter they need no care at all.

Every summer is different. This year the Boneset plant was covered in different types of flies, wasps and bees. They pushed out the occasional butterfly that tried to land. They were so focused on getting nectar that they mostly tolerated my camera getting close.

3 Boneset plants in 16” pot:

Common Eastern Bumble Bee (Bombus impatiens) with pollen basket on hind leg:

Orange-belted Bumble Bee (Bombus ternarius):

Golden Northern Bumble Bee (Bombus fervidus):

Cluster Fly (Pollenia rudis):

Clockwise from top: Cluster Fly, Friendly Fly (Sarcophaga aldrichi) and unknown orange fly:

Common Green Bottle Fly (Lucilia sericata):

Flower Fly mimicking a bee (Helophilus species):

Wasp-mimic Fly mimicking a wasp (possibly ):

Another type of Flower Fly also mimicking a bee (Toxomerus geminatus):

Northern Paper Wasp (Polistes fuscatus):

A larger wasp tussling with a smaller wasp. The wasps often took ownership of the flowers and aggressively pushed away any intruders:

The larger wasp is triumphant after vanquishing its smaller rival. Actually, I see this leg-raise behavior in wasps and bees often. They seem to use it as a warning signal. Bumble Bees seem to use it as more of a request. They will raise a leg when my lens gets too close and as I move back they will lower their leg. Their communication to me is pretty clear. They have never tried to sting me. I don’t push my luck with the wasps.

Every now and then a butterfly will land and have a few seconds to sip nectar. This Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) is feeding and showing its beautiful underwings.

I use a Nikon D500 camera with Nikon VR 105mm f/2.8G macro lens. For smaller subjects I add a Raynox DCR-150 snap-on macro lens. I’m currently using a folding diffuser from AK Diffuser:

Recommended book: Insects of the North Woods by Jeffrey Hahn.

11 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Very good stuff, Mary! Those Boneset plants sure do attract pollinators. Very interesting action shots.

  2. Lovely photos, and very interesting insects. I don’t know if it’s inherent or if it’s a learned reaction on my part, but bumblebees always look so much more wholesome to me than wasps. Wasps look like something the Ringwraiths should be riding. Unfair, I know, but they do just look evil to me.

  3. “The larger wasp is triumphant after vanquishing its smaller rival” almosts looks like it’s signaling “Gooaaaaal!”

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