Week 40 – Autumn is here but we still have some flowers 🙂
I visited Hortus Botanicus the other day, it’s a botanic garden in Amsterdam and one of the oldest in the world (founded 1638). There are more than 4,000 plant species to see, but I spent most of my time there in a small butterfly greenhouse 🙂
(1) The Julia butterfly (Dryas iulia) originates from South and Central America but because of the bright orange color it’s often called “The flying Dutchman” as orange is the national color of the Netherlands.
(2) The Zebra longwing (Heliconius charithonia) can make a creaking sound by wiggling its body. They do this when disturbed but even though I would’ve liked to hear it, I didn’t want to alarm him so I still don’t know what it sounds like.
This little Oak bush-cricket (Meconema thalassinum) has been sitting on my bicycle for over a week, clinging to the basket as I’ve been biking around town almost every day 🙂 It’s a small cricket, about 1.5 cm long with very long antennae, usually not found on bicycles but in he foliage of trees (including oaks, where the female lays eggs under the bark).
In America, it’s known as the Drumming katydid, probably because the male drums on leaves with his back legs. (Click here to listen!)
Never really noticed it before… Bumblebees have very long tongues! But a study (Science 349, 1541–1544) has shown that bee tongues also tell a tale of climate change; warmer temperatures lead to fewer flowers which in turn yield shorter bee tongues. et al.
When we think about iconic climate change images, we usually picture a polar bear clinging to a melting piece of ice. We (most of us, anyway) don’t think about a bumblebee, flitting about an alpine meadow with a shorter-than-average tongue. Still, it’s a very interesting study, I recommend reading it.
One of the best things about photographing bugs is that you can be lazy and lie down in the middle of a meadow and just point your camera to all the little critters around you! 🙂 Here are some shots of the guys that kept me company in the meadow-
(1) Small copper butterfly (Lycaena phlaeas), which in Dutch is called “Little fire butterfly”. The name phlaeas is said to be derived either from the Greek phlego, “to burn up” or from the Latin floreo, “to flourish”. (I shot this picture through the grass and didn’t get a chance to take another one.)
(2) Lesser marsh grasshopper (Chorthippus albomarginatus), with a sound like the winding of a mechanical clock.
(3) Speckled wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria), always cooperative and sit still long enough to have their portrait taken.
(4) Scorpion fly (Panorpa communis), this is a male as evidenced by the scorpion-like tail (females don’t have it). It’s in fact its genitalia, and it doesn’t sting! See close-up below.
A female Common blue butterfly (Polyommatus icarus), photographed in Amsterdamse Bos today. Living up to its name, this is perhaps the most widespread and common blue in Europe. Their lifespan as a butterfly is only 3 weeks, so it’s important to make the most of each day and really enjoy life to the full.. Like spending the day in a flower field in the sun! They’re so pretty and I’m always happy when I see one of these little guys 🙂
And apparently it’s been five years since I started blogging! Yay me 😉
Week 28 already! What happened to time, more than half of the year has passed already and now the days are now getting shorter and darker again.. Not that we notice it, in the midst of Summer! 🙂
Here’s a mix of pictures of bugs enjoying the good weather we have here in Amsterdam-
Today I’ve been photographing snails. Not my favorite animals, but quite interesting in their weirdness 🙂
The Roman snail (Helix pomatia), a.k.a. Burgundy snail or escargot, is a species of large, edible, air-breathing land snail, a mollusk in the family Helicidae. These were introduced by catholic monks in the middle ages. The monks came to spread knowledge and religious traditions, including fasting where you’re not supposed to eat anything. Except snails, apparently! They were allowed, so the monks brought snails with them. Still today, escargots are eaten in many countries and in France alone they eat more than 500 million per year!
Look at that face.. It has four tenacles, and you can see the eye spots at the tips:
They’re very big, around 10 cm long and the shell is about 5 cm tall. In the picture below it looks like the Roman snail “attacked” or ate the Grove snail, but it didn’t. They are vegetarians, and not cannibalistic. But notice the difference in size compared to the Grove snail:
Here are two Garden snails (Cornu aspersum). I think they might have been mating, but I’m not sure. Maybe they were fighting (do snails fight?) or just hanging out together. This is another kind of edible snail, in France it’s called “Petit gris” and in Spain (mainly in the Andalusian region) you can hear street vendors shout “Caracoles! Caracoles!” when they sell these as snacks.
Here’s a little Grove snail (Cepaea nemoralis), dining on a dead leaf:
And finally, here’s a picture of a local hotspot:
This Buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) is having a productive day, you can see that her “pollen basket” (the real name is corbicula) is almost full 🙂
The basket is the bumblebee’s storage, it’s made out of hard hairs on the flat part on its back legs. When she walks around in the flower, pollen is collected all over her body and then she sort of “combs” it into the basket. Only nesting female bumblebees collect pollen, the males don’t have any baskets.
Zoom in on the basket:
Flies are annoying little creatures whose only point in life is to serve as food for other animals, right? No, that’s not entirely true. Without flies, we would be knee deep in rotting food, feces, decaying vegetation, animal corpses, etc. So even though flies can be incredibly irritating: consider a world without them..
Here are a couple of snipe flies, more specifically identified as Chrysopilus splendidus. Such a nice name, sounds a bit like a spell from the Harry Potter books, doesn’t it! 🙂
Chrysopilus is a worldwide genus of predatory snipe flies, there are about 300 species in the genus, including fossils found in amber.
The Eurasian treecreeper (Certhia familiaris) is a small passerine bird. They are quite common here, but often difficult to spot because they’re so well camouflaged (as demonstrated in the lower picture).
They are often confused with the Short-toed treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla), the easiest way to tell them apart is by song. The Eurasian (common) says “srrri” and the Short-toed says “tyyyt”.
Week 23 = June = It’s summer! And today’s a bank holiday, which is the best kind of Monday one can ask for 🙂
Here are some pictures of small lives taken this morning: (Pictures were taken. Not lives.)
(1) 2-spot harlequin ladybug (Harmonia axyridis) with two big shoulder blobs in the shape of Australia
(2) Flesh fly (Sarcophagidae) with quite impressive foot pads
(3) Hover fly (Eupeodes corollae) enjoying the moment on a poppy flower #carpediem
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Here’s a male Longhorn (Mystacides azurea) enjoying the good weather here in Amsterdam 🙂 It’s a kind of caddisfly with very long antennae (which unfortunately are out of focus). They’re very small, only 6-9 mm long so even if they’re quite common you really have to look for them. I took this picture with a Raynox 250 attached on my Fuji lens, not really used to handle it yet (the 150 is much more forgiving and easier to use) but I hope I’ll get there.
The rose-ringed parakeet (Psittacula krameri) is a common bird here in Amsterdam. There’s a group of them in my backyard, and they wake me up every morning! It’s a noisy species with an unmistakable squawking call. Without exaggerating, there can be 30 of them (sometimes more, especially in the winter) in one tree. They’re nice to look at, but I do wish I had mute button (or at least a snooze button) for them 😉
Here’s a cute little female, she didn’t scream but just sat there talking to herself (who doesn’t sometimes) which seem to be typical for them.
A Calliphoridae fly also known as “Blow fly”, from an older English term for meat that had eggs laid on it, which was said to be fly blown. He was blowing a bubble of water, and then inhaled it again. There are many theories for this behaviour (to aid digestion, to cool the body, being sick, cleaning their mouthparts etc.) but no one knows for sure.
A Eurasian common moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) with chicks, enjoying a sunny Sunday here in Amsterdam 🙂
In case anyone’s interested: There are some subtle differences in bill pattern, eye color, and shield shape between the American and the Eurasian moorhen. The easiest signs when it comes to identification are that Eurasian adults have mostly yellow lower mandibles, and a large and flat-topped shield is an indication of American.
A European honey bee (Apis mellifera), covered in pollen from a yellow rocketcress. Look what a happy little bee she is! With some imagination you can even see a smile on her face 🙂
She posed nicely for some shots and then took off, probably in a hurry to tell her friends all about it. When bees have found good nectar or pollen, they fly home and share the news with the others. First, she lets the others taste the nectar or pollen, so they can determine which flower she’s found. Then she performs something called a “waggle dance” which is a particular figure-eight dance. It’s like drawing a map in the air; the dance gives directions (bees have inbuilt compasses and use the sun as a landmark), the speed of dancing indicates how far away the flower is – the faster she dances, the closer is the flower.
PS. Have ever wondered why some bees buzz louder than others? It kind of sounds like the bee is angry, but that’s not the case at all. They typically do this if the pollen is hard to reach, then the bee solves the problem by buzzing loudly, and thereby create a vibration to make the pollen fall down so the she can reach it. A clever solution!
A closer look at an unfurling fiddlehead fern frond
A beautiful hoverfly (Eupeodes corollae) on a dandelion (Taraxacum) 🙂
When I was a child, I thought these flies were unusually fast little bees or wasps but their coloring is a Batesian mimicry and they’re harmless. In fact, they do a lot of good as their larvae prey upon pest insects (which spread some diseases such as “curly top”) and adults feed on nectar and help to pollinate the flowers (which probably is why they’re sometimes called flower flies).
A male Eurasian Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), photographed yesterday. Isn’t he beautiful! 🙂 I don’t have a long zoom lens; the first picture has been cropped (he has a small fish in his beak), the second one not (you have to look for the bird in that one).
About the scientific name: Alcedo is Latin and means “kingfisher” and Atthis was the consort of Cybele in Greek mythology. Atthis was also a Phrygian god of vegetation and represented the fruits of the earth, which die in winter only to rise again in the spring.
Going on an egg hunt 🙂 Happy Easter everyone!
This seven-spot ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata) has found the best spot in the park to enjoy the spring! Beautiful blossom and plenty to eat 🙂
The name “ladybug” was coined by European farmers who prayed to the Virgin Mary when pests began eating their crops. After ladybugs came and wiped out the invading insects, the farmers named them “beetle of Our Lady”. This was later shortened to “lady beetle” and “ladybug”.
The yellow dung fly (Scathophaga stercoraria) spend their lives on dung, or looking for it. They are predators and the dung supplies their breeding and hunting ground. They hunt by ambushing insects visiting the dung. Here’s a male dung fly having dinner, its prey so big that I first thought I was interrupting an intimate moment with a lady dung fly 😉
Two pictures of a small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae), a colourful Eurasian butterfly in the family Nymphalidae. I took these pictures today on the “PEN island” outside Amsterdam.