Smile! The world is a beautiful place (^_^)

Raynox DCR-150

2018-45

It’s week 45, but I just took this “summer-looking” image! This picture was taken using a Helios-44 lens. Helios is probably the most famous vintage lens there is; it was produced in the old Soviet Union in 1958-1992 (my copy is from 1982) and is one of most mass produced lenses in the world. It comes in several variants. The version I have (“M”) is supposedly the worst one, but I’m very pleased with it. It’s built in solid metal, focuses down to 0.5 m, and has a mag ratio of 1:6:5 at the closest focus point. I bought it cheap (FYI – the average price in October 2018 was only $32) including an M42 adapter to fit in on my Fuji.

In case you’re interested, there’s a weekly podcast called “The Classic Lenses Podcast” and there’s an entire episode dedicated to the Helios-44 here


2018-32

Week 32! No exotic or unusual butterflies today, but happy to see them just the same 🙂 Have a nice week!

Update 8/13: According to WordPress, this blog post from yesterday doesn’t exist and this site was last updated 8 days ago. Therefore, this post doesn’t show up in the WordPress Reader either  😦  …. If you read this, thank you for visiting my blog.


2018-30

Damselflies! Click to view slideshow:

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Dragonflies and damselflies are closely related, both are part of the insect order Odonata. However, they are not the same! Odonata includes about 5,900 species of which about 3,000 are dragonflies (suborder Epiprocta, infraorder Anisoptera) and about 2,600 are damselflies (suborder Zygoptera).

Here are five differences to look for:

★ Size: Dragonflies are generally much larger. The most common dragonfly in The Netherlands (Ruddy darter) is 3.4-3.6 cm long and has a wingspan of 6 cm. The most common damselfly in The Netherlands (Blue-tailed damselfly) is 2.7-3.5 cm long and has a wingspan of 3.5 cm.

→ Fun fact: the largest extinct dragonfly had a wing span of 70-75 cm (roughly 30 inches)!

★ Eyes: Dragonflies have much larger eyes than damselflies, their eyes take up most of the head and they are wrapped around from the side to the front of the face which kind of makes it look like dragonflies are wearing snow goggles. Damselflies also have large eyes, but the eyes are clearly separated and appear on each side of the head. →See picture below!

★ Body shape: Dragonflies have bulkier, stocky bodies that appear shorter and thicker. Damselflies have long and slender bodies.

★ Wing shape: Both dragonflies and damselflies have two sets of wrings, but the shapes are different. Dragonflies have hind wings that broaden at the base, which makes them larger than the front wings. Damselflies have wings that are the same size and shape for both sets, and they taper down as they join the body, thus becoming quite narrow as they connect.

★ Position of the wings when resting: Dragonflies hold their wings out perpendicular to their bodies when resting, so they look like small airplanes. Damselflies fold their wings up and hold them together across the top of their backs, from a distance they kind of look like a very thin safety match.


2018-26

Week 26 = we’re half way through 2018 already!

Today I want to share some pictures of a Comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album), I’m not entirely sure but I think it’s a summer generation of sub-species (f.hutchinsoni).

In most languages this butterfly is called something with a reference to the white mark it has on its side, e.g. in English it’s Comma, in Spanish it’s C. Although in French it’s called Robert-le-Diable (“Robert the Devil”) because of its jagged wings. The scientific name also refers to the mark: “c” + “album” (which means white).

This butterfly has very good camouflage, both as a larva (mimicking bird droppings) and as an adult (mimicking a dead leaf).

PS. I’m off to Sicily so there won’t be any updates the next coming weeks!


2018-25

Today I want to share FIVE FUN FACTS about dragonflies 🙂 A beautiful Common darter lady (Sympetrum striolatum) kindly agreed to demonstrate the facts in my pictures!

FACT 1: They were the first insects to inhabit this planet – 300 million years ago! In other words: they’ve had a looong time to perfect the art of flying and hunting.

Pioneer

FACT 2: They’re flat out terrifying if you’re a mosquito or other kind small bug, because they don’t simply chase down their prey but they snag them from the air with a calculated aerial ambush! Dragonflies can judge the speed and trajectory of a prey target, and they’re so skilled they have an impressive 95% success rate when hunting.

Hunter

FACT3: They can fly in any direction, including sideways and backwards! (How cool is that!) Plus, they can hover in a single spot for a minute or more. But that’s not all. They’re also fast – some species reach almost 30 km/h (18 mph) – and one species (Globe skimmer) flies almost 18,000 km (11,000 miles) during migration which is the world’s longest insect migration. (Compare this with the famous Monarch butterfly migration of 2,500 miles.)

Wings

FACT 4: Both dragonflies and damselflies are in the order Odonata, which means “the toothed ones”. When hunting, they can catch the prey with their feet, tear off its wings with their sharp jaws (so the prey can’t escape) and scarf it down – all without needing to land. In short: Their ability to rip apart their prey takes their predatory prowess to another level.

Update: It should be noted that dragonflies don’t bite humans and they don’t have any stinger! i.e. they cause no harm to humans. (Thanks for pointing this out, Greta)

Jaws

They have nearly 360 degrees vision! The enormous compound eyes contain 30,000 facets and they can see the world in colors we can’t even imagine. (In depth read here)

Eyes

Update: It’s also worth mentioning that dragonflies have a significant, positive ecological impact. In its nymph stage, they eat harmful aquatic organisms and thus help keep our waters clean. The nymph can contribute to the ecosystem for up to five years before becoming a mature adult! As adults, they mainly help humans by eating mosquitoes and other insects that spread diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, anthrax, etc.


2018-22

The Azure damselfly (Coenagrion puella) is quite common here in The Netherlands, and always a pleasure to see!

At first glance it could be a bit tricky to distinguish the Azure from a Common blue (Enallagma cyathigerum) damselfly, but if you look at the antehumeral stripe (that’s the long blue section on the thorax), the Azure’s blue stripe is narrower than the black stripe beneath it, and there’s an extra black line, a “spur” extending from the wing base towards the legs. The Common blue’s antehumreral stripe is broader than the black stripe beneath it and there’s no “spur” on the thorax.

Another thing to look at is the second segment of the males’ abdomen (just behind the thorax): both are blue but the Azure has a black U-shape and the common blue has a black mushroom-shaped mark.

And now I need your help! Please take a look at the second photo below, it’s not a great shot but I hope someone can help me identify this little damselfly.. I’m doubting if it’s either a Variable damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum) or perhaps a female Azure in blue form. If you know which one it is, please leave a comment below!

Male Azure damselfly

Female Azure damselfly in blue form (?)


2018-21

The cardinal beetle is actually three different species of beetles.  The most common one is the Red-headed cardinal (Pyrochroa serraticornis), which is an orange-red beetle with a – duh – read head. It’s about 2 cm long and easy to spot as it kind of glows (in the closeup shot below you can see the color is kind of red metallic). The Black-headed cardinal (Pyrochroa coccinea) has a – uhm – black head and is rarer, slightly larger and its body has a deeper blood-red color. The third kind is the Scarce cardinal (Schizotus pectinicornis), it also has a black head but is less than 1 cm long.

Cardinal beetles prey on other insects, while their bright red color prevents them from being targeted by other predators because red usually means toxic in the bug world.

If you see a beetle with red wings and black underside and wonder if it’s a cardinal beetle or not, the easiest tell is to look at the antennae: Cardinals have toothed antennae. It’s often confused with the Scarlet lily beetle, which is smaller and usually found eating lily leaves.

Black-headed cardinal (Pyrochroa coccinea)

Red-headed cardinal (Pyrochroa serraticornis)

Orange-red metallic

Those toothed antennae

A failed attempt of photographing a flying cardinal beetle, but ended up with an interesting bokeh shot instead


2018-20

Two different takes on two different kinds of butterflies-

(1) Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria), photographed today with Fuji 18-135 mm + Raynox 150. Goal was to get close to the butterfly and capture as much detail as possible. Picture not edited except it’s been slightly cropped.

(2) Green-veined white (Pieris napi), photographed with Pentacon 50 mm. Goal was to capture the moody light in the forest, not so much details in the butterfly (although enough to determine that it’s a female spring brood). Picture not edited or cropped.

Would you do me a favor and let me know which one you prefer? Not saying one is “better” than the other, but just curious to know your preference. You can use the voting buttons below! Thanks 🙂


2018-15

There are many “firsts” this time of the year! Here are the first flies of the year as well –

The first picture shows a Flesh fly (Sarcophagidae) sunbathing on a staircase. Flesh flies look a lot like house flies, but are generally larger. They are gray, have a checkerboard pattern on the top of their abdomen, three black stripes running along the top surface of their thorax just behind the head, while house flies have four, and sometimes a reddish-brown tip at the end of the abdomen.

The second picture shows a Yellow dung fly (Scathophaga stercoraria), or – if you want to make the name sound a bit nicer, which could be a challenge for a dung fly – also known as Golden dung fly. I think it’s a female as she has a more of a green tone to her rather than yellow. These flies are very important in the scientific world due to their short life cycles and susceptibility to experimental manipulations, thus have contributed significant knowledge about animal behavior.

 


2018-14

Yay, first butterflies of the year! The European Peacock butterfly (Aglais io) usually spend the winters in buildings or trees, and therefore often appear quite early in the spring.  Before it goes into hibernation, it convert some of their blood sugar into glycerol which works as a kind of “anti-freeze” during the cold winter. Clever, eh! After hibernation (March or April), it will lay its eggs, often in batches of 500 (!) at a time and several layers deep to increase the chance that some will be protected from desiccation and birds. In the next coming weeks, the adults have lived for almost a year and they die of old age. Around the same time, the caterpillars of the next generation hatch and in July they form chrysalides, in August they emerge as adults, and in September they go into hibernation. And so the cycle goes on!

Note: It shouldn’t be confused with the American Peacock butterfly (Anartia), they’re not closely related.

More interesting information and pictures can be found on this excellent learning site here


hortus

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.


cricket

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!)


tongue

Never really noticed it before… Bumblebees have very long tongues! But a study (Miller-Struttmann, N. E. et al. Science 349, 15411544) 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.

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.

 


meadow

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.


icarusblauwtje

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 😉


w28

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-

Drone fly (Eristalis tenax)

A handsome fly.. Coolest guy in the park at least

This is a famous lookout point in the park, all bug tourists come here to admire the view

A female Yellow-barred long-horn moth (Nemophora degeerella)

Scorpionfly (Panorpa communis)


dock

Two close-up shots of a female Green dock beetle (Gastrophysa viridula), showing off her metallic shimmer, which can be gold green, blue, purple, violet, or red (depending on the light).

Why the name “dock” beetle? Because they mainly feed on dock and green sorrel. This makes them natural biological controllers and an ally to organic farmers (and an enemy of gardeners, as rhubarb is a dock plant).

How do I know it’s a female? Firstly, because she’s bigger (7 mm) than a male (~ 4 mm). Secondly, because she’s heavily pregnant! In the second picture, you can see that it looks like the her clothes are several sizes too small for her body, she’s so big that the wing cases have been totally displaced. She’s about to lay 1,000 eggs (yikes) that look like tiny rugby balls. More info & pictures in this blog post here.


snails

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:

 

 


basket

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:


snipers

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.

 


w23

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

PS. Anyone else having issues with WordPress email notifications?


bubble

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.


unfurl

A closer look at an unfurling fiddlehead fern frond


syrphidae

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).