The end of summer

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Things are really winding down here in Vancouver, with colder nights, falling leaves, abundant spiders, and a distinct lack of bees, wasps and plant-feeding insects. This is one of the more melancholy seasons for an insect lover, but there are still some treasures to be found.

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In the mornings, the dew sparkles on the webs of numerous orb weavers, such at this tetragnathid at Iona Beach.

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There are even some syrphids still about, although the floral resources are dwindling rapidly.

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Some spiders are still guarding egg sacs, keeping a lonely vigil despite their deteriorating condition. This Castianeira longipalpa looks a bit shrivelled.

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Odd to see a male of these Myrmica incompleta still in the nest!

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Some really odd, but abundant spiders…Could they be Dictynids? Check out the palps on this guy!

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these have a great pattern!

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A gorgeous chrysomelid on tansy.

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Soon I will have no more of these lovely sphecids to shoot!

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As the sun goes down on Iona Beach, this grasshopper contemplates leaner days and its inevitable demise.

A few from McDonald Beach

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Like a fairy god, this grass veneer moth sits on a bejewelled seat.

The summer insect fauna is winding down, so I thought I would go out for a quick stroll at McDonald Beach to see some of my favourites before they disappear. If you want to know what else I was up to this weekend, check out this awesome post by Catherine Scott on the Spiders Unravelled event at Iona Beach!

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When the Ammophila are gone, so will be one of the best opportunities to practice lighting and composition. I will miss them! Here is a shot with the morning sun flaring the lens and highlighting the wings.

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A slightly different angle and the flare is gone, and the sky takes on a creamy hue.

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With my bounce card behind, I have the makings of a studio-style “Meet Your Neighbours” shot.

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The cool fall weather allows close approach to otherwise flighty species.

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Again, the grass veneer, showing its pretty white wings.

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A shy wolf spider on the beach.

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A male Castianeira with a missing palp. I would bet he has some raunchy stories to tell about that.

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A long-jawed orbweaver, finishing her meal.

Spider rappelling! A great way to get around.

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When a spider wants to make a long distance traverse between two objects, or just wants a quick way to ascend an obstacle, what can he do? Lets find out by watching a male crab spider.

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Well, as in ballooning, the spider can jet out a thread of silk, letting it be carried by the wind.

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The spider then turns and checks the tension on the web to see if it has snagged a target. In this case, there is no tension, so the spider reels in the thread. I am not sure if crab spiders consume the spent silk.

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Another try, in another direction.

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This time the tension is right, and the spider quickly disappears from the frame.

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And arrives safely at another, more lively flower.

Bugs ‘n’ More! Insect outreach with kids

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Getting out to talk to kids about bugs has got to be one of the coolest things to do in science outreach….As we did last year, we went to the Richmond Nature Park for their insect (and spider!) show. Great thanks to all the volunteers and especially Emily Toda for putting this together.

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Tanya Stemberger was out to get the kids into entomophagy (eating insects), serving up tasty insect treats with Grant Olson. Tanya is subtly indicating that this is going to be awesome.

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Grant is a professional in the world of insect cuisine, as he works for Enterra, a company that produces animal feed from insects. Of course, all the bugs served up were human grade!

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Catherine Scott was on hand to talk to kids about our native spiders, and to show some great examples, including black widows and jumping spiders. Here she is with a Madagascar hissing cockroach, one of the great insects we had on hand for kids to touch and handle.

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It was great to see Mike Hopcraft, the Reptile Guy, back again with his awesome collection of scorpions, tarantulas and more!

We had an absolute blast showing these cool insects and spiders to the kids. If you ever get the chance to do this kind of outreach, DO NOT HESITATE! It is awesome!

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OK, bear with me here. I got so many great shots of kids playing with insects, I put them in a gallery. Just click on the first image below, and a slideshow should appear. Enjoy!

 

Further shots from Naramata

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The Rubber Boa I wrote about yesterday was just the icing on the cake of my recent trip to Naramata.

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Here is a large mayfly by the shores of Lake Okanagan.

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The owner’s friendly dog at the Village Motel.

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My first sighting of a very elegant myrmicine, Manica invidia

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One of the coolest wineries in BC!

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With the namesake!

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This is probably BC’s smallest ant, Solenopsis molesta.

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This gives an idea how tiny these ants are!

 

Another elegant myrmicine, Aphaenogaster occidentalis.

Framed spider art on a fence in town.

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A large tenebrionid in a defensive posture.

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A Cooper’s Hawk with some prey.

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Rubber Boa!

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This past weekend, Erin Adams and I were up in Naramata to do some ant surveys. This beautiful little town is right near Penticton on Lake Okanagan. This arid, yet fertile land is home to fruit and wine growing, as well as the wonderful faunal diversity of the northern Great Basin Desert.  One of the great species we have is Canada’s only species of boa, the Rubber Boa (Charina bottae). These gorgeous snakes make their living mainly preying on subterranean nesting mammals, and hence they are difficult to find in the open.

Nonetheless, we set out to find some on the KVR trail above the town.  Erin must have the golden touch, because on the very first rock she flipped sat this lovely female rubber boa.

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Erin posing with her catch! They are not big snakes, but they certainly have some impressive constricting muscles.

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Me with one of my childhood heroes! Photo by Erin Adams

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These snakes have a special place in my heart, because when I was a child, visiting Science North in Sudbury Ontario, I got to hold one of them! This was a great thrill for me, and it was so great to get the opportunity to see these wonderful animals again in the wild. I can personally attest to the lasting effect that brief encounter had on my outlook and interests.

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A natural light shot on a warm rock. Apparently, these snakes will roll into a ball with their head tucked in when disturbed, but this individual was not playing that game.

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What a great snake to have in Canada. Although they are not yet considered threatened, I certainly hope that enough of their habitat can be conserved so that they may persist.

 

Island View Beach predators!

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Island View Beach was not all bees and high fashion, I also got some cool shots of some awesome predators. First up is this cool robber fly! I think it is in the subfamily Stenopogoninae, but I am by no means an expert.

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Here is how I found it, shot with the 300.

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Dewy on the perch, the sunlight catches its hairs and bristles nicely.

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With some coaxing, I got it to perch on top of the flower.

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Robbers are some of my favourite flies, possibly because of how raptorial they are.

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It takes them some time to warm up for flight, so they are great subjects for a photographer.

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I also saw a couple of juvenile Cooper’s hawks haunting the seaside vegetation. They hunt from perches like robbers, but have a more protracted chase when they spot prey.

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As endotherms, these hawks are more difficult to approach!

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The tidal shallows at dawn is a great place to find Great Blue Herons, looking marvelous as silhouettes.

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Here is what happens when an Ammophila chooses the wrong perch to sleep.

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And this is what can happen if a lacewing hits a black widow web!

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Weekend Expedition 55: Fashion shooting at Island View Beach

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This weekend I went to Victoria, and spent both Saturday and Sunday morning at dawn at Island View Beach. The usual cast of characters was about, so I took the opportunity to do some experimentation with background, lighting, composition and cropping. I am sure you are all getting a bit tired of Coelioxys now, but they make such great models! They are awesome for practicing macro photography with.

If there are any suggestions from other photographers regarding what else I could be doing with these photo ops, please let me know in the comments!

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Here is a wider shot showing the beach behind and the rising sun. I like shooting these kinds of shots, but it is difficult to get great results with the setup I have now.

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These two are shot against the beach grass, with its characteristic pale green.

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The same two shot against the blue sky. and cropped to portrait. 

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Here is a natural-light shot of a Coelioxys. The light has a different quality to it, and it is difficult to get a sharp shot.

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Megachile perihirta against the rising sun.

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Dragging the shutter to make beautiful rim light on the hair.

 

BC Day Long Weekend part 3: at the beaches

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Here is the balance of my weekend shooting, including friendly rabbits and cooperative bees and wasps.

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This rabbit and I made friends. I believe it is s domestic rabbit released in the park.

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It was very tame, and would eat blackberries from my hand.

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here is a huge aggregation of Ammophila on a dead tansy stalk.

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Of course, I have some Coelioxys shots.

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This one is thinks it is super funny.

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Here is a stack I took of a Coelioxys…I may try this again!

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A harvestperson at sunset.

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Beautiful dreamers.

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With lighting from either side, these Coelioxys look like they should be hawking Gatorade or Pennzoil or something.

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Random midge shot. Without a Cognisys, it is just spray and pray.

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The next morning at dawn, I found this sphecid (species ID anyone?) resting. These guys tend to be less gregarious than the Ammophila.

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A syrphid stretching.

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These two neonate garter snakes I found just a couple of metres apart.

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This fledgling sharp shined hawk was sitting on top of an RV, right above the open skylight. I wonder if the occupants saw it.

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Close up of Ammophila.

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A female megachilid on the beach.

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Impressive jaws!

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A newly eclosed cricket.

 

BC Day Long Weekend part 2: Bees in the garden

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A second feature of this past weekend was getting out to various gardens and plantings to see some flower visitors. I first stopped off at the Strathcona community garden, then some gardens near Commercial drive.

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Early morning on Echinacea: often bumblebees don’t make it home in the evening, and I find them dew-wettened, clinging to the flowers they were visiting the previous evening. They are in no mood to fly in this state, and I get the opportunity to experiment with lighting.

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With a diffused flash to the left, and a reflector card on the right, this bee gets the beauty treatment, despite her bad hair day!

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For some reason, this bumblebee looks to me like she is enjoying a belly laugh.

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The advantage of working with immobilized insects cannot be overstated. This shot mixes in the dawn light, hence the sunbeam!

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I found a few other creatures in the garden, such as this awesome sac spider.

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This flower longhorn was one of the few non-bee insects I ended up shooting at Strathcona.

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Here is a dew-wettened honeybee on some kind of mint.

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And a dry honeybee foraging on Echinacea.

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Later, during the heat of the day, I went to Grandview Park near Commercial Drive. This is our native paper wasp, Polistes aurifer.

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There were a whole lot of the introduced wool carder bees (Anthidium manicatum) foraging and stalking on catmint. Here is a male on his lookout perch, where he watches for rivals and females to chase.

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One of the few times they are still is during copulation, wherein the male violently grabs the female while she feeds. I believe the white tuft on the male tibia has something to do with shading part of the female’s eye.

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They seem to be having a good time.

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I do not normally chill insects, but this male I chilled for a short time to see what would happen. they are normally out on such hot days, it stood to reason they would be sensitive to chilling. This procedure allowed about a minute of shooting, and in not such terrible positions either.

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Here he is, looking fierce and about to fly off.

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Booty duty: this natural light shot shows a megachilid with a scopa full of pollen.

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Pretty boy: finding the male of Agapostemon texanus is a wonderful thing. The combination of the striped abdomen and brilliant green is hard to resist. They would steal my heart from Coelioxys if they weren’t so damn fast!