Tag Archive | photography

Hymenoptera through the day


Bombus vosnesenskii, probably the most common bumblebee in Vancouver.

Here are a series of images I shot during the course of a summer day in Vancouver. All are hymenopterans, which, in addition to being tasty, are of course the best insects out there.


A nest I uncovered of Myrmica specioides, a recent introduction on the West Coast.


A big Megachilid.


Myrmica rubra against the sky (bribed with a bit of honey).


I have always wanted to get a shot of one of these chrysidid beauties. I believe it is Pseudomalus auratus.



A gorgeous Philanthus beewolf, showing just how much they really do love flowers.


A queen and workers of Myrmica rubra, the European Fire Ant.


Myrmica rubra tending aphids, a few of which appear to be mummies.


Ammophila wasps at sunset, shot with the 300 mm lens.


Weekend Expedition 54: Burns Bog and Centennial Beach


This past weekend, The Spider Crew (Sam Evans, Catherine Scott, Samantha Vibert and Gwylim Blackburn) and I set out to find an elusive and rare gnaphosid in the vast wetness of Burns Bog. Gnaphosa snohomish is supposed to be the only peatland specialist gnaphosid in Canada, and was a great reason to go out to the bog.


Believe it or not, we all piled into Daisy, a 1984 Toyota Tercel on loan from Sofi Hindmarch. Yeah, it’s got a hemi!


Samantha examines some riparian flowers on the walk in.



The Labrador Tea was fragrant and abundant.


The wild blueberries were in full swing!



I liked the way the fern was projected on this skunk cabbage.


In the bog proper, there was evidence of spiders. This belongs to a Hahniid, which Catherine will cover in an upcoming post.


A very odd construction indeed. An egg sac?


Sam managed to find a jumper on some blueberries.


and a crab as well.


Under the trees, in rotted logs, amaurobiids were common.


Interestingly, they seem to show a curious “legs up” posture when blown on. We had seen a similar reaction among Ctenids in Honduras.


An Uloborid with its amazing silk trap set.


A gorgeous linyphiid on her web. Check out her weird epigynum!



Samantha and Catherine consult the primary literature in the field. The article in question is: Bennett, R. G., S. M. Fitzpatrick & J. T. Troubridge. Redescription of the rare ground spider Gnaphosa snohomish (Araneae: Gnaphosidae), an apparent bog specialist endemic to the Puget Sound/Georgia Basin area. J. Ent. Soc. Ont. 137: 13-23.


Our hunt was turning up nothing gnaphbosid like, so we stopped for lunch.


Spidering makes for healthy appetites, especially when goat cheese, hummus tomato and basil are available.


Shortly after lunch, it was evident that the black dog of spidering failure had visited us, so we made a move for our second objective: confirmation of a population of black widows at Centennial Beach in Tsawwassen.


We were shocked at the similarities between this beach and Island View Beach. Each has a shallow bay, a large foreshore protected from high tide, abundant driftwood, sloping fields behind, and a bluff overhanging. The human traffic is a bit more intense at Centennial though.


Rolling over logs, and what did we find?


Black widows! Just look at this absolutely gorgeous overwintered male!


This guy was so spectacular… Almost the size of a young female.


Females with egg sacs and hatchlings were also around.


Here is a youngster near an egg sac.


And a large female with a new egg sac.


We ended the day back in Vancouver with some ice cream. Overall, a good effort, with 1/2 of our objectives met. We will get you next time Gnaphosa snohomish!

First Coelioxys of 2014!


I am so excited to have met up with (on Saturday) my favourite little bees, Coelioxys! Something about these streamlined little wonders is just so appealing to me. Of course, they were sleeping in their usual manner on the rainy morning, so I had good opportunities to play with the lighting.


Here is what a cluster of Coelioxys looks like, on a dead flower stalk.


Because of the rain, this one had quite a bit of water accumulated.


Like with the Ammophila yesterday, the water adds something to the already pretty texture.



For this shot and the one at the top, I used some hard light from the rear and to the right to make these droplets shine. The green streak is a plant stem in the background.


This bee is starting to wake, and grooming begins even before detaching her mandibles.


In the midst of waking up…


Now the bee is detached, and looking for a place to groom all this water off.


After a couple swipes with the feet, the thorax is drier.


This pretty little bee had a bit of a drier perch for the night.




Sand Lovers


In addition to the bundles of sleeping bees I found at Iona Beach on Saturday, I also encountered some Ammophila wasps. Their name means “Sand Lover” and they are major predators of caterpillars in sandy habitats. They sting their prey precisely to paralyze it, then bury them in dungeons under the sand for their larvae to eat. The wasps I was shooting were resting on various vegetation, especially stiffer dead flowerheads. The rain made for some beautiful texture and reflections.


Most sleeping Hymenoptera I find seem to have a preference for dead vegetation. Perhaps this is less attractive to other animals and makes for a disturbance-free night? In addition, the dead twigs and flowers are often stiffer and don’t blow around as much.


In sleeping mode, these wasps grasp tightly with their mandibles. If you disturb them, they quickly re-grasp the substrate rather than waking and moving.



Here is one on a living plant. I like the way the droplets highlight the smooth abdomen.


It can be a wet business sleeping in the rain. I suppose while they are sleeping they must shut down their grooming responses.



Here is another Sphecid, not Ammophila, but perhaps Isodontia?

Tomorrow I will thrill you with some more sleeping hymenopterans…I have saved the best of them for last!


Sleeping (Colletes) bees!


Yesterday was cold and wet at Iona Beach, where I set out for an insect photography walk. The conditions were a bit uncomfortable for me, but it was not raining so much that I could not use my camera. To make up for the wet misery, I found such a lot of cool things that it will take a series of blog posts to cover them all!

This subject came up as I was just leaving the beach, aiming to warm myself up in a hot shower when I glanced down and saw a little cluster of sleeping bees. Looking around on adjacent flowers, I found that there were 5 such clusters! This was too good to pass up, so I buckled down and started shooting despite the cold.

Here are a couple of the other clusters:



I am no expert on solitary bees, so I would love to know what these are. I initially thought they were Halictus, but I am beginning to wonder about that…Whatever they are, they are all males, as they have very hairy faces (most female solitary bees are all business in the front).

Update! These are apparently Colletes males. Thanks to John Ascher for the ID!

Having  such still subjects allows some experimentation with lighting and background…


Here they are against the overcast sky. This was a single diffused flash to the upper left of the cluster and a white bounce card held immediately to the right.


Here I have the diffused light to the upper right, and the bounce card behind (with a flash pointed at it) to blow out the background. In hindsight, maybe I should carry two cards!

Here I am using a single diffused light to the upper left, a bounce card to the right, and the background lit with the second flash using the Monster Macro Rig.


Here the setup is similar to the above, except the background is mostly dark and the second light throws hard light to the right and rear.


Sleeping bees are awesome…Now I have yet another search image burned into my brain for when I go out in the mornings and evenings!


As I urge you always, go out and find some sleeping Hymenoptera! They are great subjects for photography!

I mentioned that I had a good photography day at Iona Beach…Here is a hint at what comes next: