Sunday, November 25, 2018

HumBug: A Sparse Week

Posted By on Sun, Nov 25, 2018 at 1:00 PM

Disintegrating robber fly. It took more than 280 exposures to compile this image. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Disintegrating robber fly. It took more than 280 exposures to compile this image.

Looking for something to write about this week, I remembered back in June I posted a photo of a robber fly cannibalizing another one. When it was done, it flew away leaving the dead victim's carcass in the weeds, so I collected and mounted it.

Surprisingly, it fell apart, the back half of it disintegrating into little fragments. Presumably this was due to the digestive juices it had been injected with and the fact that its killer drank the liquified connective tissues that held it together. All was not lost however. I decided to use it as a model to compare my two best cameras in a focus stacking competition. Such a detailed photostacking examination of a partially digested fly could only help my standing in the nerd community. Like many members of the family Asilidae, this one sported a mustache that would make a walrus blush with envy.

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Sunday, November 18, 2018

HumBug: Damsels in Fall

Posted By on Sun, Nov 18, 2018 at 3:08 PM

California spreadwing shows blue eyes. Damage to its wing indicates this is an old specimen. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • California spreadwing shows blue eyes. Damage to its wing indicates this is an old specimen.
The unseasonably warm and dry weather seems to be to allowing some species of insects to linger later in the year than I've seen before. Among them are two damselflies. I checked my archives, and this is the latest date in the year I've ever noted either the rubyspot or California spreadwing (Archilestes californica).

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Sunday, November 11, 2018

HumBug: Lepidoptera

Posted By on Sun, Nov 11, 2018 at 11:00 AM

Mylitta crescent on dried Queen Anne's lace seed head. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Mylitta crescent on dried Queen Anne's lace seed head.
Walking along the Van Duzen River today after three frosty nights, I noted four different kinds of butterflies. We saw many Mylitta crescents (Phyciodes mylitta), got a brief glimpse of what was most likely a woodland skipper (Ochlodes sylvanoides) and a West Coast lady (Vanessa annabella). A California sister (Adelpha californica) flitted up and posed at the last minute.
West Coast lady that may well be a male. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • West Coast lady that may well be a male.
Woodland skipper. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Woodland skipper.
Butterflies and moths make up the order lepidoptera. Although butterflies get a lot more attention, many experts find moths more interesting. Typically, butterflies fly in day and moths by night. While butterfly antennae are thin and end in a knob, moth's antennae have other shapes, from thin filaments to elaborate fronds. In North America it is estimated there are about 700 species of butterfly,  while moths may number more than 11,000. Some experts consider butterflies merely a family of day-flying moths.
California sister showing some wear on its wings (gender undetermined). - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • California sister showing some wear on its wings (gender undetermined).
In the age-old arms race between insectivorous bats and night flying moths, moths have developed several survival strategies. One strategy is early detection of the bat's sonar, which triggers evasive flying tactics. Others have developed a form of acoustic stealth. Many night-flying moths are extremely fuzzy. A recent article in Science News points out that this fur can deaden the bat's sonar echoes.
Fuzzy moth showing plumose antennae and what may be nature's anti-sonar stealth suit. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Fuzzy moth showing plumose antennae and what may be nature's anti-sonar stealth suit.
As there are so many more types of moth than butterfly and they have been around so much longer, it stands to reason they might have an even more diverse set of lifestyles. Like butterflies, the majority of moths mainly eat higher plants as larvae and sip nectar as adults, but there are exceptions. Some moth larvae are known to eat natural fiber fabrics, a couple of species of wax moths inhabit beehives, eat wax and can actually digest some plastics.

Perhaps the oddest moth lifestyle is that of the genus, Calyptra. Known as “vampire moths,” they do indeed suck blood from higher mammals, but have no fear, that group doesn't live anywhere near here. Yet.
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Sunday, November 4, 2018

HumBug: Who's Your Daddy Longlegs?

Posted By on Sun, Nov 4, 2018 at 8:38 PM

Daddy longlegs Nelima passleri with eyes like a tiny turret. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Daddy longlegs Nelima passleri with eyes like a tiny turret.

As soon as the UPS delivered my newest camera lens, I had to go a hunting. Since it's fall, many insects are gone until next year but there's always something interesting out there.

Today was no exception. Before I even got out the door, I noted a daddy longlegs on my window screen. It only took a ladder and a couple of strenuous yoga poses to get the shot, but the lens performed well.

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