Outdoors

Sunday, January 20, 2019

HumBug: Winter Critters

Posted By on Sun, Jan 20, 2019 at 5:27 PM

Closeup of a variegated meadowhawk. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Closeup of a variegated meadowhawk.

Five years ago I started reporting seeing a small dragonfly in the middle of winter on sunny days, even following frosty nights. Dragonflies usually spend the cold months as larvae in the water. Up until then, none of the other dragonfly enthusiasts were reporting anything at all. I've been able to photograph and report this one species in December and January every year since.

Continue reading »

  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Sunday, January 13, 2019

HumBug: Earwigs

Posted By on Sun, Jan 13, 2019 at 11:29 AM

Female earwig cerci. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Female earwig cerci.

I have not been a big fan of earwigs ever since they ate the ceanothus moth I was trying to rear. Reading a bit about them, I found they indeed have some interesting and worthwhile features. The most common variety around here is the European earwig (Forficula auricularia).

We called them “pincer bugs” when I was a kid due to the pair of forceps-like cerci that adorn their tail. When assaulted by grabbing their head between your fingers, they will indeed try to pinch you with them. The shape of the cerci can be used to differentiate the sexes. The male's are rounded and sickle shaped, while the females' are straighter and appear parallel.

Continue reading »

  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: ,

Sunday, December 30, 2018

HumBug: Insect Armageddon

Posted By on Sun, Dec 30, 2018 at 5:31 PM

Rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) known to supplement their diet with flying insects and line their nests with spider silk. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) known to supplement their diet with flying insects and line their nests with spider silk.
I have had a lifelong interest in insects, collecting, observing, studying, and photographing them for more than 60 years. Looking back, I've noticed progressively fewer insects around my porch lights at night and far fewer splattered across the windshields of my various cars.

Continue reading »

  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , ,

Sunday, December 23, 2018

HumBug: Millipede by the Millimeter

Posted By on Sun, Dec 23, 2018 at 7:08 PM

Panoramic image of a Eurasian millipede on a mirror. The photo was an all-nighter. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Panoramic image of a Eurasian millipede on a mirror. The photo was an all-nighter.

I didn't intend to spend all night working on a single photograph but a Eurasian millipede (Ophyiulus pilosus) trapped in a measuring cup was an opportunity to try some equipment in a new way. Instead of using the computer-controlled StackRail to move the focus point, I set it up to travel along the critter, acquiring an image every millimeter. Panoramic software, usually applied to landscapes, allowed combining the 76 resulting exposures into a single image. After positioning the subject, several passes of image acquisitions, adjusting lighting, software fails and crashes, I set everything up, hit the “Stack” button and went to bed at about 5:20 a.m. Post processing the resulting image took several hours as well.
Cyanide millipede. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Cyanide millipede.
Millipedes are among the oldest land animals and in ancient times some Arthropleura grew to be the largest land invertebrates ever, attaining lengths of over 2 meters.
A millipede under black light, possibly a young cyanide millipede. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • A millipede under black light, possibly a young cyanide millipede.
Locally I have noted at least four species, all of which are harmless to humans. Being slow moving creatures without sting, bristles or venom their defenses are coiling into a tight spiral and secreting noxious substances along their sides. At least one local species, the yellow spotted Harpaphe haydeniana, or a close relative, includes cyanide in its arsenal. I think the young of this variety are the ones I've seen glow when illuminated with black light.
A large millipede curled into defensive position. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • A large millipede curled into defensive position.
A pale yellow one I found in a rotten log remains unidentified and may not be known to science yet. Unfortunately, I managed to get only one photograph of it several years ago.
Unidentified millipede, most likely of order Polyzoniida. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Unidentified millipede, most likely of order Polyzoniida.
  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: ,

Sunday, December 16, 2018

HumBug: Rainy Day Locals

Posted By on Sun, Dec 16, 2018 at 9:25 PM

Tick on a blade of grass. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Tick on a blade of grass.

Head's up: It's tick season again. It seems they like damp weather. My archives show photos of them primarily in April to May and December to January. In the last week, I've pulled one off a dog and one off a friend who had one on her arm. Even if you haven't been outdoors where they wait in the weeds, they can hitch rides on pets that do. You can read more about them in my April 12, 2015 post here
A Pterostichus beetle uncovered when I overturned a rock. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • A Pterostichus beetle uncovered when I overturned a rock.
Being cold-blooded, most insects spend the winter months dormant as eggs, larvae or pupae, awaiting longer days and warmer weather. Still, some adults persist secluded under rocks like some locally common ground beetles of the genus Pterostichus. This family of beetles is highly predatory, consuming all manner of small invertebrates.
Pacific sideband snail portrait. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Pacific sideband snail portrait.

On a recent night walk, I noted quite a few Pacific sideband snails (Monadenia fidelis), the largest native land snails in our area, attaining a width of 2 inches across the widest part of their shells. This species uses “love darts,”in their mating process, a detailed explanation of which is available on Wikipedia.
Glowworm gets clotheslined in slow motion. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Glowworm gets clotheslined in slow motion.
However, I have seen one of our local glow worms attack a full sized example of this species after a slow motion battle that took about 10 minutes — the snail clotheslined the glow worm and got away, leaving the attacker mired in a gooey sticky bubble bath.
  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , ,

Sunday, December 2, 2018

HumBug: Seasons Change, Bugs Change

Posted By on Sun, Dec 2, 2018 at 11:04 AM

The last shot I'll get of one of these rubyspots until next summer. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • The last shot I'll get of one of these rubyspots until next summer.
Following up on last week's post of photos of the American rubyspot (Hetaerina americana) male, I decided to try to get a better shot of the wings. Relying on the fact that this species is extremely territorial, I found him in exactly the same spot. This time I got closer and waited until he flew after a mayfly. I took a rapid fire series of exposures. The next day the rains came and, despite returning to the spot several days, I haven't seen him. I think he's gone for good. Maybe next year I'll see his son there. I wonder what their instinctive selection criteria are for a good perch.


Continue reading »

  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , ,

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.

Continue reading »

  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , , , , ,

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).

Continue reading »

  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: ,

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.
  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

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.

Continue reading »

  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , ,

Recent Comments

  • Re: HumBug: Earwigs

    • My back yard was overrun with earwigs and sow bugs until I raised 3 chicks…

    • on January 18, 2019
  • Re: HumBug: Insect Armageddon

    • Definitely fewer insects hitting windshields on spring and summer evenings. Spiders still seem plentiful around…

    • on December 30, 2018
  • More »

Top Tags in
Life + Outdoors

photography


Snails


glow worms


Ticks


Beetles


Top Commenters

socialize

Facebook | Twitter

© 2019 North Coast Journal

Website powered by Foundation