Mosquito? Hmm…

March 29, 2010

Noticed this in the local toy shop earlier… my 2 year old didn’t seem as surprised about it as I was (you can see his finger at the bottom of the image)!


Ecdysis

March 27, 2010

We bought our little boy a small terrarium today, so I decided to pop out and have a poke around in the long grass that was once our lawn, to see if I could find a grass mantid or phasimid to live in it for a few days. Instead, I found this hedge grasshopper in the final stages of a nymphal moult. I ran in to get the camera but by the time I had put some fresh batteries in the flash, the little guy had already pushed around half way through his old cuticle.

The images you see here were taken over the course of about 5 minutes, so once the ball is rolling the process is actually quite quick. This was all very exciting for me, as I have only ever seen an insect molting in a lab.


Macro flash solution

March 26, 2010

I’ve been searching for a method of lighting my macro shots for a while now (without having to purchasing a dedicated macro flash unit). The most success I have had so far has been using my standard bounce flash unit, with an off camera cord and bracket. This works fairly well but the light can be fairly harsh even with a diffuser, and it is still very directional with only one flash head. I’ve tried a couple of cheap manual units (diffused and on brackets) and this works ok, but it is a pain because it is so cumbersome, both in terms of handling and in checking the exposure (which is manual without a TTL flash).

I’ve pretty much resigned myself to purchasing a dedicated twin head unit when I get a little more time to spend on my photography. Until then however… I have come across a simple, but surprisingly effective reflector which allows me to use my standard bounce flash head. It’s simply a piece of long white card, held onto the flash with a rubber band. The card is allowed to droop a little, forming a white arc above the subject and bouncing the light evenly. It even works when your subject is only a few centimeters from the lens! It is by no means perfect: the flash requires alot of light so has a longish recycle time, it is still fairly directional and you get a large highlight on shiny insects (such as the fly below). Even so – I’m quite excited by the results so far!

Credit goes to this guy, Bob Frank. Many thanks if you ever read this!

Here are a couple of pics I took in the yard this afternoon, using this technique.

Hedge Grasshopper nymph (Valanga spp.)

Lucilia spp. (possibly L. cuprina)


Stalk eyed flies

March 25, 2010

As a follow up to a photo in my last post, here is a neat little clip courtesy of the BBC. These must be one of the coolest of all Diptera.


Hello world!

March 20, 2010

WordPress kindly added my first title for me, and it seemed fitting so I decided to keep it. I’ve been reading, lurking and occasionally commenting on the miriad of excellent natural history and biology blogs on the net for a while now. Recently I was asked why I didn’t own a blog myself, and after thinking about it I couldn’t really come up with a good reason why not. My writing isn’t eloquent; thoughts generally just tumble from my head and through my fingers rather haphazardly, so please don’t expect Shakespeare! However I do take a few pictures, and will hopefully have a few thought provoking comments to make.

My areas of interest are mainly conservation biology and invasive species, but I have a growing entomological craving and love the diversity found when you look at creatures with an exoskeleton. I am particularly enjoying bringing these aspects together, and as such I am focusing a lot of my time on invasive insects, and the use of insects as indicators of biodiversity.  Hence… I expect the majority of content to be focused on these areas. I also love computers, data modeling, mapping and GIS… so expect to see some funky maps at some point.

Thought the best way to kick things off would be to put up a few photographs of some of the creatures from my garden. I moved to the tropics in northern Australia a few years ago, and am still in constant amazement at the diversity, density and SIZE of life up here. Before moving here I lived in the far south east of South Australia, in a Mediterranean climate. Dry in summer, cool in winter and such a contrast to the wet humid and incredibly green place I live in now. I have to say.. I am loving it! I can put up with the mould which growns on everything in the wet season, the doors swelling in their frames and wading in 30cm of water to get to the shops. I can put up with it, simply because I step outside into the garden and everywhere I look there are wierd and wonderful arthropods, reptiles, amphibians, birds, bats and plants with leaves the size of dustbin lids! It’s a natural history wonderland.

Anyway, enough waxing lyrical about my new home! Here are the pics.

Tree Frog

Green tree frog (Litoria caerulea)

Stalk-eyed fly (Achias australis) - How cool are these!

Tommy Round-head (Diporiphora australis)

Green tree ants (Oecophylla smaragdina)

Hemipterid warfare! Assassin bug (Pristhesancus plagipennis) eating a Mictis bug (Mictis sp.), with a pack of vultures in attendance.