The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

Look, always look

During my camping trip, I spent hours and hours poking around in the mixed forest surrounding my campsite, scouring the area for insects I could photograph. I was mostly looking for moths (I figured, since I don’t know the group well at all, I should practice for National Moth Week, which is coming up soon – so go register – hint hint), but I was also keeping my eyes peeled for other interesting beasts.

The moth-hunting quickly taught me two things: 1) even very tiny things (i.e., micro-moths) are worth pausing for, and 2) don’t discount something at first glance because it seems “boring”. Walking through the woods would flush a fluttering of pale, inconspicuous and seemingly uniform beige wings, but a closer look, some photographs, and some time with my new field guide (which is just great, by the way) revealed remarkable diversity.

So, it was with these principles in mind that I paused to give a boring-looking dot of meandering brown on the trunk of a white birch a second glance.

I was so glad I did, because it turned out to be a species of jewel beetle (Buprestidae) I’d been wanting to see: the bronze birch borer (Agrilus anxius*).

Small, with subtle but beautiful colours, this little gem would walk, stop, walk, stop, walk, stop – all apparently quite purposefully. As I watched, I realized that every time it stopped, it would extend something long and beige into a crevice or under a scale of bark. I had a female, who was in the process of laying eggs!

The green arrow is pointing to the female’s ovipositor, which she is using to place an egg under a small scale of bark.

A cropped photo showing the ovipositor

In the minute or two that I watched she must have deposited at least a few dozen eggs. It was an incredible thing to observe, and her preoccupation with her important task probably helped her ignore my antics as I struggled and sprawled on the forest floor to find an accessible angle from which to take her picture.

Had I 1) not bothered to check out the boring brown speck on the tree, or 2) simply taken a few quick shots and not stuck around to watch, I would have missed out on seeing a new-to-me species AND missed out on witnessing some really interesting behaviour.

The moths, and this beetle, were excellent reminders that we must sometimes pause, and really LOOK, in order to capture some of nature’s most interesting moments.

__________________

*It is almost certainly A. anxius, but there is a chance it could also be A. pensus, which is also associated with birch (hat tip to Ted for this info).

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5 responses to “Look, always look

  1. Adrian D. Thysse July 9, 2012 at 10:07 AM

    Exactly!
    Sometimes I lament not being able to access all the exotic bugs that are featured by Wild and Naskrecki (and others), but we do still have a lot of amazing things to observe in our neck of the woods.

    Take the time to observe– bug watching can be so exciting, and capturing seldom observed behaviours on camera is a real thrill.

    Dang! We’re sooo geeky!

  2. Ted C. MacRae July 10, 2012 at 1:20 AM

    Great point, great subject, great photos!

  3. Scott July 10, 2012 at 10:02 AM

    Great post and some totally awesome photography. And yes not only stop and smell the roses but stop and check out all those tiny bugs.

  4. Sean McCann July 10, 2012 at 6:38 PM

    Good point!
    I love it when I find buprestids! These little Agrilus can certainly look dull from afar, but that is probably in their best interest.

  5. Pingback: Making a beeline… | Splendour Awaits

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