The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

Category Archives: Diptera (True Flies)

ESO Bug Eye Photo Contest!

The results of the Entomological Society of Ontario Bug Eye photo contest were announced last night!  We were treated to a slide show of the 130ish entries; there was some spectacular work!

Also this:

I took 2nd place in the “Ontario Insect” category for

Mine foot is tasty (omnomnom) - a green Katydid

2nd in “Photo by an Ontario Resident” category for

Anisomorpha buprestoides (Southern Two-Striped Walkingstick, Devil Rider, or Musk Mare)

and 1st in the “Open Category” for

Green Lynx Spider, Peucetia viridans [Explored]

It was a good night! <—massive understatement. I’ll be one of the judges for next year’s contest 😀

I don’t think I mentioned this either: one of my photos was one of seven selected in the Entomological Society of Canada photo contest to be on the cover of the journal, The Canadian Entomologist, for 2013!

Stratiomys badia (soldier fly, Stratiomyidae)

Other than simply being ridonculously thrilled over these results, I think what I’m most pleased about is that all four of these photos use different techniques (natural setting/outdoors and studio), lighting (ambient light and flash), use of backgrounds (white box, coloured, black) and subjects (spider, phasmid, fly, katydid).  I’m happy to be producing decent AND diverse images! 🙂

Photo Friday: one-shot wonder

When working with live insects in the field, one of the biggest challenges is to get the shot before the bug…bugs off. Sometimes you only get one or two chances before your subject is suddenly nowhere to be seen – it’s the reason why I end up with so many badly lit or blurry images that get tossed and make me quietly mutter bad words.

Every now and then, though, I get lucky. This image of a snipe fly was the one and only shot I managed to fire off – and it was definitely a keeper 🙂

Rhagio hirtus, female (Rhagionidae)

Hey Geek, what’s this? Creepy long-tailed water thingie…

My Twitter feed alerted me to a new interaction – I’d been flagged in a tweet by @MarconiRebus containing a most intriguing photo:

An earlier tweet provided a little more info:

Whoa. That is one weird bug!

Aquatic insects do have a tendency to look weird and wriggly, but this long-tailed beastie was nothing I was familiar with; also, the photo was coming from overseas, making this ID challenge potentially tricky.

Luckily, that snorkel-butt was an incredibly useful character for narrowing the ID down to one insect Family. There are a number of aquatic insects that use a similar apparatus for breathing, but none that I’m aware of that look quite so wormy. A search turned up a most awesomely-named fly larva:

“Rat-tailed Maggot”

You gotta love that name; it conjures up so much “EW”! 😛

The Rat-tailed Maggot is the larva of a drone fly (Eristalis sp., Syrphidae).  Syrphids are generally known as “hover flies” for their ability to fly in place. The adults tend to hang out near or on flowers, and many mimic bees.

I actually encountered some large bee-mimicking hover flies (possibly drone flies, but difficult to tell from my photos) while camping last week; this isn’t the most awesome photo ever, but it gives you the general idea of the nature of the beast:

See Miles’ comment about this photo, below – I made a boo-boo! Thanks, Miles!

There were ample ponds and quiet pools in the area, which would have made perfect breeding grounds for these fascinating flies!

Photo Friday: Soldier fly (Stratiomys badia)

On Tuesday, my wife and I were doing one of our daily “tour of the grounds” (i.e., checking out the progress in the gardens), and she said, “Hey, look at that bee“.

A large, hairy, heavy-bodied, yellow-and-black-striped critter was resting on a leaf.  It was doing a darned good job of imitating a bee, but a closer inspection of the face and wings revealed it to be a fly. An interesting fly – this animal was nothing I’d ever seen before – so I went in the house to get the camera and take a few shots.

The setting sun was still just peeking though the trees and I managed to get this one hand-held shot, which I immediately posted on Twitter…

hoping that Morgan Jackson would be able to give me a name. Sure enough:

Turns out he knew these flies pretty well! They’re pretty distinct and nifty. These solider flies like to hang out in open spaces near forest edges and often frequent flowers (exactly the type of habitat in which our fly was found). The antennae are not very typically fly-like: they have a long, enlarged end segment, making them look “flagged” or elbowed.  Also, their larvae are aquatic!

This second shot represents one of the first times I’ve used a tripod for insect macros. I almost never use a tripod (despite having been strongly advised by some pros to do so) for several reasons: 1) I’m lazy (it’s a royal pain in the butt to carry, set up, etc.); 2) I don’t have the capacity to manually focus with my point-and-shoot, so the distance between tripod and subject has to be just right for the auto-focus to work correctly (see point #1); 3) I find that most subjects are flighty or running and it’s easier to chase them without being tied down to a tripod.

This fly, however, was placid and had no interest in moving. The lighting was very dim (it was dusk and there was no longer direct sunlight), pretty much at the limits of my camera’s capacities with natural light (any ISO over 200 gives me terrible noise). Experiments with a flash yielded (to me) unaesthetic results, so I had to crank the shutter speed way down (1/15 s)  in order to get enough light into the camera while maintaining the greatest possible depth of field.  The tiniest motion therefore resulted in blur.

So, this seemed like a good time to try out the ‘pod. It was a royal pain to get into position among the plants in my garden, but this fly was probably the most cooperative possible subject to work with (it even let me prod it into a position I wanted). There was also no breeze whatsoever and I used the 10-second timer function to help eliminate any other mechanical shake. I’m pleased with the result!


Forgotten Photo Friday: Giant robber fly (Promachus hinei)

This fly…this fly made me lose my mind a little bit when I first saw it.  I have seen robber flies before, but I had never encountered a GIANT robber fly.  It totally lives up to its name:

Giant Robber Fly (Promachus hinei)

Giant Robber Fly (Promachus hinei)

That fly is HUGE. This photo by Katja Shulz may help provide some scale for the beast (that’s me down there).

When you’re a fly, you’re that big, and you’re a mega-bad-ass stealth-ninja fighter-jet predator, you don’t have to do silly things like fly away in a frantic whirr when a human starts mucking around with your blade of grass. You OWN that blade of grass.

Robber fly is the boss of this blade of grass. Photo: Katja Shulz

Also, you have no trouble telling humans that YOU ARE THE BOSS OF THINGS.

Giant robber fly tells Dave Stone, “YOUR CAMERA? I AM THE BOSS OF THAT TOO.”

%d bloggers like this: