The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

Category Archives: Photo Friday

Photo Friday: Glow-in-the-dark Scorpion

Living in Canada affords nature-loving folks certain securities. With remarkably few exceptions, Canadian nature is incredibly non-venomous (yes, spiders etc. have venom, but not enough to harm or do serious damage). In my province, we have no dangerous spiders, no deadly fish, only one venomous snake (the massasauga rattlesnake), and no tarantulas or scorpions that might accidentally be trod on during a walk in the woods.

To some, this might be dull, but for a total klutz who has a compulsion to poke every bit of nature she sees this is a Good Thing.

So, when I was down in Florida this summer, I found myself a little unnerved by all the nature that had the potential to be seriously bitey or painful or toxic. Venomous snakes? Lots. Spiders? Check. Velvet ants? Super painful – check. Scorpions? You betcha.

Another student from my University, Guillaume, was at BugShot. Guillaume does his field work in Panama, where there are all sorts of bitey/venomous critters, and therefore he  is quite accustomed to dealing with them. He had brought with him this fantastic bit of equipment: a flashlight rigged up with a UV lightbulb.

On the first night, we prowled down the road looking for critters – Guillaume kept his light trained on the grass on the roadside.  After a short while, he had spotted what the light was intended to find:

Striped Bark Scorpion, Centuroides hentzi

Striped Bark Scorpion, Centuroides hentzi


This was one of several that he found that evening. Though not thought to be deadly, the sting from this common species is reportedly very painful – the discomfort can last for days! They were tiny little things; this one was the largest and was perhaps the size of a loonie. (This, of course, made me completely paranoid every time I took too a knee to snap photos – scorpions could be anywhere! – but I managed.)

Now, you might be wondering why the UV light was so helpful in locating these lovely little arachnids. Why not just a regular flashlight? This next photo should clear things up for you:

Striped Bark Scorpion, Centuroides hentzi

Same scorpion, with Guillaume’s UV flashlight!

We don’t actually really know why many scorpions glow under ultraviolet wavelengths of light, but it’s been suggested that perhaps it helps them see better as they hunt by moonlight (Ed Yong at Not Exactly Rocket Science has written about this phenomenon – I suggest that you check out his great post here). Whatever the reason, it is FREAKING COOL.

And now, just because, I’ll conclude this post with a gif.

Photo details:
Tripod, f/8, ISO-80, 1/4sec., 17mm, on-camera flash (1), UV and ambient light only (2)

Photo Friday: Devil-riders

This male Devil-rider is dwarfed by the massive bulk of the female to which he clings, hooking his tiny tarsal claws under a ridge along the side of her thorax. Stubbornly remaining in copula even after I removed the pair from a shrub at the Archbold Biological Station in Florida, his determination will ultimately result in the persistence of his genes in their offspring.

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

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

A beautiful example of sexual dimorphism, as well as aposematic coloration (the bold orange and black stripes warn potential predators of their formidable chemical defenses), this pair of  Anisomorpha buprestoides (also called Southern Two-striped Walkingsticks or Musk Mares) are the only Phasmids I’ve ever encountered in the wild!


Photo details:

f-8, 11mm (top)/16mm(bottom), 1/200sec, ISO 80, Raynox clip-on, on-camera flash with snoot diffuser in a white box.

Photo Friday: My fave photos from BugShot 2012!

I took about 800 photos over the course of the three-day BugShot workshop. I didn’t have as much success with every subject as I would have liked, but I did come away with some definite keepers.

One of my goals was to play with colour a bit; I’ve really gotten into using a white background because I love how it makes the insect the absolute focal point for the image, but I don’t want to get into a “white box” rut! I found inspiration in the strikingly colourful imagery produced by instructor Thomas Shahan, and decided to roll with it.

Oddly enough, my favorite photos were all of…wait for it… SPIDERS! This may be the start of a serious life change for little ol’ arachnophobic me!

Anyways, without further ado, may I present my top three pics!

I hope you all have enjoyed and benefited from my BugShot posts, especially those of you who made the trip possible for me!


From top to bottom:

1. Regal Jumper, Phidippus regius

f/8, 1/125th sec., ISO-100, 67mm focal length, flash manually set at about – 2 2/3

2.  Green Lynx Spider, Peucetia viridans

f/8, 1/125th sec., ISO-100, 61mm focal length, flash manually set

3.  Workman’s Jumper, Phidippus workmani

f/8, 1/200th sec, ISO-80, 43mm focal length, flash manually set


Note: I nearly always shoot at f/8 (my camera’s lowest f-stop), at ISO 80 or 100 (almost never more than 200 or I get terrible noise). I’ve been told that some of the results I get with these setting are pretty wonky (DOF, for example), but it’s probably because I have a PAS, not a DSLR.

Photo Friday: Arctic pseudoscorpion

As I mentioned on Wednesday, one of my fellow travelers (my advisor) was collecting pseudoscorpions while in the Yukon. Specifically, he was targeting Wyochernes asiaticus, a Beringian species. He wrote a wonderful and poignant post about his love for these critters, which I invite you to read here: Why I study obscure and strange little animals.

I actually completely fell in love with pseudoscorpion-hunting. It involved turning over rocks – perhaps one of the most fundamental entomological collection methods, and one that nearly all of us did for fun as kids. It was with great, child-like glee that I would spot these tiny (2-3mm) creatures, sometimes with their bright yellow egg masses brood pouches (thanks Dave!) adhered to their abdomens, upon turning over just the right rock at just the right place on the bank of a rocky creek.

These critters are poorly documented – I don’t know if any photographs showing live specimens of this species existed before this trip.  Well, they do now! The very small size of these animals made the photo shoot challenging, but well worth the effort.

A female Arctic pseudoscorpion, Wyochernes asiaticus, with her brood pouch

A female Arctic pseudoscorpion, Wyochernes asiaticus (brood pouch removed)

Female Wyochernes asiaticus with her brood pouch

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)

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