Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Cactus Bugs

This is one of my favorite shots from Bug Shot 2012:

Opuntia bugs

Opuntia bugs

Someone had brought in a prickly pear cactus paddle with a bunch of these bugs on them and I thought they were quite beautiful.  This species (Chelinidea vittiger, the cactus coreid or opuntia bug) is a pest of prickly pear, but it sure is pretty!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Tortoise

Tortoise beetles are some of my very favorite beetles.  There’s something about their shape that really appeals to me.  Imagine my pleasure when we saw several of these in Florida during BugShot 2012:

Tortoise beetle

Palmetto tortoise beetle, Hemisphaerota cyanea

Isn’t it beautiful?  It’s even kinda metallic!  This beetle definitely goes to 11.

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Fuzzy

Sometimes I think there aren’t nearly enough plush moths in the world.  This one would make a marvelous stuffed animal:

Fuzzy yellow moth

Fuzzy yellow moth

It’s so cute and fuzzy!  I would much rather have a cute little cuddly moth than a teddy bear any day.  :)

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Friday 5: Biodiversity of a Light Fixture (With Bonus Material!)

I enjoyed writing my post about the insects I found in the windowsill at work, so I’m going to do one more.  (Don’t worry – Fridays won’t become dead insect Fridays!  I’m done after this.)  I mentioned last week that finding interesting bugs in the window prompted me to empty out the light fixture above my desk.  In doing so, I learned some things:

1. When emptying a fluorescent light fixture with a cover that swings down on a hinge, it is best not to be standing directly under it when you swing said cover down.  Dead insects raining down into your hair isn’t the most pleasant experience!

2. Fingerless gloves and the above mentioned dead insect rain are not a good combination.  My office can get really chilly, so I wear fingerless gloves a lot when I work.  They were full of crispy dead insects moments after popping the hatch on the light fixture.  Did I mention that they were my brand new, Smartwool ones that I’d had for one day?  They’re totally full of assorted insect legs now.

3. You can have an unbelievable number of insects in a light fixture!  I had over 100 individuals.  I don’t even want to think about how long it’s been since that thing was cleaned out…

So, what did I find in there?  Here are the 5 best things that were lurking in my light:

Darkling Beetle

Darkling Beetle

Darkling beetle

This was the biggest thing I found in the light fixture.  In fact, I was a little surprised this beetle was able to make its way into the fixture at all.  There’s not a very big gap, but perhaps it was strong enough to push the cover up and climb in anyway.  The compulsion to go to lights is quite strong for a lot of insects, so they might be willing to do some really heavy lifting to get closer.

Blow Fly (I think…)

Blow fly

Blow fly

Like many entomologists, I’m a sucker for shiny metallic insects.  (Many of us are easily distracted by shiny things!)  Flies with a metallic sheen…  Well, they’re just cool.   Flies are impressive creatures when you take the time to look.  I’m a terrible at fly identification, but I think they’re quite beautiful nonetheless.  I mean, just look at that fly!  It’s a common one and I see them all the time, but the eyes, the mouthparts, the color, all those hairs – it’s darned impressive if you ask me!

Roach

Roach

Roach

Found three of these.  One of them may or may not have ended up in my hair as it plummeted out of the light fixture.  Thankfully, I’m not roach phobic, so it wasn’t a big deal for me.   Brushed it out, scooped it up, and photographed it.  The things I do for you people!  :)

Box Elder Bug

Boxelder bug

Box elder bug

I got these in my house in Arizona ALL THE TIME, so it wasn’t surprising at all to see them here in North Carolina too.  Like the fly, these are very common insects, but their coloration makes them rather attractive bugs too.  I like ‘em!  The texture of the membranous part of their wings is especially elegant.

Ladybugs Galore!

Asian multicolored ladybeetles

Asian multicolored ladybeetles

There were dozens of ladybugs in my light!  I think they’re all multicolored Asian ladybeetles too, so every one of them was non-native.  Man, there are a lot of these ladybugs in my area!  I took a bunch of elementary school girls out to look for ladybugs today and every one we found was a multicolored Asian ladybeetle.  Granted, the fact that we saw ladybugs at all in January was still pretty cool.

And this week, I have a special bonus bug for you all:

Snub Nosed Weevil

Snub Nosed Weevil

Snub Nosed Weevil

I am absolutely in love with these little weevils!  I shared a bunch of photos of them a few months ago, but here’s another one.  You all need more photos of these beetles.  They’re just so cute!  I think these would make a great model for a stuffed animal.  Who wouldn’t want to cuddle up to an adorable weevil as they fall asleep?  I know I would!   Of course, a lot of people think I’m kinda weird too…

Anyone want to take a look in their light fixtures and report what they see in the comments?  I think it would be interesting to see how things compare between lights.  My light is in a poorly sealed, chilly trailer at a field station, so I probably have a better chance to get a wide diversity of insects in my light than other people, but I don’t know.  Maybe one of you has something amazing tucked away in a light!  I’d love to hear what you have.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

 

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Surprise!

The last evening of Bug Shot 2012, I was in the “toy room” helping clean up.  I had set up an aquarium for photographing aquatic insects the first night and hadn’t put it away, so I scooped everything out of it and was about to pick it up and dump the water out when I saw this clinging to the outside:

curve lined owlet caterpillar

Curve-lined owlet caterpillar

What a crazy cool caterpillar!  I believe it is a curve-lined owlet caterpillar, Phyprosopus callitrichoides.  It comes as no surprise that this is a woodland species.  Can you imagine how hard it would be to see one of these on a tree?!  I happily snapped a few shots, then I took it outside before I finished my cleaning.

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Insects vs. Three Smartphone Macro Lenses

A lot of you know about my addiction to photographing insects with my cell phone.  I enjoy the challenge.  Cell phone macro attachments are incredibly limiting in so many ways, especially where depth of field is concerned, but that just makes me work harder to get a decent shot.  I keep practicing – and I buy new gadgets when they’re made available.  My most recent macro attachment arrived in the form of a Christmas present from my dad, the SquidCam camera system for iPhone.  Woo!  New camera toys!  New ways to photograph insects!  I was thrilled.

I have done posts about two macro attachments for smart phones in the past, the Olloclip and the Photojojo macro lenses.  Apart from the limitations that they share with all macro attachments for smartphones, they are both difficult to use with a case on your phone.  That is a deal breaker for me as I’m a horrible clutz and drop my phone all the time.  I jerry rigged a case solution with my Photojojo lens, but that’s simply not an option with the Olloclip which will only work on a completely naked phone.

That brings us to the SquidCam!  The SquidCam’s greatest strength is that it combines a case and lenses into a single package.  This is what you get:

Squidcam parts

Squidcam parts

You slip the silicone case around the phone (it fits mine perfectly) and attach the lenses to the case when you want to use them.  You get two lenses, a macro/wide-angle lens and a fish eye lens, and two little silicone pieces.  The smaller of the pieces can be used to cover up the camera lens on the phone when it is not in use.  The larger one can be used to prop the phone upright:

Standing up

Standing up

I don’t watch anything on my phone and I can’t be bothered to put the little piece over the lens, so I don’t use these two pieces.  Still, I can see their utility.

You’ll notice that the case looks like a Lego block.  It dramatically increases the thickness of the phone when it’s on, but those little nubs are there so you can attach the lenses.  All you do is snap the lens onto the little nubs around the lens and you’re good to go:

Squidcam attachment

SquidCam attachment

The lenses attach with a nice, secure fit.  When you want to take a photo, you just remove the little lens cap and start snapping photos!  Very, very easy system to use.  AND, your phone is protected in a nice silicone case.  Those little nubs give this case the texture of bubble wrap, so I’m confident that my phone would survive being dropped with this case.

As with most things in life, there are pros and cons.  The pros, for me at least, are these:

– The system incorporates a case.
— The case feels good and protects my phone.
— Altogether, lenses, case, and little silicone rectangles come to about $50, so it’s an inexpensive smartphone macro solution.  That’s just over half the price of the Olloclip, and about the same as the Photojojo if you buy the lenses that are included with this set.
— It would be very difficult to knock one of the lenses off while in use (not the case with the Photojojo lenses nor the Olloclip).
— The quality of the lens is comparable to the other two I’ve tried.  More on this in a moment.

But, there are problems with the system as well.  A couple of these are fairly major issues:

– My macro lens attachment doesn’t perfectly line up with the iPhone lens, which causes some shadowing in the corners of the images.  You’ll see what I mean here shortly.
— The little nubs on the case are hollow, which means that it can be a little difficult to get the lenses to slide over the nubs as opposed to flattening them.  You have to line them up well.
— While there’s a great little lens cap on the front of the lenses, the backs are completely exposed!  I carry my lenses in a case I made because they would get scratched horribly if they were floating around free in my bag, or even in the little drawstring bag they provide for storing all the bits and pieces.  Not ideal!

So how does the quality compare to the Olloclip and the Photojojo?  I took a photo of a fly (the soldier fly from Friday’s post) with all three lenses to compare.  Each photo was taken at night under the very bright light at my kitchen table, and here’s how they looked.  First, the Olloclip:

Olloclip

Olloclip

The depth of field is terrible, but it’s impossible to do anything about it with the iPhone.  The wing is quite crisp, however, and shows a good amount of detail.  The contrast is fairly high, so there’s a big difference between the color of the eye and the color of the thorax.  Overall, not bad for an indoor smartphone macro photo.

Then the Photojojo:

Photojojo

Photojojo

Again, the wing is fairly crisp and show good detail.  The contrast is a bit lower than with the Olloclip, but the glass in this lens is a lot cheaper than the Olloclip glass too.  I’ve noticed that my Photojojo lenses produce a consistently softer image than my Olloclip.

And finally, the SquidCam:

Squidcam

SquidCam

The wings are clear and crisp and the contrast is similar to the Olloclip.  However, I draw your attention to the dark shadow in the upper left corner in this shot.  That’s the vignetting I mentioned, the result of the misalignment of my iPhone’s lens and the SquidCam macro lens – and it’s a whole lot worse in the uncropped photo.  I can jam my finger into the lens and push it over enough to eliminate that shadow as I snap shots, but that’s a pain.  (I suspect that my particular case is at fault and this is not a widespread issue though – no one else I know who’s tried the SquidCam has had this problem.)  Notice also the thickness of the shadow at the bottom.  Remember, I took these under BRIGHT light.  iPhone photos only look good when taken in good light, so I wanted to maximize the potential to get a good shot indoors by setting my subject under the brightest light I have. That shadow is being thrown by the lens attachment on the back of the phone – the lens is coming between the light and the subject.  All of the lenses have the same problem to some extent.  Compare all three side-by-side:

side-by-side

Side-by-side comparison – click to enlarge in a new tab/window

Note, too, the size of these three products:

Lens collection

Lens collection – SquidCam, Photojojo, and Olloclip

Remember that you need to add the thickness of the case to the thickness of the SquidCam for the full effect.  The bigger and bulkier the lens, the bigger the shadow it casts into the frame.  The Photojojo lens is the most petite of the bunch and has only a small shadow creeping in at the bottom.  The Olloclip is a big, bulky thing and casts more of a shadow.  But the SquidCam has a big, dark shadow!  I think this is definitely something to consider as it will impact the quality of your photos in bright light conditions.  You want bright light when shooting with an iPhone, so this has the potential to become a big problem.

I was really excited about the SquidCam when I first heard about it.  The addition of the case is a huge selling point for me!  I love the case that comes with the SquidCam.  However, I think that the SquidCam system has some design issues.  Between the misalignment of the lenses with my iPhone’s lens (again, I think this is a problem with my particular case/lens combination) and the fact that it is so thick that it can potentially cast a shadow into the frame, I am not completely in love with this product.  It just isn’t as good as my other two options.  Still, it’s a fun product and I do love the case, so I’ll get a lot of use out of it.  Thanks for the new toy, Dad!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Friday 5: Biodiversity of a Windowsill

Yesterday I had a meeting where we were discussing citizen science ideas.  We brought up the Lost Ladybug Project to the woman we were meeting with and I assured her that even though it might not seem like she couldn’t do the project now, in January, that I had just that morning found a live ladybug outside my office.  A few minutes later, the woman spotted a ladybug crawling on the window behind me.  (If that didn’t reinforce my point, I’m not sure what would!)  I turned to the window to scoop the ladybug up and happened to notice something.  There was a huge, gorgeous, amazing (but dead) beetle in there!  After the woman left, I returned to the windowsill to retrieve the beetle.  It was spectacular!  But it wasn’t the only thing in there.  In fact, there were five different species of insects in there.  You all know what I do with 5 of any insect related things.  Friday 5!  Today, I bring you the dead insect biodiversity of that windowsill.

The Big, Beautiful Beetle That Prompted This Post

Sculptured pine borer

Sculptured pine borer

I have to say that even though it would have been more exciting to find this guy alive, this is one spectacular beetle!  This also had to be about the easiest beetle I’ve ever tried to ID online.  Found it in less than 30 seconds: the sculptured pine borer, Chalcophora virginiensis.  This beetle is about an inch long with a lot of great texture.  I’m going to make a block print of this one!  The texture is wonderful and it would make a fabulous graphic.

The Ladybugs

Multicolored Asian lady beetles

Multicolored Asian lady beetles

There are a lot of multicolored Asian ladybugs (Harmonia axyridis) in North Carolina.  As the name suggests, they come in a shocking array of different colors.  I believe all the ladybugs in this photo are the same species.  They’re pretty, but they’re not native to the US either.

Unknown Fly

Unknown fly

Unknown fly

I really don’t know my flies very well, but I thought this fly was rather elegant.  It was reasonably large, about a half-inch, and skinny.  A hover fly perhaps?  Any of the fly people out there want to help me out?  I’ve got a good, clear shot of the wing veination if you need it!

(Note: Thanks to Morgan Jackson for identifying this fly as a soldier fly in the family Stratiomyidae and the genus Ptecticus.  According to Morgan, it’s typically found around compost or decaying vegetation and leaf litter.  You’re the best Morgan!)

Headless Leafhopper

Headless leafhopper

Headless leafhopper

This was, surprisingly, the only insect that was missing its head before I removed it from the windowsill.  This one was a lovely pale green on the back, and quite a pretty little bug.  I never did find its head though.  Perhaps decapitation was the cause of death?

Stink Bug

Brown marmorated stink bug

Brown marmorated stink bug

Ah, the brown marmorated stink bug, Halyomorpha halys.  We hadn’t really gotten them in Arizona yet by the time I moved, but there sure are a lot of them here!  They come into buildings during the winter and I’ve seen several live ones over the last month or so.  This one looked like it had languished in the windowsill for some time though – dry and very crispy.  You’ll notice the head is detached in this photo.  That’s my fault – knocked it right off when I was setting it up for the photograph.  Grrr…  I hate it when I do things like that!  

Looking at that windowsill was more exciting than I’d expected it to be!  It prompted me to start looking in some of the other windowsills and the light fixture above my desk to see what I could find.  The latter was a goldmine!  Perhaps I’ll share those finds with you sometime too.  :)

Have a great weekend everyone!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth