Friday 5: It’s Good to Be An Entomologist in a Desert in Winter

I’ve recently acquired several new pieces of camera gear (nothing expensive or fancy like a lens, but several cheaper, fun gadgets), so I’ve been outside taking a lot of photos to try things out.  We’ve had several nights of freezing temperatures and several very chilly, rainy days in the last few weeks, so I thought the insects would be gone for the winter.  I planned to turn my camera toward the neighborhood plants instead, but I was completely wrong about the insects: there are still many species out! This is, I think, one of the best reasons to live in a desert.  It might be incredibly hot during the summer and I might have 2 months of relative misery as my evaporative cooler struggles to cool the house during the humid monsoon season, but the winters are simply amazing.  And active winter insects?  Well, that’s just icing on the cake!

Today I bring you 5 shots of insects I’ve taken in the last few weeks, things that are still out and about in my area.  I haven’t had time to identify most of these insects yet, so if you happen to know what any of these are, feel free to leave comments!

The Big Grasshopper

big grasshopper

I featured a photo of this giant grasshopper on Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday last week, but I wanted to include another shot.  This is a BIG grasshopper, a good 2.5 inches – definitely not the sort of thing I would expect to find munching on the plants in front of my house in late November.

Little Bug Nymph

true bug

I found this bug at a lovely park in my city last weekend.  I thought it was beautiful!  I did have a heck of a time trying to get a shot of it though as it sat still for maybe 3 seconds out of the 10 minutes I messed with it.  The photo above is about the best I could do!

Leafcutter Ants (I think!)

Leafcutter Ants

I took this shot with my iPhone with my new Photojojo macro lens attachment.  It’s definitely not the best ant photo of all time as most of the image is blurry, but I kinda like the way it turned out anyway.  It’s got a lovely dreamy quality to it and it gives a good sense of the motion of the ants and how they were hard at work hauling plant bits into their enormous nest.  I thought these were harvester ants until I looked at the photos and noticed the shape of the head and the spikes on the thorax.  Those things suggest leafcutter ant to me (maybe Acromyrmex versicolor considering the location?), but I’d love to get a second opinion from anyone who knows their ants.

Smallest Beetle I’ve Ever Seen

Tiny Beetle

I was photographing the interesting spines of a cactus last weekend when I caught movement out of the corner of my eye.  It was the beetle you see in the photo.  (See that little black speck near the middle of the photo? That’s it!)  This thing was incredibly tiny, by far the smallest beetle I’d ever seen at about half a millimeter.  Honestly, I can’t believe I even noticed it was there!  I didn’t get a really great shot of it, but my camera equipment isn’t quite up to the challenge of photographing something that small either.  I need to rectify this situation, which requires at least one more piece of camera equipment.  Oh darn, I’m going to have to buy something else with my birthday money.  :)

Honey Bee on Fairy Duster Flower

Honey Bee on Fairy Duster

I shot this very active honey bee in a heavily shaded area without my flash, so there’s a ton of noise in this photo, but… there were honey bees out pollinating!  On December 10th!  In a rather chilly, shady area!  I was so thrilled to see them that I took a whole bunch of super noisy photos of them.  I probably don’t need quite as many shots as I took, but it’s just hard drive space, right?

Other things I’ve seen out recently included a leafcutter bee, a sweat bee, a tarantula hawk, several other species of ants, another grasshopper species, a few moths, and a darkling beetle.  I couldn’t be more happy!  And, just to prove that it actually has been cold here, check out the mountains in this photo I took two days ago:

Snowy Mountains

Snow!  I’m thinking about heading up there this weekend to romp around in the white stuff.  Hope there’s some left!


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