Steve Maxson’s Photos

Guess what? After I shared my aquatic insect photo setup on Monday, the wonderful photographer I learned it from, Steve Maxson, got in touch with me and said I could share a few of his photos with you! So, I wanted to give you a sample of the images that inspired me to start photographing aquatic insects the way I described in my post on Monday. I think you’ll be impressed, as I am!

First, a giant water bug, genus Lethocerus:

giant water bug with mites

Giant water bug, Lethocerus sp., with mites

All those little red blobby things on the bug are mites, sucking away at its blood. (Aside: for whatever reason, I see tons of mites on Lethocerus and very few on the back brooding giant water bugs, Abedus and Belostoma. Wonder why…) The mites are always kinda gross, but I can’t help but be fascinated by them. Mites. They’re pretty cool little arachnids! And did you know that Lethocerus have eyelashes? Okay, they’re not like our eyelashes, but there is a dense fringe of hair behind their eyes that certainly looks like eyelashes. You can see it in the photo!

Next up is a photo of a predaceous diving beetle larva breathing at the surface:

predaceous diving beetle at surface

Predaceous diving beetle breathing at the surface, Dytiscus sp.

I think that is a fantastic photo showing a really cool larva doing a neat behavior. I love this shot! And here’s an adult predaceous diving beetle, doing essentially the same thing, without the really long tail:

Predaceous diving beetle

Predaceous diving beetle (Acilius sp., I think)

Predaceous diving beetles are beautiful, unbelievably graceful insects. I mean, look at that beetle! She’s amazing, and I think Steve captured her beauty wonderfully.

And last but not least, here’s a water boatman:

Water boatman

Water boatman

According to Steve, this image is a focus-stacked composite of 19 shots, done in Zerene Stacker. Super cool! You can see the little scoop-shaped front legs, the long, oar-like hind legs, and the air bubble that helps it breathe really well in this shot. These bugs always remind me of T. rex: itty, bitty front legs! But those legs are good at what they do too, scooping up algae and holding it near their mouthparts so they can eat. Unlike most other aquatic true bugs, there guys are vegetarians.

Steve also sent a photo of his aquatic insect photo studio setup, in case any of you are interested in seeing how his differs from mine:

Steve Maxson's aquatic insect photo setup

Steve Maxson’s aquatic insect photo setup

He uses a bigger aquarium than I do (2.5 gallon), so he uses a piece of Plexiglass to keep the bugs close to the front of the aquarium. You can see that sticking out of the top. Also, Steve likes to have natural vegetation in his shots, so you can see the plants in the aquarium. I rarely use plants myself, but I have to admit that, looking at these shots again, they do add to the ambiance of the images quite nicely. Might need to reconsider my “no clutter” stance! Finally, you’ll notice that this is located in a garage or workroom and isn’t sitting on the dining table like it is at my house. I’ll bet my husband wished I didn’t take everything indoors! It would certainly cut down on the number of times I find escapees, like the one I shared yesterday. :)

So those are a few shots by Steve Maxson, the inspiration behind my current aquatic insect photography practices! If you’d like to see more of his photos, and I highly encourage you to do so, he’s got a whole gallery of aquatic insects that you can view on You’ll have to make a Bird Photographers account to view them, but I think it’s worth it. Lots of other great aquatic insects to see!

Thanks, Steve, for letting me share some of your photos. I really appreciate it!

Update: Steve’s wife tells me that his tank is actually in their basement and they do occasionally find loose aquatic insects flying around their house. Guess I’m not the only one with this problem! :)


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

16 thoughts on “Steve Maxson’s Photos

  1. I used a photo cuvette made from plexiglass because it was small and transportable (It had to stay behind in Germany anyway) the bugs tended to ‘hug the corners’ which wasn’t so appealing, so I often used a minimum of plants to block those areas. I just had 5 freshly hatched mud daubers escape in the bed room. My husband saw them, left and returned with a glass and a post card – my usual bug catching set. He’s well trained and patient. The wasps will star in the next blog

  2. Nice photos! Its good to see another set up too. I wish we had giant water bugs over this side of the big pond, I just have to make do with water scorpions.

  3. I think adding some plants would be nice. Looking at the Steve’s photos, I wondered how he got such clear photos until I read further and found out why. It looks good plus it gives the subjects something to attach to so they’re more likely to remain still for you.
    The mites in the top photo – are you sure they’re mites? You’re the entomologist after all but they look suspiciously smooth and featureless though I’ve never seen photos of mites attached to aquatic insects before. If you look at one of the ‘mites’ toward the back, it looks a lot like an opened empty egg case. Is it possible that they’re eggs laid on its back like I’ve seen on different caterpillars? I’d love to hear what you think!

    Got a chuckle out of the loose damselfly in your house. I think it would add a nice ambience to the home though it means you’d also have to let a few prey insects loose so the damselfly wouldn’t go hungry. Which means it might be a good idea to bring in a few geckos to keep excess insects down. Sounds good to me!

    • You know, you may be right! I honestly didn’t look that closely an just saw things that were the right color and approximately the right shape in the right place and assumed mites. Now that I’m looking more closely I’m seeing what you’re seeing and they do definitely look like eggs. Will need to look into that more to try to figure out what those are exactly, but thanks for pointing it out!

      • So I looked into it and I am now back in the mite corner. Apparently aquatic mites have two sort of “pupal” stages where they sit around inside the last shed exoskeleton for a while, developing new body parts and such. Normally they drop off the host before then, but sometimes they don’t. I think that’s what you’re seeing in the photo, that sort of “pupal” stage. Thanks for asking the question! Now I know a lot more about aquatic mites than I did before!

        • Thanks for checking! With the info you provided, I looked up aquatic mites and spent an enjoyable couple of hours reading more about them and viewing quite a few photos of them as adults, larvae and deutonymphs. Really fascinating stuff and lots of interesting facts! I can better understand how they can live on aquatic hosts after reading how they can survive at very low oxygen concentrations by absorbing oxygen through their body surface directly from the water. How easily accessible knowledge is now is why I love the internet!

          • I know, right? Who knew you could learn all about aquatic mites with a few clicks of a mouse? While I do fully admit that I can get sucked into reading about totally useless things and the internet can be a total mindsuck of a time waster, I love how easily I can look things up now. It’s pretty darned great for those of us who like to learn new things!

  4. Super cool! Thanks for sharing. I especially like the Dytiscus larvae and the Corixid. Do you know why the Dytiscid larvae have so many “spots” on their eyes? I always wondered when I look at them under the scope. They are one of my favorites!

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