With an unruly spring–further delayed by an eight-day trip to New York with She Who Must be Obeyed, my usual April launch into the ice-free wilds became a May day. Ignoring the unkempt garden for a while, I ventured out on the 4th of May to Halfmoon Lake Natural Area in search of macro opportunities. The first excursion of the year is usually a shake-down trip, full of great expectations and overburdened with the equipment I imagine I will need. With video and sound devices now becoming more important to my practice, and wanting to be prepared for anything I may meet on the trail from moose to mites, I feel somewhat like how a neophyte one-man band must feel when first venturing out onto the esplanade.
For this trip I was particularly on the lookout for the males of Habronattus americanus, the brightly colored jumping spiders that show themselves at this time of year. Walking down the path, with eyes scanning the sandy trail just ahead, I looked out for signs of the red flash that first drew my attention to the spider years ago. But besides ants and blue-bottle flies, nothing remotely spiderlike caught my attention. I did come across a loose colony of mining bees, flitting about the freshly mounded tunnels at the trail’s edge. It is mid-morning already, and I see few bees actually leaving the tunnels, but some still have a solitary bee sitting in the entrance, so I set up my video camera with an attached close-up lens and begin recording at a promising spot. While the video camera is whirring away, I move to a shady location to prepare my DSLR for macro.
I am using the Canon 6D with the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens, and it takes but a moment to mount a single Speedlite 270EX II onto the cord and bracket, and fix the diffuser to the lens hood and I am ready to go. I stay away from where the video camera is doing its thing and spend some time further down the path observing other tunnel entrances. I noticed a small wasp hovering near some of the holes, so I went down to my knees to take a closer look. With a right-angle viewfinder attached to the eyepiece of the camera, I can shoot at ground level, and I begin stalking my ‘prey’. After a few failed attempts, (and after removing the diffuser which may have been startling it) I finally manage to get the lens close enough to take a few shots. This wasp is new to me, and I wonder what it is up to. Unfortunately, it left the area soon after†, so I was unable to observe any other behavior or find any similar wasps along the path.
After submitting the images to BugGuide (Thanks to John Ascher for the ID.), I found out that it is not a wasp at all but a Nomad bee. Nomada sp. are also known as Cuckoo Bees because they are kleptoparasites that lay their eggs in the nests of other bees.
I did not find Habronattus americanus, or any mites nor moose either, nor did I manage pic’s of the flitting bees, or sound recordings of the birds and frogs (due to the growling of heavy duty equipment to the north ) and the video of tunnel entrances has yet to be examined…so not a great day for take-home results. However, it was great to get out into the pine woods again while taking stock of my readiness for future trips. Conclusion? Adrian’s Law vindicated: the more equipment you take, the less you will find.
† no doubt due to the observer effect, or Adrian’s second law of macro photography: the more you photograph insect behavior, the more likely the bugs will be embarrassed and want to hide.