Subtle Lacewing

Green Lacewing (Chrysopa sp.)

Green Lacewing (Chrysopa sp.)

I have often appreciated the work of photographers in the tropics when they post images of well-camouflaged bugs, almost invisible against the surface they are resting on. So this year I have paid special attention to tree-trunks and other moss or lichen covered surfaces to see if I could find any Albertan examples of this. I know there are some moths that do this well, but so far I have only come across this lacewing, not camouflaged exactly, but with its slim body and transparent netted wings, difficult to see on the mottled grey-green trunk of a trembling aspen.

Much more visible in profile view

Much more visible in profile view

(Photographed May 9, 2015 in the river valley, Edmonton.)

Posted in Alberta, Bugs, Canada, Chrysopidae, Edmonton, Insect, macro, Neuroptera, photography, Season, Spring Tagged , , , |

Playing in the Sand


Prairie crocus (Pulsatilla patens (L.) Mill.) still blooming in the sunny areas of the forest.

I took a day-trip to the Halfmoon Lake Natural Area last week, a lovely bright sky day without too much heat. The early and coolest part of the walk was not great for bug photography, but the walk back was more productive. Among the pine trees, a south-facing and sunlit section of the path was showing signs of activity: tiny patches of freshly excavated sand below holes in the path edge.


Blowout Tiger Beetle (Cicindela lengi versuta (Casey)) up on his tippy toes.

Usually, I photograph ground-level bugs while on my knees, bringing the camera down to earth and using a right-angle viewfinder to see the action. But I lost the viewfinder on a earlier trip ($$ ka-ching!) and now had to resort sprawling across the path, lying on my belly in the sand. Not that this is uncomfortable (I have some built-in cushioning available, and the sand helps…) , but the thought of a horse-rider and/or an ATV pilot storming through while I’m concentrating on photographing the wee beasties did pass through my mind.


Pompilid wasp clearing the nest entrance.

I started the video camera on one pompilid wasp that was digging a burrow, then set off to see what I could find.


Cellophane bee.

_MG_7666Only two paces away was another cellophane bee at work, and as I lay down to photograph it, I noticed another pompilid wasp active at a burrow just to the right of it! A tip to photographing any burrowing bug is to approach while they are hidden in the tunnel and try to remain motionless when they are visible and approach only when their eyes are hidden. Too much disturbance and they may abandon the dig, and that means even re-arranging items near the nest entrance can cause the wasp to be unable to find the opening again.

 Out of order

Out of order


For the first time, I had the opportunity to photograph a sphecid pulling a spider into the burrow. That was pretty cool, except I managed to muff it. I was in place photographing one when another dragged a spider to a hole close to me. I had little time to respond, so I have four out-of -focus images of the spider being dragged in. (I do believe the word “drat!’ passed my lips…I have added those four images to the end of this video I have uploaded to YouTube, where they are unlikely to be noticed. :) ) Although I was in the area for over an hour, and there was a few pompilid’s active, that was the only spider-hauling wasp that I came across. However, I did find this poor fellow (right), anesthetized and awaiting its doom.

Posted in Alberta, Arachnid, Bugs, Canada, Cicindelidae, close-up, Coleoptera, Crappy, Hymenoptera, Insect, photography, Pompilidae, Season, Selective focus, Spring, Technique Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Loneliness of the Long Distance Springtail…


A lonely collembolan…


Hard crop, 5% of full image.

Early one May morning, (while cloudy was the weather?) on the path that leads through the forest above the Jan Janzen Nature Centre, I came upon a tree. Not unusual in the forest, except that this tree, a birch, had a small cluster of tiny bugs just above eye-level on the trunk. “How tiny?”, you may ask? Small enough that, photographed life-size on a 22 mm wide sensor this critter’s body was only taking up 1.8mm of space. As I leaned in to photograph them they scattered, and by the time I found one visible in the viewfinder, this was the sole remaining specimen.

I guessed that they were springtails, but it is not common (for me) to find them in such an exposed position, on what would be to them a field of white. It was only when I got home and enlarged it on the screen that I could see that it was indeed a springtail, and a quick Facebook message to Dan Johnson quickly ID’d it (from his phone) as Entomobrya, a genus of the family Entomobryidae. Unlike most other springtails that like moist locations, the scale-less Entomobrya are more likely to be found in shrubs and trees.

Cute li’l fellow.

Posted in Alberta, Bugs, Canada, Collembola, Edmonton, Fun, macro, photography, Season, Spring Tagged |

Pterostichus with prey.

This ground beetle was startled when I first leaned in to photograph it, but did not let go of its prey when it scurried off! Both the larvae and the adults in this genus are predacious, and they overwinter as adults.


Most likely Pterostichus adstrictus.



More info at the Strickland. Thanks to Jim Broatch for the ID.

(Photographed on 16 April, 2016, in the Opal Natural Area, Alberta)


Posted in Alberta, Bugs, Canada, Carabidae, Coleoptera, Habitat, Insect, Lepidoptera, macro, Opal Natural Area, photography, Predator, Season, Spring Tagged , , , , |

Linkfest – A World Guide to Macro Photography


Stay low when approaching and get to your subjects level.

Stay low when approaching your subject and get down to their eye level.

Some of the best macro photographers in the world take the time to share their equipment choices and the techniques they use. I’ve attempted to gather some of these informational posts in the links below. The categories are imprecise, many articles share both equipment and techniques information.  I have only used English-language blogs and websites in this selection, however, there are many websites that provide great advice in a variety of other languages. Of course, my selection is not complete (apologies to those I may have missed) and very bug-centered: if you know of other excellent macro photographers, in any genre, who share their techniques and equipment online (in any language), please provide a link to those pages in the comments.



Nicky Bay Macro Photography Ethics.


Equipment and Accessories

Matt Cole Macro Flash Diffusion

Paul Harcourt Davies Macro Basics and Lenses for Macro

Hock Ping Guek  My Macro Rig – Then and Now

Nicky Bay My Current Macro Setup

John Hallman Equipment Album (includes focus stacking set-ups)

Sean McCann Cheapskate Tuesdays: the Monster Macro Rig and the Cheapskate Flash Diffuser Mark II

Alex Wild Tools of the insect photography trade.



Paul Bertner Photography: Tips, tricks and techniques

Matt Cole Insect Macro Photography Hints and Tips

John Kimbler Macro Technique

Ted MacRae Approaching the Unapproachable: Tips and Tricks for Field Photography of Wary Insects (Slideshow)

Piotr Naskrecki Photo techniques (and equipment)

Thomas Shahan Methods in Macro Photography (Video)

Alex Wild Photo Technique.


Focus Stacking

Johan J Ingles-Le Nobel Extreme Macro.


If you there is any links I have missed, please add to the comments below.

Posted in Accessories, Blog Link, Blog Roundup, Equipment, Ethics, Fun, Inspiration, invertebrates, Links, macro, photography, Technique, Web LInk, Website Tagged , , , , |

Cellophane Bees


Pausing at the entrance before take off.

Bees in family Colletidae are called plasterer or polyester bees, and within that group, bees of the genus Colletes are known as ‘cellophane’ bees. They are solitary bees that nest in colonies (aggregations), and they are often first noticed on warm sunny days in spring when the emergence of male bees that fly just inches above ground level. The males are searching for female bees as they dig their way out of the soil.

When females emerge it can sometimes result with her being mobbed by several males, creating a buzzing cluster of chaos.

Colletes inaequalis, Cellophane bee  at tunnel entrance.

Colletes inaequalis, Cellophane bee at a tunnel entrance.


Mating Cellophane bees

After mating, female Colletes sp. dig tunnels with small pockets (brood cells) that extend from the sides. Each cell is first lined with a ‘cellophane’ material, which is produced by the bee’s Dufour glands and applied with her short brush-like tongue (glossa) to the walls of the cell. This seals the outside of the cell wall and allows the bee to fill the lower portion with nectar, pollen, and some glandular material. She then lays a single egg above the food and seals the cell with the same cellophane material plus some soil for a cap. She then will go on to dig another cell to repeat the process. When the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the stored food and then pupate in the fall, to overwinter as adults in the natal cells.


Nesting area near the path (Video frame capture)

Nesting area near the path (Video frame capture)


Newly ejected sand along the path edge indicates where tunneling has taken place.

Colletes inaequalis, female. USGS image by Sam Droege.

Colletes inaequalis, female. USGS image by Sam Droege.

(Photographed on 16 April, 2016, in the Opal Natural Area, Alberta)



– Ecology, Behavior, Pheromones, Parasites and Management of the Sympatric Vernal Bees Colletes inaequalis, C. thoracicus and C. validus. S. W. T. Batra. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society Vol. 53, No. 3 (Jul., 1980), pp. 509-538.

– Polyester bees: Born in a plastic bag by Patterson Clark. Washington Post, 15 March, 2011.

– Unequal Cellophane Bee, Colletes inaequalis by Heather Holm. Restoring the Landscape with Native Plants, 22 May 2014.

– USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab–Flikr Photostream.

Posted in Alberta, Canada, Colletidae, Hymenoptera, in copula, Insect, macro, Mating, Opal Natural Area, photography, Season, Spring, Video Tagged , , , , , , |