Wasp Nest Squatter

I was forced to destroy the wasp nest that had been growing on our garage door frame, as it was becoming a danger to us when we entered or left the garage. The morning after my dastardly night foray, I took a look at the remnants of the nest. While spraying had damaged the outer covering, the internal combs were undamaged, so I gently scraped it away from the frame and took it inside for a closer look. Surprisingly, while all the adults were killed, many of the young larvae, in a variety of stages, survived. And not just the larvae. When I pulled away the remnants of the paper maché shell, a movement caught my eye, and I was surprised to find a small pseudoscorpion scurrying about the inner surface.


Besides having rather effective-looking claws, each of which contain a venom gland in the moveable ‘finger’, …


..they have a formidable set of mouthparts, which also have silk glands for making cocoons for when they need protection when molting or during the cold season.

Glad this pseudoscorpion is only 2mm long.

Venomous claws and barbed, piercing mouthparts make this a formidable predator…

…thankfully, with a body length of only 2 mm, we have nothing to fear from this tiny arachnid.

How did it get into the nest? Most likely it was an opportunist, latching on a foraging wasp with a claw and getting a free ride (known as ‘phoresy) to the nest.

For more on these tiny terrors, head to Expiscor and read Ten facts about Pseudoscorpions.

(27 July, 2014. Canon 5D Mk II with Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo Lens and diffused Canon MT-24EX Twin Lite Flash. Top photo, ISO 200, 1/125 sec. @ f11, two middle white background photos @f9 and last photo with mm scale: f13.)

Posted in Accessories, Alberta, Arachnid, arthropods, Bugs, Camera, Canada, Edmonton, Equipment, Flash, Hymenoptera, macro, MP-E65, Phoresy, photography, Season, Summer, Vespidae, White Studio Tagged , , , |

One for the 0.1%

Chloealtis conspersa

Most likely Chloealtis conspersa , the Cow Grasshopper.

Found this dapper hopper at the Halfmoon Lake Natural Area on June 12 this year.  Says our local Orthopterid expert, Dan Johnson, in a Facebook interaction:

“If I am correct judging from the photo, it is a good find, Chloealtis conspersa (Acrididae, Gomphocerinae), or Cow Grasshopper, yes a 5th and probably a female. Some people call it Sprinkled Locust or Sprinkled Grasshopper, especially when it is spotted like this one (some are uniformly grey or tan, and some are two-tone in solid sections). It is a slant-faced grasshopper that has short, rough tegmina (hind wings) in the adult, and hangs around moist habitat, often near wetlands or trees. I have found these around Cold Lake, Bonnyville, Buck Lake, Swan Hills, Jasper, Banff, Yoho, Westlock, down the Rockies into the USA (MT, ID, CO, etc.) and even Cypress Hills. In SK, I found them near Prince Albert and many other sites, even Kyle, and Great Sand Hills, but they are never common, usually much less than 0.1%. Chloealtis conspersa and Chloealtis abdominalis have a range of variation and look alike until the adult.”

…and they prefer to eat bluegrass.

(Just love it when an ID source gives so much background information, I hardly have to write a blog post at all! :) )

12 June, 2014. Canon T2i with Tamron Telephoto SP AF 180mm f/3.5 Di LD IF Macro Autofocus Lens and diffused  Canon Speedlite 270EX II. ISO 400, 1/200 sec. @ f14



Posted in Acrididae, Alberta, Bugs, Camera, Canada, Equipment, Flash, Insect, Lenses, macro, Orthoptera, photography, Season, Spring Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

Photography Workshop Update

Alberta Summer Photography Workshops 2014

Click the links for more details!

5 August. Ellis Bird Farm: Introduction to Photography with the Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera (DSLR)

19 August. Ellis Bird Farm:  Close-up and Macro Photography with the DSLR

9 September. MacEwan University, Open Studies Program Intro to Close-up and Macro Photography (3 Tues., 6:30-9 p.m. and 1 Sat, Sep 20, 10 a.m.-5p.m.) .

Note that  Small Group Macro Workshops and Private Coaching will occur on a bespoke basis only until 30 September when new workshops will be scheduled. If you are interested, contact me and I will schedule your sessions.

Posted in Alberta, Canada, Education, Equipment, macro, photography, Season, Summer, Technique, Workshop Tagged , , , , , , , |

Yellowjacket with prey

I had the chance to photograph the goings-on at a convenient wasp nest that is developing on the garage-door frame at our home. Because of its situation, I can take photographs fairly safely by opening the garage door, and standing in the shady interior, out of the flight-path of the wasps. By using the door frame as a background, I was able to do a  few ‘white studio’ shots of wasps as they flew back to the nest.

Common yellowjacket, Dolichovespula arenaria

Common yellowjacket, Dolichovespula arenaria

Seeing these workers returning home with prey items, already pre-processed into a conveniently sized meatball ready for feeding to the larva, made me wonder if anyone had used this fact as the basis for a bio-surveillance study, much as Cercus fumipennis is used to survey Buprestids. I would guess that the ‘meatballs’ themselves would need to be identified through DNA testing, as they are mostly unrecognizable in that pre-chewed condition.

Posted in Alberta, Bugs, Canada, Edmonton, garden, Hymenoptera, Insect, photography, Predator, Summer, Vespidae, White Studio Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Big Bumble

I am in the process of  tweeking a macro photography presentation for tomorrows workshop at the Ellis Bird Farm, when I came across this pic. Photographed in the front garden, this Bombus nevadensis queen is visiting the flowers of blue indigo (Baptisia australis), a favorite of the many smaller leaf-cutter bees we have had in the garden this year. The E.H. Strickland Entomological Collection page has a great description on the life history of this bee, authored by L. Vandervalk (2011) and based on D.V. Alford’s book, Bumblebees (1975):

Once a suitable nest has been found, the queen constructs an apple sized hollow structure within it. The queen deposits her eggs in parallel rows within a mound of pollen on the floor of the structure; she also constructs a honeypot for storing nectar. Newly hatched larvae begin consuming the pollen mound, requiring the queen to continue provisioning it. The queen periodically incubates her brood by sitting upon it and respiring to generate body heat. The larvae spin cocoons in the final instars, as do the pupa; the cocoons may be re-used later for storage of pollen or nectar. Upon pupation, the emerged adults take nectar from the honey pot. Once the nest consists of the new young workers and the queen it can be considered a social unit and is referred to as a colony.

Yes, this queen incubates the young! Read the complete description at the species page.

Thanks to Gary Anweiler for the ID!

(3 July, 2014. Canon T2i with Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens with a single diffused Canon Speedlite 270EX II. ISO 200, 1/100 sec. @ f11.)

Posted in Alberta, Apidae, Apinae, Camera, Canada, Canon, Equipment, Flash, garden, Hymenoptera, Insect, Lenses, macro, Pollination, Season, Summer Tagged , , , , , , , |

Cladonia Lichen

Cladonia sp.

Cladonia sp.

 In the process of looking for bugs, I often come across other delightful little subjects. In this case, I caught a glimpse of  little points of red scattered over the forest floor, and a closer look revealed they were the little red caps of  gnomes lichen. (This small divot had been dislodged, most likely by running deer, so I snugged it up against a dead pine branch to take some photo’s). Cladonia sp. are found in circumpolar regions of the northern hemisphere. This photo was taken in the Halfmoon Lake Natural Area north of Edmonton, where the jack pine forest has large patches of the lichen growing. Lichens are an organism composed of a fungi partnering with algae, the fungal filaments providing the ‘body’ while intertwined algal elements produce food through photosynthesis. This combination, plus the ability to recover from dehydration, allows lichens to grow in very inhospitable habitats. The above photo is probably C. bellidiflora – showing the pale green squamulose (covered with scales) thallus with podetia topped with red apothecia, the fungal reproductive structure.

Sources: Lichens: Life History & Ecology. Thanks To Dr. Charles Bird for the ID.

June 2014.


Posted in Alberta, Canada, Ecosystem, Lichen, macro, photography, Season, Selective focus, Spring Tagged , , , , , , , , |