A Running Crab Spider — Philodromus histrio

Running Crab Spider -- Philodromus histrio (Latreille, 1819) on Euphorbia bloom.

Running Crab Spider — Philodromus histrio (Latreille, 1819) on Euphorbia bloom.

Philodromus histrio is found worldwide across the northern hemisphere. In Sweden the name is Praktsnabblöpare, translating to “Magnificent Fast Runner”. The only site that carried some of the life-history of this spider is the Spider and Harvestman Recording Scheme website for Britain, which states that the following under the sub-heading Habitat and Ecology:

P. histrio usually occurs on heather in heathland, where the female encloses her egg-sac in silk and bits of dried heather. The spider, whose red-brown colour and whitish markings provide excellent camouflage against the background, may be found guarding her egg-sac. There is a most interesting variety found on saltmarsh in Essex (where the heathland form has not been recorded) in which the spider has the reddish-brown replaced by the bluish-green colour of Sea Purslane Atriplex portulacoides. Adults of both sexes occur mainly in May and June.

Dorsal view, showing the distinctive pattern on the abdomen

Dorsal view, showing the distinctive pattern on the abdomen.

Misumena vatia on Aster

Misumena vatia with first two pairs of legs equal length.

Philodromidae are not closely related to Thomisidae, although they both share similar hunting strategies, spinning webs only for drag-lines and to protect eggs. The simplest way to differentiate the Philodromidae from the true crab spiders in the family Thomisidae (such as Misumena vatia, the Goldenrod Crab Spider) is by taking a close look at the legs: as you can see clearly above, the second pair of legs in Philodromids are longer than the front pair.


Posted in Alberta, Arachnid, Araneae, Bugs, Canada, Edmonton, garden, Philodromidae, photography, Predator, Season, Spring Tagged , , , , |

Red Net-winged Beetle

 Dictyoptera simplicipes, the red net-winged beetle

Dictyoptera simplicipes  Mannerheim, 1843 — the red net-winged beetle.


Cropped. Click to enlarge.

We had a short visit to Jasper National Park earlier this week and came across this specimen of Red Net-winged Beetle, Dictyoptera simplicipes. It was sitting on a tree stump on a path near Athabasca Falls. It performed a few unsuccessful take-off attempts while on the white plate, which made for some interesting photos.

net-winged beetle

Grubby, but still handsome.

The genus Dictyoptera (not to be confused with the superorder Dictyoptera that includes the cockroaches and mantids) is one of the family Lycidae, in the superfamily Elateroidea that also contains fireflies, click and soldier beetles. I could find out no details about the life of this species, but in general, the family Lycidae have predacious larvae that live under bark and in leaf-litter, and the adults may be nectar feeders.

Posted in Alberta, Canada, Insect, Lycidae, macro, Season, Spring, White Studio Tagged , , , |

The Sting of the Honeybee

Worker bee, taking a break.

Internal lateral view, showing the seventh segment which hides segments 8 and 9 which form the sting.

Internal lateral view, showing the seventh segment which hides segments 8 and 9 which form the sting.

A worker bee, when threatened or when protecting the hive, may sting. All worker bees are females, and all have a stinger at the end of the abdomen. This stinger is a modified ovipositor (egg-laying organ), which has evolved to become a defense tool. Usually, workers will not lay eggs because ovary production is suppressed by pheromones released by the brood. However, if the queen dies or swarms, some of the remaining workers may develop ovaries, and the eggs, once laid, can develop into drones.[1]


blb - bulb of stylet Lct - lancet Ob - oblong plate Qd - quadrate plate Sh - sheath lobe Stl - stylet Tri - triangular plate

blb – bulb of stylet, Lct – lancet, Ob – oblong plate, Qd – quadrate plate, Sh – sheath lobe, Stl – stylet, Tri – triangular plate

A bee stinger

A bee stinger in human skin

The stinger (or lancet) is barbed, which serves to help penetrate the surface,  but also prevents easy withdrawal. Although the sting is usually left behind after stinging a person, that is not always the case in other victims because it depends on the texture of what it is being penetrated.  Queen bees do not leave the stinger behind because the barbs are smaller.

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Posted in Alberta, Apidae, Behaviour, Canada, Edmonton, Education, Hymenoptera, Insect, macro, photography, Season, Spring, Workshop Tagged , , , , , |

I spotted a ladybird beetle

Anatis mali (Say, 1825)

Anatis mali (Say, 1825)

I found this Eye-spotted Ladybug (Anatis mali) in the garden on 18 April this year. It is a widespread native of North America, but this is the first time I have seen it in the garden. It’s always nice to see a ladybug that isn’t the ubiquitous Seven-spotted or the common Two-spotted. I have misplaced my Ladybugs of Alberta book, so I am lacking information, but this one follows the general trend: they eat aphids in both the adult and larval form. As for a lot of ladybird beetles, they are highly reflective, and even with diffusion, it took some fiddling with flash angles to avoid burned-out highlights on the elytra.

Posted in Alberta, Canada, Coccinellidae, Coleoptera, Edmonton, Equipment, Flash, garden, Insect, macro, photography, Season, Spring Tagged , , |

Scenes from the hive

During the last workshop, we had a photo-session with bees at the hive. While it is not generally recommended that instructors take images for their own purposes during a workshop, the participants were all comfortable around their subjects and knew what they were looking for in photos, so between offering advice and checking their images, I managed to get a few shots of my own.

While planning  the workshop, I reviewed the work of bee photographers Stephen Dalton*, Eric Tourneret and Alex Wild. A couple of weeks before the workshop I contacted Alex and asked for advice, and he generously provided detailed notes on how to best work with the hive. I knew that with a subject like domesticated bees that basic shots of bees massed on the comb are very common, and what I wanted to find were details of behaviour, and, if possible, records of parasites and diseases. While the relatively short time I had to take photographs and the weather (windy and cool) not being ideal, I did manage a few interesting photos.

Worker bee emerging from cell

Worker bee (Apis mellifera) emerging from cell

My favourite is this shot of an emerging worker bee. She was noticed chewing her way out of a cell, so I quickly swapped lenses from the 100mm macro to the MP-E65mm and took a few shots. In a non-training situation, I would have photographed the complete emergence, but duty called.

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Posted in Alberta, Apidae, Behaviour, Canada, Canon, Edmonton, Equipment, Hymenoptera, Insect, Lenses, macro, MP-E65, photography, Season, Spring, Workshop Tagged , , , , |