A Trip to the University of Maine Gardens

Insects are getting harder to find, except those that bite us and get into our food supplies.

Silver-spotted Skipper

A walk through the gardens this morning did not reveal as many insects as I would have liked. Insects are just getting harder to find, except those that bite us and get into our food supplies. As for the rest, we are destroying their habitat and food sources with farming and pesticides use. Like them or not, they are a vital element to our biosphere. Evolution says so.

Meanwhile, temperatures and humidity are on the rise today, ushering in our first heat wave, beginning tomorrow. Europe and South Asia are baking as I write this. London is forecast to hit 104o F soon?!

You will find more of today’s photos with the first seven photos at my on-line gallery.

Insectorama (Season 4: World Dominion)

As I have previously noted, insects are in decline (except for those that bite and get into our food supplies). Few have the guts to splatter themselves on our windshields as we drive the highways during dusk hours.

Assassin Bug

Yes, dear readers, I know you have all been awaiting this season’s Insectorama, where I show off all those cute little bugs. If I have not said it before, nature photography is risky. Not only do I have to be careful about falling on rocky ledges or falling over cliffs, but I often confront dangerous wildlife. Take this Assassin Bug in the above photo, for example. Look at those saw-tooth arms, much like those of the praying mantis. I was lucky not to be on its hit list!

As I have previously noted, insects are in decline (except for those that bite and get into our food supplies). Few have the guts to splatter themselves on our windshields as we drive the highways during dusk hours. I can remember when it was so bad that we used the windshield washer/wipers to clear their remains so we could better see the road! But if you think, who needs that, just know that insects are fodder for reptiles, birds and bats. Insects are disappearing due to our use of pesticides and clearing of their habitats. People, especially those in the major industrialized nations, are doing just about everything possible to destroy the biosphere on which all life depends.

Do you have any interesting insect stories? If so, I would love to hear them. And if you you would like to see more of season 4, take a look at the first ten photos at my on-line gallery. More insects to come!

Insectorama: Season 3

I went out recently to Mill Brook Preserve looking for insects to photograph. Unfortunately, aside from biting bugs and other pests, insects are getting harder to find. I only found two, shown below. This is due in major part to climate change, though habitat loss and pesticide use are secondary factors. The sixth extinction includes the insect apocalypse. You don’t believe me? Read more here.

However, given that southern Maine has set a new record for the rainiest July, mushrooms abounded. You can find some cool photos at Mushroomarama.

Insects, you gotta love’em, kinda.

Introducing: The Cranefly

I found this fellow perched on the outside of my sliding glass door this

morning. I thought it was a male mosquito since they are much larger than their female counterparts (the ones that bite us). However, a search in Bug Finder revealed it to be the cranefly. You can read more about it on Insect Identification.

You gotta love those googly eyes!

Insectorama: Second Season

Falmouth Audubon: Google Earth photo

I went out to the Gilsland Farm (Falmouth Audubon), yesterday. It was a good bug photography day–overcast, light wind and about 75° F. As I walked along

many of the field and woods paths I wasn’t finding too much going on in the bug world. Perhaps that’s because we’re living during the insect apocalypse (see earlier posts).

Unexpectedly, I found more in the way of larger animals (and a former eagle’s nest). Unfortunately, these images aren’t super sharp as my camera was not set up for this type of

photography. However, given that I was rather close, you can see how these animals have come to see their environment as safe.

Oh, and one last thing for you peony lovers, the garden looks like it is about ten days away until full bloom.

Peonies not yet ready




Winter Moths on Peaks Island

The other night while driving to my friends’ on Peaks Island I saw thousands of winter moths in my headlights. When I returned home there were dozens on the outside wall by my lighted front door. I told my friends about this who said that southern Maine is loaded with these pests that became established in the area around 2012.

A little research on my part found that they are native to Europe and the Near East; they were inadvertently introduced into Canada in the 1930s. They have no predators in North America and are now established in New England and the Pacific Northwest.

They are highly destructive of deciduous trees, as they eat the leaves during the caterpillar stage of their life cycle. The tree will die if it is infested with this caterpillar for several years in a row.

Remedies to limit these moths have included spraying plants in the spring before the ambient temperature reaches 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and tying sticky strips around tree trunks so the wingless female cannot climb up to lay her eggs in the tree’s crown. However, a more effective strategy is to release its natural predator, a wasp (Agrypon flaveolatum) and a fly (Cyzenis albicans). The latter has worked particularly well recently in Massachusetts, but not so well in the Portland, Maine area where there have been at least two major fly releases, as reported in the Bangor News and by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry.

The infestation of winter moths does not seem to be related to climate change, but rather global shipping and travel. You can read more about this pest in a Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry document.

The Great Black Wasp

Black Wasp

Living underground, the iridescent Great Black Wasp pollinates flowers while feeding itself, and removes plant pests while feeding its young making it a great friend to gardens and fields. They keep the grasshopper and cricket

Unidentified Grasshopper

populations under control. This rather unaware grasshopper on the right is feeding in the same bush as the wasps.

You can see my complete collection to date at Insectorama.

Is There a God?

Praying Mantis

Apparently the Praying Mantis thinks so. Or maybe it’s poised to grab an insect (or Humming Bird). Whatever the reason we found one near my sister’s family home in Connecticut. The various Mantis’ are humanity’s friends since

Praying Mantis

they eat many of those insects that eat our crops. Load your garden up with them. They are members of the cricket/grasshopper family. You can read more about our Mantis friends at It’s Nature.

The “Deadly” Scorpionfly

Well, it looks dangerous, but it isn’t. It only looks a bit like a scorpion. I found this guy in the reeds along side the Oatka Creek. Found in the eastern U.S., the “stinger” is the male’s copulatory organ. They feed on dead insects. You can see more of what I’ve photographed at Insectorama. More insects to come!

Emerging Insects

Recall two of my recent posts, The Bugs Are Coming, where I discussed the bugs that are bad for us, and Where Have All the Insects Gone?  . . . , where I reported that many of the good insects are disappearing. Well, things are starting to gear up with the bugs now emerging. It has been a bit of a late start given the lower than average temperatures we have been experiencing here in the northeast.

Margined (Burying) Carrion Beetle

The first and third photos were taken in Connecticut in April. I found the Carrion Beetle on a driveway.  It is found mostly in farm and other rural areas. The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species) categorizes this species as critically endangered, likely due to the use of pesticides, and land “development,” among other factors.

My next subject is the Ebony Jewelwing. I will leave you to guess why it is so

Ebony Jewelwing

named. This species is categorized by the IUCN as of least concern, due to its stable population.  It is found mostly along lakes and streams. I photographed several of these back in 2011 in western New York and present one here since the photo quality is excellent.

Chocolate Dun

The Chocolate Dun is a Mayfly usually found in the pools of fast running streams and rivers with clear rocky bottoms. However, this one was on a window of a glassed in porch. They are not listed in the IUCN data. Fisherman refer to the adults as spinners. You just have to love the googly eyes of these winged insects. “All the better to see you with.”

I photographed the Jewelwing in strong sunlight using a Canon 60D with a Canon 100-400mm lens @ 390mm and exposed at ISO 500, f/11 @ 1250/sec. The current and future insect photos will be shot using a Canon 7D II with a 15-85mm Canon lens at 85mm. A ring flash attached to the lens will allow manual exposures @ ISO 100, ~ f/11 @ 125/sec., enabling me at get sharp images with relatively good depth of field on the insects.


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