Readers’ wildlife photos

Okay, I’m running dangerously low, so send in your photos. Today we’re featuring more insect photos from reader Mark Sturtevant, whose comments are indented:

This set of pictures marks an important milestone for me, since these are from my first outing last summer where I began to use my newly bought Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro lens. I had never even touched a macro lens before, and it took me a while to figure out how to use it. But it has made my hobby a fair bit easier, and now this amazing lens rarely leaves my camera.

First we have a female Eastern pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis).  This is the same dragonfly I used in a Spot the dragonfly posting several months ago.


The next two pictures feature a small colony of aphids (Chaitophorus populicola) being guarded by a squad of anxious carpenter ants (likely Camponotus pennsylvanicus). As soon as they detected me, the ants began to run up and down the plant, flicking their abdomens. I suppose this was to spray out an alarm pheromone. It was rather entertaining to watch through my camera viewfinder, hitting the shutter the instant an ant would race by in its flashing chitin armor.



The next three pictures are of tiger moths that are found in the forest undergrowth. It turns out that this genus is rather complex, with several species of similar-looking moths, with many species being highly variable. I think what we have here is but one species, the Lecontes’ haploa moth (Haploa lecontei).




Next, I had a pretty cool find on my first day out with my new lens. I spotted a large bee-like robber fly (Laphria grossa) several feet away, and it was clearly feeding on something large. I carefully crept up, and was thrilled to see it had a honey bee [Apis mellifera].


In the last picture, you can see a rather special talent of these flies. They often swivel their heads up and down and from side to side, checking out their surroundings. In this picture it is as if the killer fly is saying “You’re next!”



  1. Stephen Barnard
    Posted December 5, 2016 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Very nice photos. I have the same lens and I like it a lot — very sharp.

  2. rickflick
    Posted December 5, 2016 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Very nice shots. Interesting how the moths’ patterns, while very different, show a common structure – a white area following the outer triangle, bleeding inward.

  3. Les
    Posted December 5, 2016 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    The ants “milk” the aphids for the nutritious liquid. The ants protect the aphids against insect attack.

  4. Posted December 5, 2016 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    OMG, do I see Jesus on the cross on the back of that moth in the second picture?

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted December 5, 2016 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      Holy Cow! I sure do, in both photos. The wonders of nature reflecting the Glory of G*d. These should be be called Crucifixion moths.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted December 5, 2016 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

      Now I can’t unsee it. Gaaaa!

  5. Posted December 5, 2016 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Beautiful photos! I used to own a 100 f/2.8 macro; but it became clear to me that macro was not “my thing” and I ended up selling that (very sharp) lens.

    I now have a couple of extension tubes if I really want to get close; but mainly I use my 70-200 f/2.8 (equiv.) lens for close-ups, as it does near-macro and is so sharp that cropping is practical.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted December 5, 2016 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      I hear good things about that lens. It is regarded as one of the great ones. Heavy, though.

      • Posted December 5, 2016 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

        Mine is (now) part of my micro 4/3 rig: Olympus e-M-10 Mk. II body, and Lumix 35-100 f/2.8 lens, which is amazing. Incredibly sharp.

        A couple of examples:

        (Box Elder Bug)
        (Woolly Bear)

        (These are rather dumbed-down for web posting, the originals are sharper.)

  6. Mobius
    Posted December 5, 2016 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Once, many years ago, I saw a robber fly swoop down and grab a honeybee in midair. The fly then flopped onto the ground on its back. In a couple of seconds it drained the bee, the bee’s body deflating.

    Gross, but also somewhat fascinating.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted December 5, 2016 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      Wow! I’d love to see that!

      • rickflick
        Posted December 5, 2016 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

        Here’s a short film showing robber flies consuming various creatures.

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted December 5, 2016 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

          Thank you. Fascinating video, droll commentary. And throughout the video one can really see the head swiveling actions that Mark S. speaks about in the post.

          • Mark Sturtevant
            Posted December 5, 2016 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

            I wonder how they do it, since their necks are so skinny. I suspect hydraulics rather than muscle.

  7. Heather Hastie
    Posted December 5, 2016 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Wow Mark! Great pics!

    That last one reminds me of a dog with a bone, growling to warn others not to try and take it away.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted December 5, 2016 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      When I saw it thru the viewfinder turning its head to seemingly look at me, I let out a little yell.

      • Claudia Baker
        Posted December 5, 2016 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

        haha – I would have too!

  8. Bruce Lyon
    Posted December 5, 2016 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely spectacular photos. Thanks!

  9. Posted December 5, 2016 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Very nice photos. I use that lens as well. It is a great lens for macro work.

  10. ratabago
    Posted December 5, 2016 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Lovely shots of the robber fly.

    I’ll add my vote for the F2.8 100mmL. Mine rarely comes off my camera. It’s good for portraiture too. Easy to get sharp detail in the face, but compress and defocus the background into pleasing bokeh. Only downsides are that the relatively long focal length puts the subject and photographer at a greater than usual distance, which may break intimacy, and some sitters get distressed at how well the lens captures every wrinkle.

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