So you think you’re a naturalist

No matter the specialty or the genre, nature photographers are observers. We look and we see. Really see. Curiosity drives me and I’m afraid it makes me a rather indiscriminate one. Whether it’s exploring a whole new state, or my own yard, I can always find something interesting to put in front of my lens. Well, interesting to me anyway. Take this for example –

I call it the Wee Crud Monster. And it is. It is.

Well only if you’re an aphid or something.

It was on my deck railing and is ¼ inch long or maybe a bit less. I was trying to photograph some energetic jumping spiders when I noticed it moving deliberately; not being blown by the breeze. Because it just looks like a ball of crud I didn’t pay too much attention, but it moved again and it had me.

My 45mm macro is a true macro lens for m43 and so I could get right up on it and darn did I get a few good images. Basically this tiny thing picks up bits of debris and somehow glues them to itself to form a disguise. Further research proved it is a lacewing larva. Wingless and thus camouflaged until it finally morphs, it spends its days hunting and devouring anything smaller than it. With those pincers I don’t doubt it’s a pretty scary beast if you’re an aphid or a springtail. The larvae are sold in the garden industry as an organic approach to pest control. The adults are pollinators.

Between bouts of activity it stood quite still and so I could get these images. All handheld while resting the camera and lens hood directly on the deck railing. The only other insects I know of that do this are caddis fly larvae – I see them in the shallow water by the dock just ambling along with all this stuff stuck to them.

Nature amazes me almost every day and I learn so much; almost every time I pick up the camera. So yeah, I’m a naturalist.

9 thoughts on “So you think you’re a naturalist

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  1. Those are fantastic images — and new info for me. I knew about caddis fly larva doing such things — and my first thought was, “How the heck did a caddis fly larva get up on a railing?” I never knew about lacewings doing it. SO interesting!

      1. Well that’s … disturbingly cool. Not sure if there were corpses heaped on there, but yeah, it was a decent collection of random stuff. Could be different types collect different things. Fascinating that they make it by the ant overlords.

  2. What a fascinating creature. I will say that enlarged pictures of bugs so often are things of nightmares, in my opinion. They don’t make for a friendly world!! That said, our insect world is so taken for granted that information about the roles played by minute creatures reminds us that life has value and purpose at all levels (even if creepy looking).

    1. After joining a Photo-a-Day group on Facebook 10+ years ago, I knew I’d not be searching out a landscape every day, so I started wandering around my semi-wild yard and finding all sorts of things to photograph up close — often insects. I started learning more and more about various ones and finding them incredibly fascinating. As you say, we don’t often spend much attention on them — unless they are a pest — but I more and more became aware of their intricate construction or behavior or the role they play in the environment.

      1. I do agree – we don’t see insects unless they are pests. Bugs on the countertops get your attention (ugh!) as much as butterflies (pretty!), but all have a place in our world. The Dalai Lama (current one?) had a building built, and had all the earthwoms saved because they could be peoples’ ancestors. While not scientific, it is respectful, and that needs to be realized. I see few bees and butterflies and moths and no-see-ums every year . . .

    2. Very true Naomi (it is, Naomi, right…I am getting senile in my old age) – bugs are so critical to our survival, but we don’t fully understand and only really see them if they’re pretty or driving us crazy. Recently I read Buzz, Bite, Sting: Why We Need Insects by Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson (in translation from Norwegian) and while a bit basic, it’s a terrific look at how insects make the world run. I recommend it – https://www.librarything.com/work/22616164/book/191129905

      And sorry for the nightmare image…it is a little bit of a wee beastie isn’t it?

      1. Thanks for the link to the book – I’ll check it out. I often think of the book “Silent Spring” when I think of our loss of birds and beasties . . .

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