Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Getting the Bugs Out

 Ever since I got a replacement for my old Sigma EM-140 ring flash (it's an older model and it doesn't flash on my EOS D77), I've been back to shooting macros out of doors.  The cheap replacement for the Sigma ring is a "KF150 TTL Marco (Sic) Ring Flash," which seems to be doing a decent job.

But what I really want to write about is a site that I recently stumbled across.  It's called iNaturalist. According to a Wikipedia description

iNaturalist is a citizen science project and online social network of naturalists, citizen scientists, and biologists built on the concept of mapping and sharing observations of biodiversity across the globe.

I've joined iNaturalist and have posted a number of my recent shot to the site, along with my tentative classifications.  Boy, what a humbling experience.  My identifications have been largely challenged by the experts, and I have little to doubt their authority as to the correct species.

I had labelled this a a Dog Day Cicada (Neotibicen canicularis):

However, it turns out that it's really a Common Swamp Cicada (Neotibicen tibicen).  To my delight, this photo has been flagged as a "research grade."

One other earned that classification.  I'd originally identified this as a Modest Masked Bee (Hylaeus modestus), but that has been corrected to be an Eastern Masked Bee (Hylaeus affinis).  At least I've been getting the genus right.

In my defense, if you look at a picture of a Modest Masked Bee, it looks identical to this. The telltale distinction, according the the expert, is the presence of a yellow spot on the tegulae.

Just for grins, here's one that I took with my Canon EF70-200 telephoto:

It's tentatively identified as a Robber Fly (Efferia aestuans).  Let's hope that I got this one right.

To date, I've submitted six insects and one plant to iNaturalist.  I'm hoping that I can contribute many more.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Bee-Grade Photography

 I stepped outside yesterday on my lunch break to photograph some insects near the side of the house.  A mint plant was blooming, and I caught a couple of bees that gave me a real challenge at identification.  I got a lot of help from Sharp-Eatman Nature Photography's web site.  If you visit this site, do click on the Gallery, which contains some fantastic nature shots.

The first bee that I photographed is called a Masked Bee.  It's a tiny creature, only about 5 mm:

It belongs to the genus Hylaeus.  An interesting thing about this genus is that they don't carry pollen in the usual pollen basket.  Instead, they carry pollen in their crop and then regurgitate it into the cell where it will be used as food for the larva.

This second bee was much harder for me to identify.

Best guess is that this belongs to the genus Nomada.  They are kleptoparasitic or "cuckoo bees." which enter the nests of hosts and lay eggs there. The larvae steal the resources that the host has already collected.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Socially Distant

It's ironic that I've waited this long to post anything this year.  Here it is, already August 5th.

Due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, I've been working from home since the middle of March, maintaining my social distancing from my coworkers and the rest of society.  Being an introvert by nature, I can't say that this has been a hardship for me. 

This is all being described as The New Normal.TM   "Normal" for me is working in relative solitude, saving money on gasoline, and having my "therapy cat" visiting me every day in my "office."

For the record, West Virginia has not been hard hit by the pandemic, but it has not remained untouched.  Morgantown has seen a modest increase in the number of cases in the past month.   With University classes about to start, the number of cases will likely grow.  However, incoming students as well as faculty are being tested.  The number of positive cases has hovered at 1.5% or below up to this point