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Mantis on the Last Flower

Mantis on the Last Flower
Mantis on the Last Flower

Mantis on the Last Flower

This flower somehow survived the very early frost we had last week (as this posts). It was on the highest point of the highest remaining flower (not too many left). Between the hail storm in July beating up every flowing plant with a view straight up got destroyed. At a minimum it bruised or at least broke most of the plant up. Just like I have 5 apples on a tree that normally would yield several bushels, I have a few flowers about. The suspicion is that this is high value real estate. All sorts of creatures were around this small bed in a sheltered area getting their fill with the pollen. Bees, Flies, Wasps bugs of all kinds were visiting this island in the middle of a hailed upon desert. The Mantis was staking it’s claim.

I’m sorry to say the cold probably got this one I’m pretty sure. It was a good summer for insects. Particularly grasshoppers. There should be lots of Mantis Egg sacs about. IF I see any I’ll photograph them of course. I have found one in the ranches Walipini Greenhouse already. It’s our 6th generation of them down there.

I have to get about 3 inches away to get this kind of capture. Patient predators if you ask me 🙂 I was on my knees praying for this shot. However I was all in for good focus as well as a slower subject lol.

Mantis are part of a huge order of some 2400 species under that umbrella worldwide. This is a native Wyoming/Montana species. Though almost all the flowers it hunting have all been imported from elsewhere. Thrilled he was to see my lens coming at him lolol. I have to get about 3 inches away to get this kind of capture. They might see themselves in a mirror. Patient predator if you ask me 🙂 The are constantly moving back and forth a lot to imitate plants swaying in the breeze. They usually don’t stick around in any one place very long on their rounds.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Mantis on the Last Flower

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Furrow Orb Weaver Underside

Furrow Orb Weaver Underside
Furrow Orb Weaver Underside

Furrow Orb Weaver Underside

So I’m walking around the homestead. It was the last of the reasonable summer evenings. A bit cool. By “happenstance” I was carrying a specialized 2 foot long macro lens. It has a ring of LED lights around it’s periphery. This requires I carry an external battery back to run it in my pocket. You can NEVER have enough light to capture bugs with a Macro camera. More light = Deeper field of focus possible. Hand held capture.

Starting out, I was thinking to myself…what’s out tonight? I used the LED at the end of the lens like a flashlight (which is basically is). Looking for “Close and Personal” creatures out in the dark. Fortunately for me, this fully mature Arachnid appeared floating in mid air near an outdoor light. An old friend….. Catching bugs is a good profession. I’m glad this fellow has a job. It’s ventral view of course with it’s spinerette and the “Alien” (ET) pattern on it’s Abdomen lol.

In this Ultra Close up, I’m using a 2x macro and I’m about an inch from it to get this Macro shot. I suspect it was chilling down at the time and a little slow with summer hot nights behind us now. Well fed it looks. I’ve seen the many webs it’s been building all summer. You either love or hate these guys. Enjoy those hairy legs either way.

Taxonomy: (I believe the ID is correct).

Larinioides patagiatus, sometimes referred to as “furrow orb weavers”
Family: Araneidae / Genus: Larinioides

Larinioides patagiatus (Clerck, 1757)

These guys get around. Found in: North America, Europe, Turkey, Russia (Europe to Far East), Central Asia.

These are ubiquitous throughout Wyoming

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Furrow Orb Weaver Underside

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Case of Mistaken Identity

Case of Mistaken Identity
Case of Mistaken Identity

Case of Mistaken Identity

Bee Flies are Harmless to humans as they do not bite. I have only seen this species a few times and they are “Flighty”/hard to approach. I’m thinking I cheated and used a sex lure. I didn’t intend to of course. I had just mounted a fire fighting mattock tool with a yellow fiberglass handle to the racks on the Raptor. The Yellow Bee Fly must have just fallen in love instantly. I had brought my cameras out to the truck a few minutes before planning to head out shortly. Looking over I froze in my tracks. I got my camera and he was still there…..

Holy Crap I thought. I took 3 progressively closer images until he wasn’t in the view screen anymore. This was from 10 inches away or there about. Natural Sunlight just cooking down. This actually makes the capture harder since bug are very active when fully warm. Hair Triggers so to speak.

Those are HUGE eyes for such a small Bee Fly. This accounts for their tendency to fly quickly. These are good bugs too. The adults just sip nectar but the larva eat some bad bugs in your garden. I like to see these guys. They are just not very common in my area. Pretty small is the word…. It might be 1/4 inch eyes to butt. I’ve seen them more early in the spring on Dandelions though.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Case of Mistaken Identity

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Dragonfly Holding On

Dragonfly Holding On
Dragonfly Holding On

Dragonfly Holding On

Dragonflies are not always loners like this one. They often group into swarms. Bees and Wasps can sting you, Mosquitos bite you but there is something exceptionally magical about Dragonflies (they don’t bite you). That is of course unless your a mosquito in which case they are your worst nightmare. Both the larval and adult form actively hunt mosquitos in their various life stages. They are certainly near the top of the local insect predator chain. I’m pretty sure a preying mantis will make a mess of a dragon fly though 🤔.

During the Carboniferous geologic Period, about 300 million years ago, when coal swamps and high oxygen levels allowed it, Dragonflies grew to massive sizes. With a wingspan of up to 6 feet, they were a force to be reconciled with. They were likely a top level predator of anything they could pick up including small amphibians and proto-reptiles. There were numerous other insects for them to feed on of course.

Currently consisting of around 5000 known species, the identification of which I shall leave to a specialist. Their larval stage lasting up to two years is aquatic where they eat about anything that they can in the water. They are amazing fliers putting most helicopters to shame. They not only hunt on the fly, but they also mate there. Fly United is their only option. They are the best mosquito control out there. I’ve seen swarms covering large areas down in the ranches wetlands.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. (Wyotana)

Title: Dragonfly Holding On

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Reflections KillDeer Worm Hunting

Reflections KillDeer Worm Hunting
Reflections KillDeer Worm Hunting

Reflections KillDeer Worm Hunting

All of my wildlife encounters are random. I’m usually going somewhere on the ranch. As such I always travel backcountry with a box of cameras. I normally only have two cameras when I travel light. I have found that having instant options is a good thing. But then you have to know WHICH camera to grab for a particular scene… 🤔 Rule number one of photography is: “Have a camera with you. “

Killdeers nest on dry ground but you can sure find them wading around like they own the swamp. This Killdeer is hunting for goodies to eat certainly in the marsh. It paused looked, picked a target and beak to the water went for his intended target. Spearing or grabbing a worm along with some mud mixed with cow poop. My camera machine gunning images as it successfully “hunts”. Sucks to be the worm. 😜

The vast majority of Killdeer that live up here don’t get to enjoy water sports very much or so it seems. This is only about a 5 acre lake and adjacent wetland area. Considered a shorebird, this Ringed Plover is actually living up to their reputation. Most of them around “these parts” nest/hunt out on the open grassland / ranch land. Seeds and getting water from isolated stock tanks seems to work just fine for them. They are going to have an easy year with all the grasshoppers eating vegetation up. This has truly been a year to “take a Mulligan”.

Nesting up here they get a lot of elbow room in the grasslands. Technically the Killdeer is a shorebird of which I have many water’s edge photos of adults like this. But they are unusual in that they many times will nest far from shore. The chicks hatching from their relatively large eggs are born with their boots on. The babies are out of the nest as soon as their partially developed feathers dry. Soon they are out of the nest running around. The babies are well worth pursuing with a long lens. What a hoot they are. 😀

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana).

Title: Reflections KillDeer Worm Hunting

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Macro June Beetle Frontal

Macro June Beetle Frontal
Macro June Beetle Frontal

Macro June Beetle Frontal

10 line June Beetles larva eat roots of all sort of good plants so they are a shoot on sight critter. I tend to shoot them with cameras but they don’t necessarily get a catch and release program assignment. Only because they are a marvelous bug from a looks perspective did he survive this long. An inch and a half in length, maybe a 1/4 inch high. I have other captures of this hissy fit fellow.

The species puts on quite a show when you get a little too close or try to handle it. On a general basis I categorically consider them a grump. It’s not much happy here about my big “eye” lens in it’s face. Those 4 hooks on it’s front appendages are to be respected according to him. Waving them like they were big sticks, the still had other legs on the rock. He was standing up telling me in no uncertain terms to “leave him alone”.

This image doesn’t show it but those yellow antenna are made up of layers of antennas. I have another image showing it. This composition was his idea not mine. Bugs are like photographing young children. They do what they want but you can USUALLY get their attention. This one didn’t fly away and pretty much stood his ground if he could. I would look pretty big incoming with a big macro lens plus he would see himself in the lens mirror ….. aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!..

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Macro June Beetle Frontal

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10 Line June Beetle

10 Line June Beetle
10 Line June Beetle

10 Line June Beetle

Widely known as the “Watermellon Beetle” They cause damage. It’s about 1.5 inches long, and take a defensive pose with a hissing sound when picked up. The are a member Family of Beetles called Scarabaeidae or the scarab beetles. This one is named Ringo I think.. I’ve seen some other beetles around here somewhere too….. just saying 😀

THe antennas are the coolest ever. They have a series of overlapping scales called lamellate plates. They are very complex. IT had them folded here. Their long lived life cycle is two years between larval and adult. The larva feed on roots in the top 14 inches of the soil.

So eating on lush succulent sedum I just had to move the pot to the light. He was fine with my invasive macros in his face. Even my very bright led ringed lens that must look like the sun incoming. This is natural sunlight however. It was in and out of the clouds so the timeline was extended. I left him sitting here. They do eat foliage but after the hail, the grasshoppers and now June Beetles in July… I didn’t even have him spend the night in my refrigerator like I normally do big bugs I want to photograph lolol. One sitting, two different macro/camera set ups. Patients exemplified.

If I find many more, I will have to take action though this is the first I’ve seen this year. You have to kill them in the larval stage in the soil. We have Tachnid Flies which parasitize them and keep them in check.

Location: On our Deck, Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana).

Title: 10 Line June Beetle

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Dewey Daddy Long Legs

Dewey Daddy Long Legs
Dewey Daddy Long Legs

Dewey Daddy Long Legs

A Daddy Long Legs spider surrounded by it’s 3 dimensional home/web decorated with hundreds of condensed dew drops was a lucky find. Talk about a harmless spider. (I know, some of you REALLY don’t like spiders). Others buy them as pets. I always thought they were too fragile personally as the big spiders crack like an egg. Some of you may not know my wife and myself ran the only pet shop for 6 years in a big college town. Sold that in 1986…. (one of my 9 professional careers). I have sold a LOT of Tarantulas to Frat Houses before. They seemed to like scorpions too. Needless to say I’ve been bitten, stuck, stung, and otherwise generally chewed on for 6 years by all the exotic stuff that went through our pet store.😜 I was much younger then.

Setting the stage:

We are in the middle of a 6 month long drought. That morning was HEAVILY pea soup fogged. The sun was deeply veiled to the point of the fog filter being quite effective at making this possible. Pointing the camera into the sun to capture darker detail is the challenge. Don’t try this with a DSLR camera. Mirrorless cameras won’t blind you in the process. That is a very bright sun at the top. Looking into the furnace as it were.

So when the relative humidity hits 99.9 percent, dew condenses on any cool object. Droplets in the moving air collide with larger drops nucleating around intersections or rough points in the webbing. Anywhere there is a SLIGHT disruption of otherwise smooth air flow, frost or dew will deposit there. That depends on the temperature. For a good google this afternoon, search “triple point of water” in google and see what comes up.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Dewey Daddy Long Legs

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Spurge Hawk Moth Hitchhiker

Spurge Hawk Moth Hitchhiker
Spurge Hawk Moth Hitchhiker

Spurge Hawk Moth Hitchhiker

From my perspective there were about 300 simultaneous activities that were necessary to catch this image. It’s sort of a long list but if you start considering what is involved just in the camera. You know, stand on one foot, rub your belly and pat your head….. Oh wait, that’s a sobriety test….

90mm Micros in bright sunlight, F-22 (maximum), set camera at closest focus, bring critter who conveniently perched on one’s finger into sharp focus by adjusting your finger not the camera. The physics of the moment, while a long discussion in an of itself, was complex. The consideration of which was indeed one of those “simultaneous activities” I spoke of above. How close will the lens focus, how deep is the depth of field. How still can I hold my camera with one hand. . (I could have used a tripod but timing is what timing is). List continues ad-nausium to complete the chore lol. Panic Sets in…..how fast is he warming up but to fly fly away. So much stress……😜

Simultaneously add finding the right colors for the background before the click. I considered a Blue Sky, but thought the green bokeh of vegetation would be best. Of course I was navigating the 3-D world around me with tunnel vision through a 10 inch tube one handed spinning dials with every available finger. Except the finger that was the eventual launching pad for the repatriation of this fellow into his environment. He spent a night in my refrigerator after all. So many things to trip over in this process 🤔 📸 .

This moth is beautiful underneath on it’s wings. Brown on top and pink below. They eat nothing but sap/nectar after they hatch while looking for a mate. They they find a Leafy Spurge Plant to lay their larva on. They eat the noxious weed as a larva. Good for biologic control. Canada brought them in and they flew across the border to the Pacific Northwest to here.

We don’t know what other effects they are going to have on the biome here until those show up in the data. Unintended consequences are the big problem with foreign species introduction into naive populations. Just as in genuine exotic novel species introduced into a naive population causing problems, This is true of genetically modified species (of ANY kind) as well as similar ones from say….. “China”..

This is the 5th in a series of 9 of this fellow.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
Title: Spurge Hawk Moth Hitchhiker

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Spurge Hawk Moth Foraging

Spurge Hawk Moth Foraging
Spurge Hawk Moth Foraging

Spurge Hawk Moth Foraging

These big moths are really way more attractive on their pink underside than their dorsal olive tan pattern. Their legs and antenna are white as can be. Without a doubt they are a gardeners/ranchers friend as they lay their eggs on “Leafy Spurge”, a noxious weed. These big moths are active in the day sucking nectar and trying to find some Leafy Spurge. They lay their eggs on the noxious weed with the larva destroying the plant as they grow. Devouring it as they develop as it were.

This moth was introduced (foreign species) into Western Canada years ago. They apparently are spreading with no ill effects noted to the rest of our biosphere so far. Just larva eating Spurge and some nectar use by the adults which competes with other native species of course.

The color scheme here was too obvious to ignore. I adore right primary colors surrounding a “plain jane” subject. Garden plants with big moths flying about is a target rich environment for sure. The hard part is getting them to stay put long enough to capture the scene. Their big bugs which are quick and zip around when warm. They are impossibly hard to photograph well without cooling them down. Usually you can catch them in my experience but it takes some luck. Funny I’ve seen so many of them this year. Wish they ate grasshoppers 😜 📷

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Spurge Hawk Moth Foraging

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Little Bastards Jumping About

Little Bastards Jumping About
Little Bastards Jumping About

Little Bastards Jumping About

This fellow makes up in numbers what they lack in individuality. They all to a one are ravenous. I have seen more “grasshoppers” this year than any other in the last 2 decades. I’m thinking back that I’ve never seen them as thick as they are this year. Having said that, I’ve seen photos of some of the clouds of Locusts eating an 80 acre farm in 15 minutes and some of these swarms are the size of big cities. Asia, India, Saudi, Africa are all having MAJOR issues at the moment. Major famines in those regions may be expected. I’ve heard the US is expecting a major corn crop… We might feed a majority of the planet if we do. Conditions are tough out there world wide.

I still have a yard, and even some green grass. Mostly all the local ranchers are done haying this year with the dryness. It’s not worth the fuel to swath and bale up the sparse grass. I’m not versed on grasshopper biology other than the fundamentals. Isn’t it funny how all of us paid attention to how but not why during those complex high school biology lectures. My undergraduate is a double major “Geobiology”. I could tell you something about fossilization of grasshoppers but not so much their life cycle.

I could google it but then I’d deny you from the same pleasure. Plus you’d get way more info than my distilled version. Google makes us all seem like our IQ’s are 20 points higher than they are. Still knowing how to search then what to do with the information you gather is the game. ….

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Little Bastards Jumping About

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Spurge Hawk Moth and Finger

Spurge Hawk Moth and Finger
Spurge Hawk Moth and Finger

Spurge Hawk Moth and Finger

These big moths are active in the day sucking nectar and trying to find Leafy Spurge. They lay their eggs on the noxious weed with the larva destroying the plant as they grow. Devouring it as they develop as it were. I find these guys pretty calm when they just came out from a party night in my refrigerator. (next to a bottle of wine)….. You may discover what works for yourself if your photographing bugs. Many people pin them or Ether them which makes them pretty cooperative but dead. If you refrigerate them just above freezing, they go into suspended animation and really slow down. I usually over night them and work them in the morning light. I always let them go afterward. This typically will give me 5 minutes in the sun with almost any bug with out it flying away.

These guys were released into Canada to control the Leafy Spurge up there. Ignoring the international border, they have done reasonably well spreading around. . This meaning there is plenty of their favorite food. They are not all over the country but mostly in the pacific northwest through the upper great plains.

These are truly elegant moths in the patterning and coloration. A very patient subject too at least until the sun warmed him up. Another one of the species was flying around sipping on garden flowers coterminously with this photoshoot. Kids!

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title:Spurge Hawk Moth and Finger

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Yellow Swallowtail Lilac Buffet

Yellow Swallowtail Lilac Buffet
Yellow Swallowtail Lilac Buffet

Yellow Swallowtail Lilac Buffet

We have several Pink Lilacs as well as the standard purple. Swallowtails are a little flightly and are hard to get this close on without them heading for the next stop. Typically they fly out of reach. There were dozens of them swarming this bush along with a host of other species of insects.

Finding one tolerant of you is a matter of ‘Becoming the Bush” and don’t move too much. You have to be able to tolerate bees and other bugs flying around you though. Other than that, it’s not hard to so. Don’t wear perfumes as if you smell like a flower. Being stung in a bush is something that hasn’t happened yet. But merging into Lilac bushes and Hollyhock gardens has it’s risks.

Photographic Musings:

Macro lens photography is usually a matter of getting close. But here I’m using a standard 400mm telephoto at about 15 feet. Long telephotos make pretty good macros for subjects you really can approach too much. Handheld. Not a tripod.

Trivia: The first known picture drawn by John White in 1587 of a north American butterfly was a swallowtail. This during Sir Walter Raleigh’s third Expedition to Virginia. That work is named Mamankanois that is believed to be a native word for butterfly in the day/area. I’m sure that it was shown to Queen Elizabeth who was the sponsor of Sir Walter Raleigh’s adventures in the America’s.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana).

Title: Yellow Swallowtail Lilac Buffet

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Glover Moth on Columbine

Glover Moth on Columbine
Glover Moth on Columbine

Glover Moth on Columbine

When I had this Glover moth over for a stay in my refrigerator for a night (I caught him by a porch light, zip locked eventually cooled him down to 34 degrees). The next day was sunny, bright/blue, warm with scents of various blooms in the air. I definitely put him on these flowers in one of the homesteads many naturalized gardens. . He was happy to hang on though. Being torpid/cool and slow from that stay in my fridge, he was enjoying the heck out of the warming sun. Giving me precious time….

This Glover Silk Moth has a 5 inch wingspan. It’s as big as your hand. Found all along the east/west slopes of the Rocky Mountains from Mexico to Canada. Coincidentally that is also where our ranch is located roughly lol. Liking my backyard apparently. Like most silk moths they eat various plants during the larval stage. The adults do not eat. They are interested in reproduction not ingestion lol.

This one was hanging out on this flower one summer morning. Being chilled from the refrigerator, the Glover Moth had no interest in flying away at first. (He did in about 15 minutes. Forever in my world for a photographic subject actually sits for me. Better, lets me move them from place to place to find the right frame. Here is a thick bundle of columbine in our gardens against a blue sky of my choosing.

That Moth’s antenna system is a magnificent development that I as a ham radio operator am jealous of. 🤔😜 I see several of these guys each spring. Running into them around the ranch headquarters compound I find them near the lights in the cool nights here. They get cold over night and are pretty slow until the sun warms the day. I am usually out pretty early on sunny spring mornings looking for critters JUST LIKE THIS. My “Catch and Release” approach with an over night in a fridge simply slows them down for the night and lets me have a much longer “encounter” with any buy you can catch. Just don’t take them below freezing overnight.🤔📸 Way nicer than Ether and a pin. Lots of photography done that way 😔

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Glover Moth on Columbine

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Spurge Hawk Moth Macro

Spurge Hawk Moth Macro
Spurge Hawk Moth Macro

Spurge Hawk Moth Macro

I had never seen one of these guys before. Wonderful species as they lay eggs on the nasty weed “Leafy Spurge”. The larva eat the pesty plant. The Adults are pretty big at 3 inches across. First introduced in Canada to control the weed, we are in it’s known range.

99 percent of my work is resultant of random encounters. Finding this 3 inch wide moth was certainly random. Ran to get a camera. Instantly out my back pocket came a plastic bag and into the refrigerator it went. You always carry a baggie with you when doing photography right? 😜 I have found that by cooling any captured bug down to just above freezing, I get to actually photograph them. Going torpid in the cold, they just slow way down. It takes them at least 5 minutes to warm up in direct sun before they usually fly away. So you’ve got a moth that while slow WILL hang on to things. 5 minutes is FOREVER in my world of manual mode spinning dials and manual focus. Catch and Release…

The color scheme is the direct result of a single shaft of light moving through a huge tree. That tree positioned between the sun and my chilled subject sitting on a geranium. So it was really darkly shaded around me. Surrounded in a pretty big garden spot here at the homestead. This geranium was potted. Therefore I could move the pot coincident with the inexorably moving shaft of sunlight. About every 20 seconds I had to react or loose the light. It was a 3 D puzzle for sure. Worse the puzzle changes shape as you go lolol.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Spurge Hawk Moth Macro

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Lady Bug Yellow Petal

Lady Bug Yellow Petal
Lady Bug Yellow Petal

Lady Bug Yellow Petal

Pursuing Ladybugs with a quality macro lens has it’s rewards. This 18 inch square image with a smooth blue bokeh is a favorite summer pursuit. They are usually fast movers, difficult to catch sitting still enough to compose a frame. This one was an exception. It was sipping on the drops of “nectar” from the flowers petal.

The Ladybug didn’t eat the daisy. There were many grasshoppers around, obviously someone seconds before munched the petals. I wouldn’t want to accuse the grasshoppers without any proof ……(apparently outdated morality these days but I digress😟) Anyway, ladybug saw an opportunity to rehydrate and get some sugar. Nature is all about one creature making it either easy or hard on another. This little one is making good from damage. It will go on and eat aphids, scale insects and mites.

Red in nature is usually a warning. It’s a big flag that says they might not be a good choice to eat. Ladybugs blood (yellow) has a foul odor I understand from reading but I’ve never noticed it. I have ordered thousands of Ladybugs for my aquaponic greenhouse. Handled them by the hand full before but never crushed one let alone tasted lol.

I think they are little turtles having photographed them up close and personal for a while. When threatened they “turtle up” and release a little yellow blood from their legs (stinky as discussed above). The red / stinky strategy apparently works as they are abundant up here in the borderlands.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Lady Bug Yellow Petal

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To Be or Not 2 Bee

To Be or Not 2 Bee
To Be or Not 2 Bee

To Be or Not 2 Bee

Our Lilacs are Blooming earlier this year than last. We had blooming Lilac bushes the 4th of JULY last year. This year is way drier and warmer. Lilacs beat by at least 2 weeks their late blooming past. Catching a bee on Lilac is nifty. Catching “Maverick and Goose” doing a flyby in their “hornet” is priceless lolol.

Photographic Musings: This image ended up with a particularly deep focus for this kind of work. Much of the image is fairly sharp which is noticable to me at least as I’ve done a few of these lately lolol📸

This particular ultra macro lens has a ring of LED’s around it’s periphery which helps tremendously in cranking up the f stop numbers to give yourself a deep focus. For something less than an inch long….from about 2 inches away…pretty deep field of focus….. So High F-stop = deep field of focus (thick) but you loose light gathering ability the higher the fstop number. Light has to come from somewhere, so make longer exposure speed and or turn up ISO (camera sensitivity) higher. Higher ISO numbers give you grain soo…double edge sword. Anybody got a cell phone photo like this? I’d be interested to see if they could do it…

With ALL Macro shots, more light is your friend. Putting your camera on manual and adjusting to f22 (for deep focus) makes a pin hole in the lens reducing light tremendously. So the more light you have to begin with, the better your image is going to look. Adjusting higher ISO (camera sensitivity) is your only way to get more out of the light you get from a pin hole. You can’t do a time exposure of a moving bee so 1/250th is your floor and I often take images at 1/3000 to freeze wings. Bright sun is always best.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: To Be or Not 2 Bee

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Bumble Bees are Back

Bumble Bees are Back
Bumble Bees are Back

Bumble Bees are Back

Getting eyebrow close with a big macro lens is always an exercise in “damn the torpedos”. When ever I dive into a flower rich environment to catch bees in action, I run the risk of pissing some body off lol. To date I have never been stung. I’ve had a couple of wasps dive bomb me though. Probably because I was too close to the entrance of their rock nest (cave). I spend hours every month of the summer chasing these guys. I have some new technology this year so we will see how they come out.

I’ll do my best to give you macro fans a slow but steady flow of the little guys this summer. The limitations of the optics are such that deep focus fields in these macro images is not easy to achieve. There is a fine balance between getting closer and getting focus. It depends on what your wanting to do technically.

Photographic Musings:

With ALL Macro shots, light is your friend. The more, the better. Putting your camera on manual and adjusting to f22 (for deep focus) makes a pin hole in the lens reducing light tremendously. So the more light you have to begin with, the better your image is going to look. Adjusting higher ISO (camera sensitivity) is your only way to get more out of the light you get from a pin hole. You can’t do a time exposure of a moving bee so 1/250th is your floor and I often take images at 1/3000 to freeze wings. Bright sun is always best…📸

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Bumble Bees are Back

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Red Dragon Fly

Red Dragon Fly
Red Dragon Fly

Red Dragon Fly

Dragonflies are not always loners like this one. They often group into swarms. Bees and Wasps can sting you, Mosquitos bite you but there is something exceptionally magical about Dragonflies (they don’t bite you). That is of course unless your a mosquito in which case they are your worst nightmare.

Both the larval and adult form actively hunt mosquitos in their various life stages. They are certainly near the top of the local insect predator chain. I’m pretty sure a preying mantis will make a mess of a dragon fly though 🤔.

During the Carboniferous geologic Period 300 million years ago, when coal swamps and high oxygen levels allowed it, Dragonflies grew to massive sizes. With a wingspan of up to 6 feet, they were a force to be reconciled with. They were likely a top level predator of anything they could pick up including small amphibians and proto-reptiles. There were numerous insects for them to feed on of course.

There are currently around 5000 known species, the identification of which I shall leave to a specialist. Their larval stage lasting up to two years is aquatic where they eat about anything that they can in the water. They are amazing fliers putting most helicopters to shame. They only hunt on the fly, but they also mate there. Fly United is their only option. They are the best mosquito control out there. I’ve seen swarms covering large areas down in the ranches wetlands.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. (Wyotana) Title: Red Plum and Dragonfly

Title: Red Dragon Fly

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Meadowlark and Two Grasshoppers

Meadowlark and Two Grasshoppers
Meadowlark and Two Grasshoppers

Meadowlark and Two Grasshoppers

I find Meadowlarks a difficult catch. I should clarify that by saying getting a REALLY close “Closeup” to be a bucket list item. The tendency of a Meadowlark encounter is to be random. They occur often while driving in the backcountry along fence lines. I often am traveling along a two track backroad only to see 50 foot ahead a meadowlark on a fence. If you stop too close, they will fly away. But if you stop “just right” and don’t move at all, they won’t fly for a while. If you move AT ALL once you come to a complete stop, they will fly quickly away. This is a law of nature that I’ve only seen ONE bird out of hundreds ignore. He is another story.

This is a wild Meadowlark way out in the backcountry. Drove up on him. This guy was very tolerant of my Jeep as it approached. I stopped about 20 feet away. At that distance, with an 800mm fast lens, I can focus on his eyelashes. The hard part is getting 20 feet away from a wild bird. They frequent this whole area with 5 or 10 birds an acre sometimes. I’ve seen a bird fly every few seconds before driving two tracks. If I go slow, their songs permeate the quiet. Up here it can be so quite that you can hear your heart beat. Not during Meadowlark season lolol. They are all gone now for southern Climates as we are sub-arctic at the moment.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Meadowlark and Two Grasshoppers

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Butterfly Taking Echinacea

Butterfly Taking Echinacea
Butterfly Taking Echinacea

Butterfly Taking Echinacea

This 2-1/2 inch wing span butterfly heard that all the store shelves lacked cold remedies/immunity builders. They were all bought out. So he went right to the source here with this Echinacea. 😜👀🤔

Callippe fritillary butterfly doing butterfly things. All upon an Echinacea augustiflolia (cone flower) is a common event up here. There are millions of both during the correct time of year about this ground. While the adults get around, The caterpillars eat pretty much eat violet leaves. There are a lot of wild violets around. Endangered are a rare subspecies of this butterfly. I don’t know if this one is in that column. We have a few of these I see around. Literally the ranch has millions of Echinacea plants. They are native/common/widespread “in these parts”.

This prolific prairie plant is one of the most used and popular herbs worldwide. It has many medicinal benefits. Roots/ upper parts use in extracts, teas, tinctures or tablets make it to the store shelves. There is a veritable arsenal of active compounds in the plant. Studies have attached the use of echinacea to a reduction in inflammation, lower and an improved systemic immunity overall. Be careful what you take Echinacea with as is good advice for all medicinal plants. DO your research.

All available Over The Counter of course. A good source of “Anti-oxidants”. There are a few studies showing Echinacea use with a reduction in the likely hood of catching colds. Noted are claims of effects on other VIRUSES. Claims are that it will shorten the duration of a cold 1.5 days. (Colds are Corona Viruses just saying) Other researchers say this link is unclear. “Test tube studies” indicate it has properties lending itself to lowering blood sugar level. This might be of interest to type II diabetics. Whispered in the corridors of Walgreens™ nationwide are claims of reducing anxiety.. The anti-Inflammatory properties might be of interest to you osteo-arthritus practitioners out there. You know who you are 😔👀

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana).

Title: Butterfly Taking Echinacea

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Preying Mantis Hatchling

Preying Mantis Hatchling
Preying Mantis Hatchling

Preying Mantis Hatchling

Strawberry flower just lost it’s petals (fertilized), Mantis Egg Sac lower right and a precocious hatchling first to appear…. I’m thinking he is just under a quarter inch long.

There should be a few more of these Praying Mantis Eggs about. IF I see any more hatchlings I’ll photograph them of course. I have to get about 1 inch away to get this kind of capture. Patient predators if you ask me 🙂 This was taken down in my aquaponic Greenhouse where it never gets below 65 degrees all winter. Taken about a week before this posts.

Mantis are part of a huge order of some 2400 species under that umbrella worldwide. This is a native Wyoming/Montana species. I believe this is the 6th generation of hatches I’ve had down in that artificial environment here mid winter. Thrilled he was to see my lens coming at him lolol.

Patient predators if you ask me 🙂 They are constantly moving back and forth to imitate plants swaying in the breeze. They usually don’t stick around in any one place very long on their rounds. I don’t see many of these out in our gardens but as here in a Green House , this is their 6th generation now of Mantis babies under that roof. About every 8 months or so I have a hatch take off down there. I bought some egg 4 years ago + and they are still going supporting themselves in that 40 x15 by 20 foot tall under grade “Wyoming Walipi”. That means it’s an underground green house and is all aquaponic using no soil, just water (except for some orchids where I have some Hydroton™ nuggets involved.)

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana).

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Preying Mantis Hatchling

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Pronghorn Snapping at Mosquito

Pronghorn Snapping at Mosquito
Pronghorn Snapping at Mosquito

Pronghorn Snapping at Mosquito

I absolutely identify with this Pronghorn Does attitude here. That Mosquito had just dropped in front of her face as I was watching. The attempt at catching a little extra protein in it’s diet was aggressive. I’m pretty sure she was irritated at it as we all get from now and then. Skitters grow pretty big out in the grasslands but fortunately we have a lot of biologic control in the form of dragon flies in this country. The further away from water you get though those mosquito eating heros of the insect world’s population thins out. The mosquitos don’t seem too in a wet year.

Out there photographic musings:

This is a very long capture literally from a Jeep Window Rested Orion refractor telescope I’ve adapted for terrestrial use. At a full 3 feet long, it is by far is the cheapest way to get very high magnifications. Using astronomic glass for terrestrial work has it’s issues but I’ve used up to 6400mm optics in the field by hand, fixed aperture though. You only have shutter speed and camera sensitivity to play with as far as camera settings. No aperture/f-stop adjustment in telescopes. They are always wide open. Mine has a 110 mm front lens and it is very fast like 3200mm at f20 fast. Fast lenses are lenses with a low f-stop number available. Big open apertures give you lower fstops and a greater ability to collect light. I was at least 100 yards out for this capture.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Pronghorn Snapping at Mosquito

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Glover Moth Purple on Blue

Glover Moth Purple on Blue
Glover Moth Purple on Blue

Glover Moth Purple on Blue (plus green and orange lichen too….Wyotana Summer is a good thing…

6 months out of season for your pleasure.

When I had this Glover moth over for a stay in my refrigerator for a night (I caught him by a porch light, zip locked eventually cooled him down to 34 degrees). The next day was sunny, bright/blue, warm with scents of various blooms in the air. I definitely put him on that flower hanging over that tree branch. He was happy to hang on though. Being torpid/cool and slow from that stay in my fridge, he was enjoying the heck out of the warming sun.

This Glover Silk Moth has a 5 inch wingspan. It’s as big as your hand.. Found all along the east/west slopes of the Rocky Mountains from Mexico to Canada. Coincidentally that is also where our ranch is located roughly lol. Liking my backyard apparently.

Like most silk moths they eat various plants during the larval stage. The adults do not eat. They are interested in reproduction not ingestion lol. This one was hanging out on this flower one summer morning in 2019. Being chilled, the Glover had no interest in flying away. (He did in about 15 minutes. Forever in my world for a photographic subject actually sits for me. Better, lets me move them from place to place to find the right frame. That antenna system is a magnificent development that I as a ham radio operator am jealous of. 🤔😜

I see several of these guys each spring. Running into them around the ranch headquarters compound I find them near the lights in the cool nights here. They get cold over night and are pretty slow until the sun warms the day. I am usually out pretty early on sunny spring mornings looking for critters JUST LIKE THIS.

My “Catch and Release” approach with an over night in a fridge simply slows them down for the night and lets me have a much longer “encounter” with any buy you can catch. Just don’t take them below freezing overnight.🤔📸 Way nicer than either and a pin. Lots of photography done that way 😔

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Glover Moth Purple on Blue

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Muppet Moth Wider Angle

Muppet Moth Wider Angle
Muppet Moth Wider Angle

Muppet Moth Wider Angle

Hanging out in a “to do” folder this unidentified moth haunts me again. Many of you no doubt remember this guy from a much closer image I post of him. He has been seen by thousands of people and no one seems to be able to key him out and ID him. Here’s hoping someone will have a moment of recognition to a moth they saw 20 years ago.

Bug Photos are a favorite…

I had caught this fellow the night before hanging about a porch light. Then he was placed in an inflated gallon zip lock. Then into the fridge overnight. Next day I released the torpid 34 degree moth into a 60 degree environment. It had enough wits to hang on to the well lit tree branch I set him on. Between the sun and the ambient temperature, I had perhaps 2 minutes to shoot him. He did indeed flutter off in my typical catch and release program I run for my photographic volunteers. I haven’t seen many bugs since Oct 1 when winter started this year. . I think I too a photo of a Orb Weaver Spider on my front window inside my house since.

I’m about to photograph a Black Widow female I’ve kept alive. The crickets I grow in my green house’s front entry stairs. I just leave a little fish food around and they reproduce nicely all winter. The Black Widow is at least 6 months old here mid-winter. Her prison is a pyrex glass beaker on a shelf. She can not get away and I’m very careful with handling them. The biggest threat is to her not to me. They are fairly fragile. They break like an egg if you are not very careful and they are very fast. Stay tuned for that lol. .

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title : Muppet Moth Wider Angle

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Red Plum and Dragonfly

Red Plum and Dragonfly
Red Plum and Dragonfly

Red Plum and Dragonfly

Dragonflies are not always loners like this one. They often group into swarms. Bees and Wasps can sting you, Mosquitos bite you but there is something exceptionally magical about Dragonflies. That is of course unless your a mosquito in which case they are your worst nightmare. Both the larval and adult form actively hunt mosquitos in their various life stages. They are certainly near the top of the local insect predator chain. I’m pretty sure a preying mantis will make a mess of a dragon fly though 🤔.

During the Carboniferous geologic period 300 million years ago, when coal swamps and high oxygen levels allowed it, Dragonflies grew to massive sizes. With a wingspan of up to 6 feet, they were a force to be reconciled with. They were likely a top level predator of anything they could pick up including small amphibians and proto-reptiles. There were numerous insects for them to feed on of course.

There are currently around 5000 known species, the identification of which I shall leave to a specialist. Their larval stage lasting up to two years is aquatic where they eat about anything that they can in the water.

They are amazing fliers putting most helicopters to shame. They only hunt on the fly, but they also mate there. Fly United is their only option. They are the best mosquito control out there. I’ve seen swarms covering large areas down in the ranches wetlands. I don’t see them a lot on barbed wire though lolol.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. (Wyotana)

Title: Red Plum and Dragonfly

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Glover Moth on Purple Barberry

Glover Moth on Purple Barberry
Glover Moth on Purple Barberry

Glover Moth on Purple Barberry

These are amazing moths. They don’t eat as adults. So this one is looking for a partner and hoping to reproduce the species shortly. Hanging out in my side yard is as good a place for such things as any I suppose lolol. I don’t think there is a dating app for that yet …..

This Glover Silk Moth has a 5 inch wingspan. It’s as big as your hand.. Found all along the east/west slopes of the Rocky Mountains from Mexico to Canada. Coincidentally that is also where our ranch is located roughly lol. Liking my backyard apparently.

Like most silk moths they eat various plants during the larval stage. The adults do not eat. This one was hanging out on thie flower one morning. The cold morning had it chilled. He had no interest in flying away. The troublesome part was sneaking up close enough for the macro shot. That barberry has barbs lol. Macros start at 9 inches from the lens… . That antenna system is a magnificent development that I as a ham radio operator am jealous of. 🤔😜 They might not be receiving radio waves though lolol.

I see several of these guys each spring. They are typically not worried about me much. They get cold over night and are pretty slow until the sun warms the day. I am usually out pretty early on sunny spring mornings looking for critters JUST LIKE THIS.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Homestead side yard, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title : Glover Moth on Purple Barberry

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Angus in Crimson Alpenglow

Angus in Crimson Alpenglow
Angus in Crimson Alpenglow

Angus in Crimson Alpenglow

From 6 months ago, this rare summer Alpenglow twilight silhouetted this Angus Mother. Summer Alpenglow isn’t too common. This effect is due to atmospheric Ice acting as a projector screen. The projector is only capable of illuminating the ice with hard to stop red light. Dust and Ice in the atmosphere filter out all other colors but the red frequencies. All between the sun and the camera. In the real world, the horizon rises to cover the sun. Being down a while, a lot of air is between my lens/the projector screen here. The decimated shorter wavelengths are not available to refract off the suspended atmospheric ice for my cameras to harvest. They are after all, only photon gathering devices 📷

How could you tell this is a summer Alpenglow versus a winter alpenglow? Well all the flies buzzing around this poor gal sort of give it away.👀😜. I haven’t seen insects in a few months except for down in my greenhouse. We are pretty deep into winter currently here in Wyotana. Flies are a perpetual summer plague for cattle around the world. It’s a good thing the cattle are there as those flies could all be coming after us lololol.

Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Angus in Crimson Alpenglow

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Fawns Wetland Dragonfly Flyover

Fawns Wetland Dragonfly Flyover
Fawns Wetland Dragonfly Flyover

Fawns Wetland Dragonfly Flyover

The wonderful scene is another one of my game trail camera amazing captures as the Dragonflies Hunt Mosquitos overhead. This fawn down in the wetlands was in the high grass on the muddy lake edge.. The automatic camera captured it dead center of the frame. Game Trail Cameras us Infra-red motion detection to trigger the shutter and like any automatic camera, will snap what is in front of them. Depending on the lighting, Game Trail Cameras can even take a good photo now and then. This is an amazing shot from one of the cantankerous things.

As I’ve said a few times before, each and every one has problems but this one is a pretty good capture. It took virtually no work to fix the built in image issues of the Game Trail camera. I get captures like this because 1: I run a lot of cameras with 29 currently in the network. 2: I place them in unusual places with viewpoints that are not just on a post at animal neck level. I often put cameras very low looking up or in places like this where it’s obvious by the trails that game frequents the area. Setting a camera up too high would resultsin the capture getting the tip of it’s ears. Properly setting it low in the spring just about promised me it would catch a fawn.

One of the few things you have control of with Game Trail Cameras is where you put them. I could write a chapter on placing game trail cameras.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Fawns Wetland Dragonfly Flyover

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Green Stink Bug Macro

Green Stink Bug Macro
Green Stink Bug Macro

Green Stink Bug Macro

OK, a little out of season but some summer color seemed like a good idea. A little up close and personal..

What a beautiful bug. The legs are startling in the color gradients they present. In nature, bright colors usually means “Stay Away”. Well these guys do not bite or sting posing no real danger to humans and our familiars. They are however considered harmful bugs to be eradicated as they are a major agricultural pest. They cause millions in damage to a large variety crops. Also called Shield Bugs or Chust Bugs.

You may remember a Macro close up I did of a Tachnid Fly a month ago. A big gold Hairy Fly…. Those Hero’s of the Flies lay eggs in the Green Stink Bug and will paralyze the pest devouring it from the inside out. So we have both sides of that parasite / host equation right out in our back yard. We have apple trees here but we have not had excessive Green Stink Bug problems. Natural predation is obviously working up here at the moment.

These guys are found throughout North America unfortunately. Large Stink Glands grace both Nymph and adults of the species. Able to discharge LARGE amounts of a foul smelling liquid when they feel threatened. This fluid used to be used on an industrial scale to add odor to some acids thusly reinforcing their own odor. Long since that process has been modernized utilizing modern artificial aromatic compounds.

Location: Backyard, Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands *Wyotana) That’s a piece of Fossiliferous limestone he’s walking on.

Title: Green Stink Bug Macro