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What Insect Are You?

Entomology for Everyone

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whatinsectareyou

Insect photography (3): Experiments with macro photography

Or ‘The poor woman’s guide to higher magnification’

macro spider.jpg

One day I saw this crab spider on a flower. Then I saw my grandfather’s old magnifying glass lying there, looking at me. “Hmm… I wonder…”

I got my camera, held the magnifying glass in front of the lens and took a picture. The one you see above. Thus began my love for macro photography.

Around that time I also got serious about my insect book. But living on one salary, with three kids, this stay-at-home mom could not afford to invest in expensive camera equipment. So I had to make do with my standard 18-55mm kit lens and… several hacks.

Continue reading “Insect photography (3): Experiments with macro photography”

Children and Youth Festival

Child and youth festivalThe UKZN School of Education “recently hosted its inaugural two-day Children and Youth Festival on the Edgewood campus where participants were able to explore … an insect display” among other things.

Luckily I had managed to find a couple of specimens in the garden that were featured in my book. Apart from the caterpillar, they were all predators: the antlion larva, a young flower mantis, an assassin bug, aquatic elephant mosquito larvae and aquatic dragonfly larvae. (Click on the links to read the respective pages in the book.)

So the kids could not only hear amazing stories about them and see them in the book, but also meet them live and study them closely, aided by a digital endoscope which magnified them on a laptop screen.

 

Five senses and then some!

LE senses

Small though they are, insects seem to excel at everything. They have the five senses that we do, and then some. They hear, taste, smell, see and feel. But that’s not all!

Vinegar flies have speedometers and gravity metersBogong moths complete long night-time migrations navigating by stars and the magnetic field of the earth. Bees can see ultraviolet light. Some flowers wanting to attract their insect pollinators, or butterflies wanting to attract a mate, display special patterns that are only visible in ultraviolet light.

Sometimes I wonder how the insects cope in this world that humans have altered so fundamentally. Atmosphere, ground and water is infused with toxic chemicals, the air vibrates with strange radio waves and electric charges, nights are no longer dark, lit up by innumerable artificial suns and stars. So how do they cope? Not well it seems. Not well at all.

Continue reading the whole article in Leopard’s Echo, a bi-annual online magazine of Kloof Conservancy.

A positive natural future

arum lily caterpillar experiment 1sm

The beautiful Common Striped Hawk moth (Hippotion eson) eats our local arum lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica), but refused a range of common, exotic garden plants of the same family (Araceae – below).

arum lily caterpillar experiment 2sm

So what?

Well, this was a little experiment in my own garden, that illustrates (1) what fussy eaters plant-eating insects are, (2) why exotic (non-native) garden plants always look so perfect (they don’t get eaten), (3) therefore, why they hardly contribute to the food chain, and (4) why, if you truly love nature, you should plant indigenous plants.

The full article is part of a collection of opinion pieces on “empowering cities to plan for a positive natural future” recently published The Nature of Cities.

NatureOfCities_logo_sphere

 

Outlandish appendages

LE appendages

If you are looking for strange forms and shapes, you have come to the right address. Insects are famously eccentric when it comes to body structure. This article will look at one particular sub-topic: ‘Long things that stick out’.

Starting at the front end, the prima donna in this performance has to be the hose-nose cycad weevil (also featured in the title image), whose snout is longer than her entire body! She uses this unbelievably long ‘rostrum’, which bears tiny mandibles on the very tip, to chew deep into cycad seeds, where she lays her eggs. This gives new meaning to the Afrikaans saying, ‘sy eet met lang tande’.

Read the whole article in Leopard’s Echo, a bi-annual online magazine of Kloof Conservancy.

Insectusiasm

Now watch this:

Don’t you love it? The entomologists of tomorrow…

This is the result you get when introducing children to insects.

2020Vision was an official partner of the Environmental Sustainable Action and Community Development Conference/Do-ference 4 – 6 April 2018.

doference

 

 

Are insects good or bad?

insects doference

During an educational event at the Environmental Sustainable Action and Community Development Conference/Do-ference in April 2018, I asked a group of grade 11 school kids this very question. Like many folks, most of them had not thought much about insects until that moment.

They are irritating. They sting. They eat our vegetables. They make honey. They pollinate flowers.

That was kind of it.

It was such fun telling them about the many crucial roles insects play in nature, how we couldn’t exist without them, and then sending them on an insect treasure hunt outside. There was a map to follow, instructions to read, insects to spot, questions to answer…

treasure hunt doference

 

The Soggy Existence of the Rain Tree Bug

 

Soggy existence.jpg

Have you ever sat under a tree, when the sun was shining, and the sky was blue, and wondered why it was raining? Chances are you happened to pick a spot just beneath a family of rain tree spittlebugs.

rain tree bugs.jpg

Read the whole article in Leopard’s Echo, a bi-annual online magazine of Kloof Conservancy.

 

Insect photography (2): Shoot ’em Live

shooting insects.jpg
Hillcrest Camera Club insect-hunting

When shooting insects in nature, one faces a number of challenges. One is the eternal trade-off between motion, light and depth of field. Another is focussing on a small moving target.

sunlight.jpg
Bright sunlight is nice, if you can get it. Here are three different amazing flower chafers. Yes, it is spring time!

Continue reading “Insect photography (2): Shoot ’em Live”

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