Sep 092012
Hogna lenta group wolf spider portrait

Hogna lenta (or something closely related in the H. lenta species group) – Archbold Biological Station, Florida. These large wolf spiders are easy to spot at night by shining a flashlight off their large eyes, which reflect back a greenish light, much like mammal eyes, despite being completely different physiologically.

What would a lesson from Thomas Shahan be without a super close-up portrait of a spider? I’m stealing Dave Walter’s phrase “Adventures in Spider Misidentification” for this one though. When I took these photos I figured it’d be a cinch to identify this big spider because of those bright red margins on the chelicerae, but apparently that’s a pretty common trait in many wolf spiders (family Lycosidae). Not only that, but there is a huge amount of intra-specific variation in colours and patterns in this species group, making me less than confident in my ID of Hogna lenta.

If you have a better suggestion on the ID of this hairy hunter, please let me know! Here’s another photo that may be more useful for identification purposes.

Hogna lenta group wolf spider dorsal

Hogna lenta wolf spider – Archbold Biological Station, Florida

Aug 302012
Green Lynx Spider Peucetia viridans Florida Backlit

Green Lynx Spider (Peucetia viridans) — Archbold Biological Station

Still working on flash control, I thought I’d experiment with backlighting after seeing some of Alex Wild’s phenomenal leafcutter ant photos, where the detail in vegetation popped. I only have one off-camera flash however, so I looked around until I found this Green Lynx Spider (Peucetia viridans) sitting nicely while the Florida sun shone brightly in behind, highlighting the leaves like I had hoped. From there, it was a matter of getting the correct combination of shutter speed, aperture and ISO (1/200, f14 & ISO 400 in this case) to allow for the natural light to filter through the leaves, while using diffused flash to expose the spider. I’m not thrilled with the glare above the spider, and the composition isn’t great (it’s pretty heavily centered), but considering the wind was blowing the plant and the spider all over the place, I’m just happy I managed a shot that’s in focus and which somewhat recreates the scene I had envisioned! I’ll certainly be trying this trick again on a calmer day, or with a tripod and plamp around…

If you want to see a much different photo of a Green Lynx Spider, check out Crystal Ernst’s (aka The Bug Geek) incredible portrait.

Jun 262012

You may have noticed the Weekly Flypaper has been missing the past two weekends. I have a good reason for missing one, and a not so good reason for missing the other…

First, the good reason. I took part in the Rouge Park BioBlitz in Toronto, and along with 230+ other naturalists, taxonomists and volunteers, we scoured Rouge Park (soon to be Canada’s first urban National Park) for all signs of life, trying to identify as much as possible in 24 hours. Although the numbers are still coming in, the official species count is already nearing 1,300 species, all sighted or caught in 24 hours (and more than 800 of those were identified within the first 24 hours too)! That is an absolutely amazing number, and sets the bar very high for future BioBlitzes! The Guelph crew had a great time, and I think we contributed almost 100 insect species identifications, including 60+ flies. Lots more came home with us, and we’ll be getting names on them in the near future to be added to the list. The arthropod coordinator, Antonia Guidotti of the Royal Ontario Museum has posted an awesome synopsis of the BioBlitz over at the ROM Blog.

The other reason? I was lazy last weekend and didn’t get around to doing it. Oops.

So with 3 weeks worth of links, and major holidays upcoming in Canada & the USA, I suggest you grab a cold drink, find a comfy spot, and clear your schedule, because the Bugosphere has been busy!  Continue reading »

Jun 112012

After some not-so-gentle encouragement (ahem, Geek), I finally updated my blog list with all of the new and different blogs to which I subscribe. I can’t link to all of the great content that’s produced by the online entomological community, but I highly recommend giving each of those blogs a look to see what they’re up to!

General Entomology

If you’ve ever wished you could have seen a dragonfly with a 6′ wingspan, Ed Yong explains why birds are partly to blame. Jerky birds ruin everything.

Undoubtedly coming to a Bond movie in the near future, a new insect-inspired device can skate between oil & water.

Pretty soon we’ll be able to know whether Encino Man was science fiction or science possible, because researchers are working on making Drosophila melanogaster freeze-tolerant. Nice guest piece at the Journal of Experimental Biology by UWO’s Katie Marshall, who will be making her debut on ESC Blog later this week!

Adrian Thysse at Splendor Awaits has a super-crop challenge this week and is in knee-d of some participants. See what I did there? Yep, I’m that guy.


Larval mosquitoes may be aquatic, but that doesn’t explain why adults aren’t obliterated and drowned after the lightest of spring showers. Turns out the actual explanation is pretty awesome.

When Dave Stone named his blog All Things Biological, he meant it. Exhibit A: signal fly sex.

The Geek found a fly close to my heart, a soldier fly!

Brigette at Caterpillar Blog is big into fitness & Crossfit, and has created a new racing event: Chrysops Cross-Country!


Well, it seems Alex Wild’s trip to Brazil was successful. In this instance, success will be measured in the level of OMG SQUEEE induced by the encyrtid wasp he found.

The USDA has begun releasing a parasitic wasp around Maryland to try and stem the spread of Emerald Ash Borer.

Brian Fisher and the AntWeb are on a world tour to photograph all the type specimens (the exact specimen that a scientific name is attached) for all ant species described and given a name. Despite the headline, which is garnering a lot of media attention, the team isn’t taking 3D photos of ants, just high-detail focus-stacked images, a technique that has been used by macro photographers for years and years. Maybe one day 3D rendered insect photos will be possible (which would be amazing), but unfortunately that day is not today.

Other Arthropod Orders

Last week featured a bunch of glowing arthropods, and now Derek Hennen has discovered millipede eggs glow too!

Apparently there was a cute bug competition this week, and Brian Cushing threw down with some nymphal stink bugs.

If you’ve ever chased a cockroach across your counter until it suddenly disappeared over the edge, scientists have figured out how they disappear. Ed Yong on fire, again.

Birds may have led to insects getting smaller, but that doesn’t mean they’re defenseless, as this mantid made clear by catching and eating a hummingbird in Panama.


Jumping spiders, they vant to suck your blood! But only after it passes through a mosquito! Ed Yong finishes off a trilogy of excellent posts.

So now that you’re on the lookout for vampiric spiders and their mosquito minions, Chris Buddle wants you to know that you are in fact rarely more than 3 feet from a spider.

There’s a new blog on the Scientific American block, Running Ponies by Becky Crew, and she’s off to a rolling start with some tumbling spiders & beetles.

Science Communication/Publication

Exciting news: Michel Cusson’s first post on ESC Blog was selected as an editor’s choice by the team at ResearchBlogging!

The role of science communication in academia has been gathering quite a lot of attention lately, even garnering a discussion in Nature (well, their blog, not the journal itself. Yet):

The discussion has since spilled out from Nature and into the blogosphere.

Scicurious explains why although it’d be great for more scientists to reach out and explain their work, there isn’t much of an incentive for those in academia to do so.

Kate Clancy, a pre-tenure anthropologist, picks up the outreach+tenure torch and runs with it, and provides a slice of hope care of her department review committee.

Deciding to invest time into science outreach, whether by blogging or by speaking about your passion to a group of students like Derek Hennen recently did, can certainly have benefits for future career prospects. I’ll definitely be expanding on my thoughts on the issue soon.

Ted MacRae provides some excellent advice about preparing a scientific manuscript for publication.

Finally, I leave you with two videos this week. One with hypnotizing footage of a dragonfly in flight, and the other a viral song that’s been on loop on my computer all week.

May 312012

I’m applying for a student fee waiver for this summer’s BugShot Insect Photography Workshop, and spent today putting together my image portfolio. After some ruthless culling and extra time spent with edits, I’ve arrived at 10 photos which I feel best represent my insect photography. Going through my photo library was an enlightening experience, and I’m quite happy with the progress I’ve made since my first attempts at macrophotography 5 years ago. Of course there’s still plenty of room for improvement (hence my hopeful application to learn from the masters), and there are a number of different techniques and ideas I want to play around with, so I don’t see myself running out of subjects or projects anytime soon!

Click the images to view at a larger size (650px long edge).

Jun 142011

Ryan FleacrestConfession time: ticks creep me out. So much so, I can vividly remember the first time I saw a tick, and can still feel the near-instantaneous wave of nausea that swept over me…

It was back in high school when I had my first run in with these eight legged freaks. I was working part time at a vet’s office (I was an aspiring vet for most of my childhood, before I took a close look at flies) when a beautiful golden retriever came in with it’s owner, looking all goofy and happy-go-lucky, as pretty much every golden retriever does. The owner had brought her dog in because she found a tick on it’s back and didn’t want to risk breaking it on removal. Being curious, I came around the counter with the vet to have a look at the tiny arthropod which I’d heard so much about, expecting a small spider-like creature perhaps feeding like a mosquito. What I wasn’t expecting was a FULLY ENGORGED, dime-sized tick just pulling out and wobbling along the dog’s back! The vet picked it up in a tissue and passed it to me while he checked the wound on the dog’s back. Nearly in shock from what I had just seen, I peeked within the tissue to get a closer look and confirm that I wasn’t in a nightmare, and lo and behold, there in my hand was a giant, grey mass of nastiness. I managed to maintain an air of professionalism while I walked back around the counter with the tissue, and waited until the customer and her dog (oblivious to the entire process it seems) left before breaking my poker face with a look of utter disgust and revulsion! With a small portion of my curiosity still intact, I decided I’d squeeze the tick to see what would happen; I should have known better, but I maintain that I was in shock and not thinking clearly. With the slightest touch, the tick exploded like a tomato hit by buckshot, leaving the tissue looking like a scene from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and proving that my gag reflex was still working!

The Deer Tick - Ixodes scapularis

The Deer Tick - Ixodes scapularis


Of course, with the amount of time I spend in the field during the summer, I’ve come close to these little Hellians from time to time, and have seen them sitting at the tip of long grasses, waving their little legs back and forth awaiting an unknowing victim. Needless to say, I always do a quick tick check upon arriving home, and can fully appreciate Brad Paisley’s desire to keep his lady friend safe after a romantic picnic!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I can feel my skin crawling…


This song is available on iTunes – Ticks (Radio Edit) – Ticks – Single

Thanks to Marianne Alleyne for reminding me of this song!

Feb 012010

Now that winter has truly set in here in Guelph, I figured I’d escape into the archives and share some photos I took while in Peru and Bolivia on the UofG Field Entomology course in the spring of 2007! This was really my first trip out of Canada and I certainly had a blast! We spent two weeks deep in the Amazon, literally on the border between Peru and Bolivia, in untouched tropical rainforest, with insects, birds and mammals everywhere you look and great food to come back to. Who wouldn’t want to be there! Continue reading »