Wednesday Afternoon Mystery


Owing to a magical combination of travel and norovirus, I missed the Monday Mystery. To make it up to you, here’s an ant for you to identify:

I won’t award any points for our belated ant challenge, but you should feel free to bask smugly in the knowledge of your myrmecological acumen.


The Midwestern Ant Season Begins With Prenolepis Mating Flights

Prenolepis imparis

At noon, winged ants amass at the nest entrance in my front yard.

As a sign of how prolonged the 2013-14 winter has been, the Prenolepis imparis  winter ant mating flights did not occur here in Urbana until yesterday. That’s April 10th. The last time I photographed Prenolepis flights was in 2012- the same colony- and the ants flew a whole month earlier, on March 12.

I took a break from the email backlog (sorry! I know some of you are waiting on things from me, but it’s been a busy, busy month) to shoot the action. I hope you enjoy this batch of photos.

Prenolepis imparis

The queens and males climb nearby grass blades and some clumsily take to the air. Several queens are divebombed by incoming males- I presume from other colonies- and mate near their natal nest.

Continue reading →

Sorry Guys: No More Free Images for Scientific Papers


Dear scientists,

Owing to a series of recent incidents where my photographs have been used in technical papers without my consent, without credit, and released under Creative Commons licenses, I am sorry to announce I am ending my policy of free use of photographs for scientific papers.

Future use of my work will require a paid licensing agreement, the same as for most professional uses of copyrighted content. There are two exceptions. First, if I have photographed captive animals in your laboratory, those laboratories are allowed use of the associated images without additional permission, as long as those uses don’t involve releasing the images under a Creative Commons license. Second, use of the photographs as primary data should be considered fair use and is allowable.

Use of my images in presentations and classroom lectures is still allowable if credit is given, but please be aware that uploads of presentation slides to the internet requires a photo credit be given next to the image to prevent the appearance of being orphaned.

I regret having to tighten my policy, but my photo business has been my primary source of income for the past few years, and I cannot continue to afford producing and hosting natural history images for the myrmecological community to use if my guidelines are routinely sidestepped.

Thanks for understanding,


Little Fire Ants Conquer Hawaii


Among the smallest but most damaging pest insects is the little fire ant Wasmannia auropunctata, a Neotropical species that has been tearing across the Pacific region. The Maui Invasive Species Committee has assembled a nice short documentary on recent problems in Hawaii:


Answer to the Monday Mystery


As commenter Jenna B picked within minutes, Monday’s mystery flower was Theobroma cacao- the magical plant that so generously provides the world with chocolate- and it is pollinated by midges in the family Ceratopogonidae. In particular, the cacao pollinators are found in the large genus Forcipomyia. Here is one feeding not on a cacao nectary but from the hemolymph of a caterpillar.

Biting midge

Forcipomyia sp. (Belize)

So. Ten points to Jenna.

This brings us to the end of the month, and I am pleased to report we have a two way, ten point tie for March between Jenna B and Dave Almquist.

Congrats, Jenna & Dave! Email me for your loot.

Monday Night Mystery: Flower Power


Tonight’s challenge is more botanical than our usual fare. Here, for your consideration, is a flower:


1. What species is this? (4 points)
2. What insect (Family or genus) pollinates this plant? (6 points)

To earn points, be the first person to correctly answer each question. The cumulative points winner for the month of March will win their choice of:

1) A guest post here on Myrmecos
2) Any 8×10 print from my insect photography galleries
3) A myrmecos t-shirt

Good luck!

Insect Photography Workshop, July 13, 2014, Cairns, Australia



Heteroponera relicta, Queensland, Australia

I am pleased to announce a one-day insect photo course in tropical Cairns this July, in association with the much-anticipated IUSSI social insect meetings. We’ve already filled a third of the 30 spots, even though the event was announced not even 24 hours ago. If you’re thinking of participating, you will need to sign up soon: 

July 13 Insect Photo Workshop in Cairns

This day-long course will help you improve your macrophotography skills with an emphasis on creative lighting and composition, and will include both indoor studio sessions and outdoor practice with live subjects. The workshop is aimed at an intermediate level. Participants should bring camera equipment that allows for close focusing and manual control of basic operations like aperture & shutter speed. Recommended equipment includes digicams with a macro filter (such as a Raynox macro adapter), and SLR cameras with a macro lens capable of 1:1 magnification. External, off-camera flash (such as wireless or cord-tethered) is strongly recommended.

Tentative Schedule:
9:00 Welcome
9:15 Methods of Magnification (presentation)
9:45 Creative Lighting & Flash (presentation)
10:30 Break
10:45 Mini-studio demonstration (practice)
12:00 Lunch & Discussion
12:45 Composition (presentation)
1:00 Outdoor practice in small groups (practice)
3:30 Closing

Registration fee is $95 for IUSSI participants, and $145 for general participants. Lunch and snacks are included, along with bus transportation to and from the convention center. Enrollment is capped at 30.


Monday Night Mystery: A Hairy Situation


Tonight’s mystery is an extremely close look at somebody’s fur coat:

Nice try spidey, but I am not giving you any information here.


Which of the organisms below is the one depicted at high magnification in the micrograph?



The first person to pick the correct species from the list gets 5 points for the number, and 5 for the genus. Each person is allowed only one guess. The cumulative points winner for the month of March will win their choice of:

1) A guest post here on Myrmecos
2) Any 8×10 print from my insect photography galleries
3) A myrmecos t-shirt

Good luck!