Ringo the Cottonwood Borer

Plectrodera scalator – Austin, TX



The postdoctoral researchers in Nancy Moran’s lab here at UT have adopted a local longhorn beetle and, for reasons that remain mysterious, named it “Ringo”. I can only hope they weren’t punning on Beetles/Beatles.

Ringo was kind enough to pose for me in the most makeshift of photo studios. Lacking time to assemble a proper studio whitebox, I took the beetle to a small, white-painted room and fired a couple off-camera strobes at the ceiling.

Photo details: Canon 6D, 100mm f/2.8 macro lens, two off-camera strobes.

Friday Beetle Blogging: A Very Waspy Beetle

Neoclytus acuminatus – red-headed ash borer.

I was out inspecting the bees last week when I noticed a gaudy pair of longhorn beetles walking about on the back of one of the hives. Neoclytus! Surely one of our prettiest native insects. I hastily stuffed the pair in a jar to photograph later.

The male spent a most of their brief stay in the jar aggressively standing over his partner, as above. The pair would would periodically mate, but mostly they just sat, platonically, in this position. I’m guessing the male is mate-guarding, preventing others from accessing his female.

Neoclytus species are mimics of wasps, and this species bears colors similar to the common and painfully-stinging paper wasp, Polistes fuscatus. Presumably this mimicry confers some protection from wasp-shy predators.

Since I live just blocks from the city center, you might think the wildlife of my tiny yard would not be so interesting. Yet, urban gardens host plenty of little treasures.


photo details:
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 macro lens on a Canon EOS 7D
ISO 200, f/16, 1/200 sec
Diffuse overhead strobe

Friday Beetle Blogging: This Beetle Has A Pollen Problem

Molorchus bimaculatus (Cerambycidae) on Spiraea

I photographed this little longhorn beetle yesterday stuffing its face with pollen as it ran among the flowers making a mess of things. Of course, such sloppy eaters work to the plant’s advantage. When this beetle takes off for the next bush up the street it will be positively spilling over with the gametes needed to make the next generation of Spiraea.

photo details:
Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 7D
ISO 200, f/13, 1/250 sec exposure
Diffuse overhead twin flash

Friday Beetle Blogging: Megacyllene Locust Borer

Megacyllene robiniae – Locust Borer
Champaign, Illinois

Goldenrod flowers are a magnet for late summer insects, and among the most spectacular attractions is the locust borer, a wasp-striped longhorn beetle.  They gather on the flowers to mate and to feed on pollen.

Megacyllene larvae are pests of black locust trees.  Their burrows in the wood damage trees directly, but more seriously, the wounds expose the tree to an even more damaging fungus. Pesty or no, they are charismatic insects and much more cooperative photographic subjects than the ants I usually shoot.

photo details (top 3 photos): Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon 20D
ISO 100, f/13, 1/250 sec, flash diffused through tracing paper

photo details (bottom photo): Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens on a Canon 20D
ISO 200, f/11, 1/160 sec, indirect strobe in a white box