New ant photos at

Formica incerta, Illinois
Formica incerta, Illinois

Despite a widespread belief that ants produce formic acid, the habit is confined to only one of the 20-some ant subfamilies, the formicinae.  This is among the most abundant subfamilies, containing the familiar carpenter ants and field ants, and is recognizable by the single constricted waist segment and an acid-dispersing nozzle called the acidopore at the tip of the abdomen.  The most recent upload covers a variety of formicine species from Arizona, Illinois, and South Africa.

Click here to visit the gallery.

Friday Beetle Blogging: Pasimachus ground beetle

Pasimachus sp. ground beetle, Arizona
Pasimachus sp. ground beetle, Arizona

My apologies for the lack of blogging the past few days.  I’ve been taking some time away from posting for the holidays, but I’ll be back next week.  In the meantime, here’s a Pasimachus ground beetle…

photo details: Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens on a Canon EOS 20D
ISO 100, f/18, 1/250 sec, indirect strobe in a white box

The wingless hangingfly

Apterobittacus apterus, California
Apterobittacus apterus, California

I lived in California until a few years ago, and one thing I enjoyed about the Golden State was the unique insect fauna, full of bizarre and relictual creatures.  One of the oddities was the wingless hangingfly, a leggy mecopteran that lurks in the coastal grasslands.

The insect above was photographed indoors.  I made a makeshift studio out of various bits of debris lying around the lab: a matte black notebook for a backdrop, a jar to hold the grass upright, and the white lid to a styrofoam cooler propped a few inches above the insect.  An off-camera strobe fired up at the cooler lid (and away from the hangingfly) provided bright diffuse light and set the soft tone of the image.

photo details: Canon 100mm macro lens on a Canon EOS D60
ISO 100, f/11, 1/200 sec, indirect strobe


A deer flea hangs from a hair, California

I don’t ordinarily hang around animal carcasses.  But every now and again I’ll brave a fresh roadkill to shoot the parasites as they jump ship from the cooling body.  Fleas and lice are fascinating creatures, and as they are hardly ever photographed alive I can capture some unique images just by staking out a common subject that most people would not think to shoot.

photo details: Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS D60
ISO 100, f/13, 1/200 sec, flash diffused through tracing paper

An intimate moment

Rhagoletis fruit flies mating, Arizona

photo details: Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 20D
ISO 200, f/11, 1/200 sec, backlit by handheld strobe.