Posts Tagged: Alex Wild
Goodbye, 2013. Hello, 2014.
If you're a beginning driver--or you remember being a beginning driver--your instructor may have admonished: "Look where you're going; not where you've been."
But sometimes, especially at the end of a year, it's good to know where you've been.
Or, in the case of arthropod photography, where the insects and spiders hung out.
If you're like me, you like to prowl their habitats. Sometimes I walk softly and carry a big stick (tripod) but most of the time, I just walk softly.
I focus on their eyes. Their eyes. Their eyes look back at me. Predator or prey? Ignore or confront? Fight or flee?
Not to worry. I am a visitor in their home. I don't poke 'em, prod 'em or pin 'em.
Thankfully, our bee friendly garden in our backyard is not only friendly to bees, but flies, such as robber flies, bee flies and syrphids. The bees? Honey bees, carpenter bees, leafcutting bees, blue orchard bees, sweat bees and European wool carder bees. We see scores of other insects, too, including lady beetles, butterflies, dragonflies, praying mantids, lacewings, and the like. We also welcome arachnids, such as crab spiders, cellar spiders and jumping spiders. We all live together, sometimes not so peacefully. Sometimes not at all. Nature is what it is. And we are what we are. (See some of Bug Squad's favorite images of 2013.)
If you love insect photography, you'll love entomologist/insect photographer Alex Wild's blog, Compound Eye, on scientificamerican.com. (Every time I think of Scientific American, my mind fades back to my high school science project selected for the Pacific Northwest Science Fair at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. It won a year's subscription to the magazine. Memories...)
We at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology know Alex Wild as not only an amazing photographer, specializing in ants, but an alumnus. He received his doctorate here, studying with Professor Phil Ward, a noted ant specialist.
The Compound Eye blog describes him this way: "Alex Wild is an Illinois-based biologist who studies insect evolution. He picked up photography a decade ago to better illustrate his technical presentations, and shortly thereafter found himself running a business supplying books, magazines, and museum exhibits with close-up images of insects and other micro-wildlife. Alex holds a Ph.D. in entomology from the University of California at Davis and currently teaches and conducts research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His scientific work includes descriptions of new insect species, annotations of insect genomes, and monographs on the evolution of various groups of wasps, beetles, and ants. Compound Eye is Alex's exploration of science photography's challenges and the role images play in science communication. Alex's galleries are available at http://www.alexanderwild.com." (He also writes the Myrmecos blog and co-teaches the BugShot photography workshops.)
Wild's Compound Eye blog today (Dec. 31) showcases some of the work of noted nature and science photographers. He asked them for links to their "best Nature & Science images from the past year, and wow--you did not disappoint!"
While you're toasting the New Year, offer a toast to these images!
You will be awestruck! Best of all, maybe you'll pick up a camera and start photographing insects, too...
Up close and personal with a robber fly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bee fly mimicking a helicopter--or does a helicopter mimic a bee fly? (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Jumping spider, a floral visitor. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Male Valley carpenter bee is really a teddy bear. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Oh, to have the waist of a mud dauber wasp. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A pollen-covered honey bee ready for take-off. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Rachel Graham, a master's student in entomology at the University of California, Davis who loves photographing insects, recently submitted an image of a blue dasher, Pachydiplax longipennis, for the Entomological Society of America's 2014 World of Insects calendar.
Dashing news! It won a well-deserved spot in the calendar. It's the June "bug." The worldwide competition drew more than 400 photos from 84 photographers. Each attendee at ESA's 61st annual meeting, held Nov. 10-13 in Austin, Texas, received a calendar. (More calendars are available.)
Graham studies with integrated pest management (IPM) specialist Frank Zalom, newly inducted president of the nearly 7000-member ESA. (Zalom is only the second-ever ESA president from UC Davis.)
Graham captured the image at the Archbold Biological Station in Venus, Fla., in August 2010 when she was participating in a BugShot photography workshop organized by noted insect photographer/entomologist Alex Wild of Illinois. Wild, who received his doctorate in entomology from ant specialist Phil Ward, UC Davis professor of entomology, writes the popular Myrmecos blog and the Compound Eye blog for Scientific American.
Graham recalled that she photographed the blue dasher "on the very first day of the workshop" with her Canon 60D and a 100mm macro lens, shooting at an ISO of 200, f-stop of 6.3 and a shutter speed of 1/40. No flash. No tripod.
The dragonfly species is widespread throughout North America. It's common, but Rachel Graham's photo isn't!
This isn't Rachel Graham's first major photography honor, either. One of her images made the Cornell Ornithology Celebrate Urban Birds 2011 calendar. And earlier this year, she won the People’s Choice Award at the 6th annual UC Davis Graduate Student Symposium in Ecology. Her winning photo depicted a jumping spider eating a hover fly.
Graham, an IPM specialist who plans a career in science education and outreach, recalled that she "began photographing insects for a class assignment at UC San Diego in 2010, and have not been able to stop."
Let's hope she never does!
The image of a blue dasher, captured by Rachel Graham of UC Davis, appears in the Entomological Society of America's 2014 World of Insects Calendar.
Honey bees love it.
We watched a honey bee foraging on lavender blossoms last weekend, when an ant appeared on the scene. The ant? A worker of Liometopum occidentale (velvety tree ant), according to ant specialist Phil Ward, professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.
If you don't know much about ants, but have always admired them, then "Dr. Eleanor's Book of Common Ants," is for you.
It's the collaborative work of two entomologists: biologist/science writer Eleanor Spicer Rice, who received her doctorate in entomology from North Carolina State University, and biologist/insect photographer Alex Wild, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, studying with Ward.
In a recent Myrmecos blog, Wild describes the book as "an entry-level ebook written for the general naturalist curious about ants. Dr. Eleanor recounts stories of the most common species seen in the southeastern United States, interspersed with photographs from my galleries."
"It’s the kind of book you give to the young naturalist who wonders about the ants on the sidewalk," Wild says, "or perhaps to that grumpy uncle who never quite seems to get what it is you are doing in graduate school studying the little creatures."
And, guess what? The Dr. Eleanor/Dr. Alex book is free to download. One way to receive it is to access the Myrmecos blog and click on the I-Tunes and/or PDF links.
Rice relates that she's always been fascinated by ants. So is Andrea Lucky, who, like Wild, received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis with Phil Ward. Lucky heads the widely acclaimed citizen-scientist project, "The School of Ants." (The School of Ants project is based in the Lucky lab at the University of Florida's Department of Entomology and Nematology and the lab of Rob Dunn in Biology at North Carolina State University. (Email them at email@example.com if you want to know more.)
But back to "Dr. Eleanor's Book of Common Ants." It's fascinating. It's riveting. It's superb. The easy-to-read text and the amazing photos draw you in. You can literally feel the excitement, enthusiasm and passion when Dr. Eleanor asks "What's the big deal about ants?"
"We might not notice them, but ants surround us, occupying nearly every type of habitable nook and cranny across the glove," she writes. "Right now, ants snuggle up to your house, lay out their doormats in front of the trees in your yard, and snooze under your park benches. Some even nest inside the acorns littering the ground."
"We might not notice them, but they're there, and they shape, literally shape, our world," she points out.
And if you look closely in your own back yard, you just might see an ant and a bee sharing a lavender blossom.
A honey bee encounters a velvety tree ant. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Velvety tree ant touches the antennae of a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Of course you do.
But probably not as much as Andrea Lucky, the "Queen of Ants."
(Or as much as Phil Ward, her major professor at UC Davis or Alex Wild, the Illinois-based biologist and insect photographer who also studied with Ward. Both Lucky and received their doctorates in entomology from UC Davis.)
It's a citizen-scientist driven study of the ants that live in urban areas, particularly around homes and schools, Lucky says.
Anyone can participate: teachers, students, parents, junior scientists and just plain (and fancy) ant enthusiasts.
The project involves collecting ants in backyards and schoolyards "using a standardized protocol so that we can make detailed maps of the wild life that lives just outside (or even in) our doorsteps," Lucky says. The data-rich maps "will tell us a lot about native and introduced ants in cities, not just here in North Carolina, but across the United States and, as this project grows, the world!"
Many folks, Lucky says, have asked her about contributing to the project, so there's now a SciFund Challenge and donations are being accepted. "Our fundraising campaign has just six days left," she says, "but of course the project goes on past that deadline."
And the spectacular ant photos on School of Ants website were generously provided by...drum roll...Alex Wild.
Between the photos and the text, there's a wealth of information about ants on the site.
All in all, it's good to see citizen scientists monitoring ants. Ants don't share the same PR image as ladybugs, butterflies and native bees, also tracked by citizen scientists.
One, two, three, all together now, can you say "Myrmecologists"?
Close-up of aphids and ants at the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at UC Davis. This is a Formica moki, a native ant. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Staff at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine's Center for Equine Health encountered "a strange little bug" that they'd never seen before outside their office Friday on Old Davis Road.
Barbara Meierhenry, senior editor at the Center for Equine Health, described it as "a strange little bug...It was about an inch long, with two rounded body sections covered with 'blond' fuzz, and six legs. He was actually very cute. We have never seen a bug like this before."
She emailed us two cell-phone images taken by Equine Control Officer Laurie Christison.
Enter UC Davis bug experts. Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis, quickly identified it as a "female velvet ant (family Mutillidae)."
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology, added: "The photo is of a female velvet ant, genus Dasymutilla, family Mutillidae. The females are wingless and parasitize ground-nesting bees. The males are winged. These ants are not commonly seen. They're usually associated with sandy soil, and are mostly active on cloudy days or at night. Males squeak when handled, females have powerful stings, so it's not a good idea to try to handle them."
Meierhenry speculates the velvet ant "may have come here on a hay truck as we had a delivery of hay on Friday. In the years we have both worked here, we have never seen such a creature."
As a side note, renowned insect photographer and ant specialist Alex Wild, based in Illinois, posted a Mutillidae family member on his popular Monday night insect quiz last February. He titled it "What's That Fuzz?" The responders got the genus right: Dasymutilla, but differed somewhat on the species.
For another amazing photo of Dasymutilla, check out Alex Wild's Dasymutilla gloriosa, aka Thistledown Velvet Ant. Talk about a good hair day!
By the way, Wild, who received his doctorate in entomology at UC Davis in 2005, studying with major professor Phil Ward, will return to UC Davis this week to speak on insect photography. His talk is Wednesday, Oct. 26 from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall. Professor James R. Carey plans to webcast the seminar and post it on UCTV.
It's a good week for bugs!
Equine Control Officer Laurie Christison of the Center for Equine Health captured this cell-phone image of a female velvet ant.
View from above: The female velvet ant by Laurie Christison, UC Davis equine control officer.