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Behaviors Mating : Nature Closeups

Mating Treehoppers

October 1st, 2012 - 9:11 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | 4 Comments

~4mm body | September 29, 2012 | Roswell, Ga, USA

These mating treehoppers (Acutalis brunnea) picked a good place to get together, at least from a photographer’s perspective. I like the composition of this full frame image, but there’s so many different ways I could crop it.

Here’s a closer look at the pair.

Cropped view

I’ve stared at the full size image, but I can’t decide which one is male and which one is female.


Golden Silk Spiders, Mating

March 31st, 2011 - 10:09 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | 4 Comments

January 19, 2011 | Armonia Nature Preserve, Limon Province, Costa Rica

When I first spotted this female Nephila clavipes, she was positioned rather low in her web. Her background was cluttered and shaded. I prodded her a few times, and as I’d hoped, she retreated to a higher position in her web where I thought I might be able to get a more pleasing background.

Unexpectedly, her quick movements drew the attention of a male that was also hanging out in her vicinity. I’ve read that males prefer to mate when the female is preoccupied with a meal (so they’re less likely to become a meal themselves). Perhaps he mistook her quick retreat as movement toward prey. At any rate, he wasted no time approaching her and getting into a mating position.

I kept snapping away the whole time. This was the only keeper, which I’m pretty happy with. I took awhile to settle on the right settings that yielded a pleasing background with adequate depth of field. Then I just shot away and hoped some would yield the right plane of focus. I didn’t quite nail it, but it looks pretty good at this resolution.

It was complete luck that this photo shows pretty clearly the tips of the male’s palps, where he stores sperm prior to mating. The tip of one can be seen pointing rearwards. The tip of the other is inserted into the female’s reproductive opening, the epigyne.

Finally, is it just me, or does it seem like the females of this species might just be putting on some sexy lingerie for the males? Just look at the pattern on the underside of her abdomen!

Photo Details:

Canon EOS 60D
Canon EF100 Macro lens
Canon MT-24EX flash
Shutter priority AE, 1/160 sec, ISO 800, f/6.3
Exposure compensation -1 1/3
Flash exposure compensation -1

Mating Snout Beetles

February 14th, 2011 - 5:54 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | 2 Comments

2mm | January 17, 2011 | Cahuita National Park, Limon Province, Costa Rica

These beetles are tiny. Each one is only a few millimeters long.

Mating Wasp Mimics

October 26th, 2010 - 5:28 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | No comments

January 28, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Normal disclaimers apply (flies are difficult to identify), but these mating flies might be a Systropus species.

Did you think they might be wasps? They are almost certainly wasp mimics.

Don’t be fooled by what appears to be an extra wing on the one to the right. That’s just a trick of the camera.

Globular Stink Bug Invasive

September 26th, 2010 - 5:20 PM | Filed under Featured Creatures | 7 Comments

This post’s featured creature is Megacopta Cribraria.

August 5, 2010 | Twelvestones, Roswell, GA, USA | ~5mm

Just outside the entrance to my subdivision, there’s a stand of kudzu, Pueraria montana var. lobata, at the border of a city park. If you’re not familiar with kudzu, it’s a major invasive here in the Southeast that pretty much takes over wherever it manages to take root. Many of the volunteer outings with the local nature conservancy are focused on eliminating this invasive from conservancy lands. Here are a few photos of the area to give you an idea.

Covered pine tree

Kudzu towering over trail

While walking past this stand on my way to the park, I noticed several bugs crawling around on some of the large leaves. They piqued my attention, so I took a closer look. I recognized them as a new invasive species themselves that I had read about last year. The adult bugs had gotten attention as they sought shelter from the coming winter in and around homes close to kudzu stands in an area about an hour from me.

Taking a closer look inside the kudzu, you’d see something like this.

You can see all life stages here, including some eggs

Even if you don’t get close enough to see them, you can smell them from dozens of feet away.

I returned later that evening to take some clippings home for some studio shots. The adults are quick to drop and take flight, but I snagged quite a few of those as well.

Most of the egg batches I found were on new growth close to the vine. Here you can see some eggs on a budding leaf. The lighter colored eggs with their caps popped off are empty. The darker ones are on the verge of hatching. The nymph on the left is resting after emergence, and the other one is still working itself out of the egg.

Eggs, hatching | Each egg ~.5mm long

Above, the eggs have been neatly arranged in two rows. That was the common pattern, but there were exceptions. I think the female responsible for the eggs below might have been drunk on kudzu wine.

Another batch of eggs

Note those dark spots at the base of some of the eggs. These are packets of symbiotic gut bacteria provided by the mother that the newborns consume. Apparently the bacteria are host specific, so the ones here will help the bugs digest kudzu specifically.

In the images below, you can see groups of nymphs from various instars  feeding together.

Nymphs feeding near leaf buds

Another group of nymphs feeding

Here’s a closer look.

Nymphs feeding on kudzu vine

Nymph feeding, showing low profile

Fifth instar nymph, with wing buds | ~5mm

The sexes are slightly different. In general, the males are slightly smaller than the females. You have to check the undersides to really tell them apart. The females are lighter on the underside of all abdominal segments, whereas only the first few abdominal segments are lighter in the males. The genitalia are also easily visible. The male’s are roundish and the female’s are more triangular.

Female on left and male on right showing sexual dimorphism

Even in captivity, they weren’t shy.

Two males pursuing a female



I saw lots of lacewing eggs, like the one below. I never saw any actual predation though.

That's not a balloon kiddies

Occurrence of the Old World bug Megacopta cribraria (Fabricius) (Heteroptera: Plataspidae) in Georgia: a serious home invader and potential legume pest [pdf]

White-marked Tussock Moth

June 30th, 2010 - 10:20 PM | Filed under Featured Creatures | No comments

I often encounter the easily recognized White-marked Tussock moth, Orgyia leucostigma. I found this one feeding on maple at the end of May in my front yard.

May 31, 2010 | Twelvestones, Roswell, GA, USA | ~30mm

I grabbed it for some closeup shots and to attempt to rear it.



Defensive glands

It must have been a final instar, because it pupated just five days later. It spun the cocoon at the top of a container, but I carefully removed it to take some photos.

Cocoon | June 6, 2010 | ~40mm

A flightless female emerged ten days later.

It's a female! | June 16, 2010 | ~15mm


Females cling to the cocoon until mated. That night, I carefully pinned the cocoon with her on it to a post on my deck. When I checked an hour later, mating was already in progress. The male that found her was rough looking, having lost many wing scales.



The next morning I checked on the cocoon. As expected, the female had laid an egg mass. I assume she fell to the ground as she was nowhere to be found.

Froth-covered egg mass | ~17mm

Surface of egg mass

The eggs overwinter, and I’m holding on to them. Hopeful I’ll get some photos of the early instars sometime next year.