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insects

Inspiring Ladybug

Inspiring Ladybug
Inspiring Ladybug

Inspiring Ladybug

Nature makes such inspirational color combinations. This morning’s ladybug inspired this afternoon’s design for an autumn flyer for a heating and cooling company.

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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.


Journeys

Journeys
Journeys

Journeys

A ladybug cruises across a strawberry leaf, following the ribs like lines in the road. This composition is so simple, with clear and colorful shapes and shadows.

I’ve been absent for a bit, playing around with Instagram just to learn it for myself and my customers’ use. It’s fun, I like instant, but the camera in my phone isn’t the best. To compensate I’ve been looking for things the camera photographs well and then playing around with filters. In this case, no filters, just a square photo. I’ll be featuring them here to catch up, one or two per day.

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This is shared on Friendship Friday on Create With Joy

Friendship Friday.

Friendship Friday.

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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.


Spidery Visitor

Opportunist.
Opportunist.

Opportunist.

Today’s garden visitor, hard at work, clever little orb weaver. I’m surprised my smartphone got such clear photos, and the light was only angled into that spot for a few minutes. I posted it first on Facebook, but I always download my phone photos to my computer and I can do so much more retouching in Photoshop, adjusting the light and especially retrieving details in the overdone highlights on the spider, though I don’t get them all back.

Hanging out.

Hanging out.

And here is one from 2013 on this date, much more balance taken with my DSLR.

Waiting. spiderweb

Waiting

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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.


Preparing for Winter

Dagger Moth Caterpillar
Dagger Moth Caterpillar

Dagger Moth Caterpillar

Walking along the trail I spotted something small and yellow hovering in the air at about eye level. I thought it was a small insect hovering or a leaf caught in an unseen spiderweb. Above is what it looked like. Below, on closer inspection, it was a fuzzy yellow caterpillar with long black spikes of fur, or setae, symmetrically protruding along the back as it slowly writhed and twisted and turned. But it wasn’t caught in a spiderweb, it was hanging from its own string of silk, which I could not see from any angle, and slowly, almost imperceptibly, climbing back up toward maple leaves overhead.

Dagger Moth Caterpillar

Dagger Moth Caterpillar

I could not see the silk, but the only other thing handy was the ground below, now at least seven feet below the caterpillar. As it inched upward toward the leaf about nine feet from the ground I thought about how vulnerable it had been hanging there in mid-air, the perfect snack for any one of a number of birds to fly by and end its journey early. Did it not know? Perhaps it instinctively did, but carried on nonetheless. What else would it do, starve to death from fear of being caught?

Finally it was nearly at the leaf.

Dagger Moth Caterpillar

Dagger Moth Caterpillar

Then it was “on land” as it were, and it walked along the leaf, obviously on some trail known to itself. I looked it up later and found it was a dagger moth caterpillar, Acronicta americana, and discovered that these and other moths spun silk all over the place to create their own personalized caterpillar-ways through the woods. This particular species was common, could be considered a pest, and at this point in its development if handled the hollow setae could break off in your hand and cause a bit of a rash. It would soon, in this region, build a cocoon to winter over, and next spring emerge as a familiar brown moth to flit about the woods, but for now it was gorging its little body on the plenty of autumn.

Dagger Moth Caterpillar

Dagger Moth Caterpillar

For a little more about the dagger moth caterpillar, read this interesting post.

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For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.


Catching the Sun

Spider in web
Spider in web

Colorful Spider

Lots of spiders around! This spider looks as iridescent as its silk. This photo was pretty challenging as there was a slight breeze blowing and the spider had one support for its web attached to my porch swing. On top of that the sunlight only shines here in dapples, so I had to wait for everything to line up: sun dapple and lack of breeze and swing standing still, AND my camera to be focused all at the same time. I took a lot of photos. Glad for digital.

Spider in web

Spider in a Sling

Spider in web

Dramatic Spider

Spider in web

From Above

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For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.

All images in this post are copyright © Bernadette E. Kazmarski and may not be used without prior written permission.


Spider Dance

spider among flowers
spider among flowers

Spider Dance

You just never know what you’ll get in the background of a black and yellow spider on a summer afternoon. The multi-colored octagonal bokeh behind this spider makes me think of a mirror ball. It’s the refractions of pink and white flowers and dappled leaves set against deep shadows.

Spiders don’t “hang” in the most convenient places. This colorful one had built its orb on the lower branches of several plants in a garden leading to a shaded area, a great place to catch insects as they fly through to nesting areas. The spider is hanging underneath its orb, from the center. I could not get in a position close enough to use my 50mm with the 2.5X adapter that would blend the background into a smooth marbled pattern so I had to use the 70-300mm, hanging sideways and upper body slightly lifted off the ground, doing my best to hold that long lens, fully extended, still for a clear photo. I was immediately grateful for years of yoga practice that developed my abdominal muscles to let me hold myself in this awkward position, as the breeze wafted and shook the web, lifting it up and down, waiting between each little gust. To my neighbors I’m sure I looked like I’d passed out on the sidewalk. But they know my ways.

It never really did stop moving so I didn’t get the closeup I’d wanted, but I liked the bokeh so much I could live with that. Hope the spider likes it. I believe it is a black and yellow garden spider.

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For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.

All images in this post are copyright © Bernadette E. Kazmarski and may not be used without prior written permission.


Garden Visitor

Harvestman Spider
Harvestman Spider

Harvestman Spider

“My leaf,” as the harvestman spider always seems to say as it spread its characteristic loooong legs over leaves and flowers and is often called a daddy long legs. They have eyes but cannot form images and so explore their world with these long legs. They are arachnids but not truly spiders, and where spiders spin and weave webs and generally hunt and eat live or fresh killed prey, harvestmen are generally scavengers or catchers of insects that don’t move too fast, and even eat decomposing plant material. Despite their somewhat threatening appearance, they are the good ones to have around as they tend to clean up, eat pesty insects, and are not at all venemous. And yes, if you pick them up by one of their legs it usually will fall off as a defense mechanism to evade predators. Please don’t try it, though.

The geranium leaf is well suited to the harvestman’s long legs reaching out in all directions. Read more about the difference between harvestmen and other similar species called a daddy long legs that really is a spider, and a flying insect that resembles them both.

Harvestman Spider

This is my leaf.

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For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.

All images in this post are copyright © Bernadette E. Kazmarski and may not be used without prior written permission.


Why Dandelions are Essential

dandelion with honey bee
dandelion with honey bee

Why Dandelions are Essential.

Where else can a hungry honey bee find a meal early in the spring when nothing else is blooming? This little cluster of dandelions is a lifesaver for a bee with spring coming so late and many plants blooming even later, or not at all after a series of freezes. This is another in my series of “Save Our Native Bees” images. Please download and share!

Dandelions are native to all temperate areas of the planet and in that way are familiar to bees all over the planet, providing nectar and pollen as early as warmer temperatures awaken bees. Many other pollinating insects rely on them for a meal as well, such as butterflies, and despised as they are they are important for attracting pollinators to gardens everywhere.

I just don’t understand the hatred of a pretty little yellow flower. I’m so glad to see them in the spring—sometimes they’ll actually bloom during the spring thaw, between the snows, and they’re good to eat too. Their long tap roots break up hard soil and bring minerals up to the surface where plants with shorter roots can access them and they help fix nitrogen in the soil. All those minerals and the vitamins that are locked into the leaves of any verdant plant, as nutritious as any cultivated cooking green we might grow like spinach, chard or mustard greens, are in those pointy leaves for us to consume, and from root to flower dandelions have been a staple in the human diet and healing pharmacy for as long as humans have been foraging. The yellow flowers have been used to make a famous dandelion wine, and also a pale buttery yellow dye. I find them pretty inspiring for artwork as well.

And if you want to have fruits in your orchards and vegetables in your garden, nothing welcomes pollinators like a bright yellow dandelion.

So many chemicals are used to kill dandelions on lawns every year and this chemical use contributes to nonpoint source pollution of our waterways, the largest category of pollutants in the nation. Maintaining your lawn as a habitat and cutting your grass as tall as possible generally keeps them under control—I’ve never gone after the ones in my yard, never use any chemicals at all, and this spring I have about six dandelions. A friend with a new home and an undeveloped lawn was angry about the dandelions that sprung up opportunistically before the grass was even planted. She hated having a front yard full of dandelions. I asked her, after she sprayed them, what did she have left? Dirt. How attractive was that? At least she’d had something blooming before she killed them.

So honor this beautiful and willing flower that has added so much to our health and the beauty of our human lives on this earth, and had not been at all humbled by our attempts to ungratefully kill it off once we decided it no longer fit our ideal of beauty and usefulness. And most importantly, let if feed our endangered bees.

Sources:

Wikipedia: Basic Information

Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association: Ten Things You Might Not Know About Dandelions

Mother Nature Network: Save the Dandelions. Save the Bees.

US EPA: What is Nonpoint Source Pollution?

Off the Grid News: 8 Uses for Dandelions

 


Munching Monarchs

caterpillar-1

Monarch caterpillars on milkweed leaves.

Caterpillars, that is. I visited Fern Hollow Nature Center in Sewickley Heights to work on a painting of the scenery, and in my first trip around the upper trails spotted a monarch caterpillar on a partially-chewed milkweed leaf. I had actually never seen one, though I’ve read all about their habits and appetite for only the best milkweed leaves.

caterpillar-2

I’d never seen them up close before!

Each time I passed the caterpillar, I photographed it with a different lens, also marking its progress along the edge of the leaf it was chewing. It had apparently found a tender spot in the leaf and was methodically chewing along the edge in an arc, back and forth, as far as its head could stretch without moving the rest of its body.

caterpillar-3

Hello!

Monarch butterflies rely on milkweed for all stages of life. Females lay one egg at a time on the underside of a large leathery leaf near the top of the plant. As the caterpillars mature the eat their own shells, then start in on the leaf they were born on; as they grow they shed their skin, and often eat that as well. They’ll move around the plant chewing on leaves through four sheddings or “instars”, and after the fifth shedding they’ll attach themselves upside down under a leave and build their chrysalis. This becomes transparent over a period of two weeks when the adult emerges. This one is probably in its last stage before the big change.

caterpillar-4

Making a nice, neat edge.

For more information on monarch butterflies and butterflies in general, visit Butterflies and Moths of North America at http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/.

Earlier this summer I photographed a Great Spangled Fritillary on milkweed from along the Panhandle Trail near Oakdale, and i I’ve got several more photos of butterflies, mostly from my back yard as the visit the native plants.

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For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms. For photos of lots of black cats and other cats—and even some birds as I first published this post there—visit The Creative Cat.


Circles

spiderweb
spiderweb

Circles

The web freshly repaired in such perfect circles, but no one was home. Perhaps this spider was a little more shy than the one from the other day.

We have damp mornings, but not dewy enough to leave moisture on the spider’s silk, so a clear photo of an orb is a challenge because spiders don’t tend to build webs in sunny spots. Here I had light reflected perfectly straight down from the sky with the web against a darker background. It’s not often I can catch the iridescent coating on the silk, and find those delicate rainbows.


Waiting

Waiting. spiderweb
spiderweb

Waiting

This spider has built an award-winning orb and is waiting for its first customer.

The orb is attached on the back of my car, in front of the wagon door, with threads connected to both ends of the bumper, which is the dark pink you see, the window above, the recycling bin about two feet away, and the shed about four feet away. I really think this guy is having a good long nap after running back and forth, probably several miles in the construction of this thing! I went to open the wagon door this morning and saw him, took a photo instead and let him be. Not sure what he’s going to catch hanging out in front of my license plate, though. I won’t question his judgement.


Praying Mantis, 2010

photo of praying mantis on chrysanthemum
photo of praying mantis on chrysanthemum

Praying Mantis

It’s actually from 2008, before I began photo-blogging, but it’s one of my favorites. Usually, finding a praying mantis is a surprise as they are typically so well camouflaged while waiting for a hapless insect to land nearby, but deep rose-colored chrysanthemums are hardly a foil for a long, slender pale green insect!

They aren’t fearful of humans so I could get close and take quite a few photos. I was watching its tongue flick in and out as it tasted/smelled the air, and I have a few photos of it cleaning its front legs as well.

Spending time with a living creature so different from one’s self is always an interesting experience.


Munching Monarchs, 2009

caterpillar-1

Monarch caterpillars on milkweed leaves.

Caterpillars, that is. I visited Fern Hollow Nature Center in Sewickley Heights to work on a painting of the scenery, and in my first trip around the upper trails spotted a monarch caterpillar on a partially-chewed milkweed leaf. I had actually never seen one, though I’ve read all about their habits and appetite for only the best milkweed leaves.

caterpillar-2

I’d never seen them up close before!

Each time I passed the caterpillar, I photographed it with a different lens, also marking its progress along the edge of the leaf it was chewing. It had apparently found a tender spot in the leaf and was methodically chewing along the edge in an arc, back and forth, as far as its head could stretch without moving the rest of its body.

caterpillar-3

Hello!

Monarch butterflies rely on milkweed for all stages of life. Females lay one egg at a time on the underside of a large leathery leaf near the top of the plant. As the caterpillars mature the eat their own shells, then start in on the leaf they were born on; as they grow they shed their skin, and often eat that as well. They’ll move around the plant chewing on leaves through four sheddings or “instars”, and after the fifth shedding they’ll attach themselves upside down under a leave and build their chrysalis. This becomes transparent over a period of two weeks when the adult emerges. This one is probably in its last stage before the big change.

caterpillar-4

Making a nice, neat edge.

For more information on monarch butterflies and butterflies in general, visit Butterflies and Moths of North America at http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/.

Earlier this summer I photographed a Great Spangled Fritillary on milkweed from along the Panhandle Trail near Oakdale, and in my online photo gallery I’ve got several more photos of butterflies, mostly from my back yard as the visit the native plants.


Beauties and the Beast, and Slideshows of Summer Wildflowers

daddy long legs on woodland sunflowers
daddy long legs on woodland sunflowers

Beauties and the Beast

I enjoy watching Daddy Long Legs spiders—they have so much personality. They appear so fragile but are absolutely fearless, standing atop flowers and hanging on leaves and twigs, waving one or more legs at you and warning not to mess with them, going about their business of stepping from one thing to another, just because they can. You might walk through the woods and see no other spiders at all, but you’ll see plenty of Daddy Long Legs everywhere you go—technically they are not arachnids but “harvestmen“, a separate but related species. Here is a National Geographic article I recently read about how they evolved: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/08/110825-daddy-longlegs-spider-fossils-harvestmen-3d-animals-science/

I couldn’t figure out the orange dots on this one, but I discovered they are actually mites parasitizing the big guy.

The flower they are standing on is a woodland sunflower, abundant in wooded areas along the edges and in clearings. I’ve enjoyed photographing wildflowers in my explorations of the area right around me in Western Pennsylvania. Enjoy a few slideshows of wildflowers from my local travels.


Burdock: 2011

burdock flower with bee

Burdock flower.

Think burdock isn’t good for anything but getting caught stuck in your clothes or your pet’s fur and making a mess? Ask this honeybee! I’m always glad to see honeybees coming to the plants in my back yard wildlife habitat.

This burdock is actually growing in my yard, though some might consider it a weed. It’s not a native plant, coming over from Europe, probably stuck on someone’s britches, but our native wildlife readily accepted its flowers and leaves being much like our native thistles, a close relative.

Later, when the seeds mature, the songbirds will be starting out on their long migrations and will fill up on the high energy content of the fresh seeds before they go; migrating birds will stop by and have a snack as well, and the final settlers who will winter over in my yard will get the final seeds. I’ve heard a few stories of small birds being trapped in the burrs when they are dry, but I’ve never seen this in my yard or along any trail, and I’ve seen plenty a happy bird eating seeds and perching on it, since the plant tries to grow taller than anything around it.

Beneficial insects such as spiders will build nests and lay eggs on the plants, and these will hatch in the warm spring sun early next spring as the cycle begins again.

Burdock has a long history as a medicinal plant as well, with the juice from crushed leaves and stems an effective emollient for burns and rashes including sunburn and poison ivy.

But its greatest claim to fame is to be the inspiration for Velcro. You can find that anywhere.


Dragonfly: 2011

dragonfly
dragonfly

Dragonfly

This one came to visit my back yard this morning. She looks like either a Common Whitetail or a 12-spotted Skimmer to me.


Burdock and Bee

honeybee on burdock plant
honeybee on burdock plant

Bee on Burdock

Near sunset the bees and butterflies were getting their last meal of the day; the burdock was apparently a hot spot to be.

I used my favorite old lens, the 50mm with a 1.5X converter so I have a very short focal length, focusing on one thing in the image and variously softening all the others.


Me and My Shadow: 2011

black-winged damselfly

Damselfly

A busy damselfly pauses on a leaf, her shadow clear in the bright mid-day sun. She looks right at me and seems just as curious of me as I am of her.

I’m not as informed about damselflies as I could be and can’t really identify this one beyond a few guesses. I found it as I was wading in Robinson Run in Collier Township, Pennsylvania.


Suspension

spiderweb with dew

Suspension

A battered orb web in my garden caught the dew on a humid morning, the silk threads so fine they are barely seen, droplets catching light directly from above and reflected below. A clever spider built this over the brick path through my garden, a clear spot that no doubt catches lots of insects as they move among the plants.


Bee Balm

bee landing on bee balm

Bee Balm

A bumble bee comes in for an intoxicated landing on yet another newly-opened bee balm blossom.

The flowers were literally humming with bees, and apparently the flower really is a balm to them as they weren’t at all interested in me. It’s good to have plants like this in your garden, both to attract the pollinators and to feed them—bee colonies have been struggling for many reasons in the past few years.


Beauties and the Beast

daddy long legs

Beauties and the Beast

I enjoy watching Daddy Long Legs spider— they have so much personality. They appear so fragile but are absolutely fearless, standing atop flowers and hanging on leaves and twigs, waving one or more legs at you and warning not to mess with them, going about their business of stepping from one thing to another, just because they can. You might walk through the woods and see no other spiders at all, but you’ll see plenty of Daddy Long Legs everywhere you go.

I couldn’t figure out the orange dots on this one, but I kind of thing those are pollen grains.

The flower they are standing on is a woodland sunflower, abundant in wooded areas along the edges and in clearings.

And here is a National Geographic article I recently read about how they evolved: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/08/110825-daddy-longlegs-spider-fossils-harvestmen-3d-animals-science/


Burdock

burdock flower with bee

Burdock flower.

Think burdock isn’t good for anything but getting caught stuck in your clothes or your pet’s fur and making a mess? Ask this honeybee! I’m always glad to see honeybees coming to the plants in my back yard wildlife habitat.

This burdock is actually growing in my yard, though some might consider it a weed. It’s not a native plant, coming over from Europe, probably stuck on someone’s britches, but our native wildlife readily accepted its flowers and leaves being much like our native thistles, a close relative.

Later, when the seeds mature, the songbirds will be starting out on their long migrations and will fill up on the high energy content of the fresh seeds before they go; migrating birds will stop by and have a snack as well, and the final settlers who will winter over in my yard will get the final seeds. I’ve heard a few stories of small birds being trapped in the burrs when they are dry, but I’ve never seen this in my yard or along any trail, and I’ve seen plenty a happy bird eating seeds and perching on it, since the plant tries to grow taller than anything around it.

Beneficial insects such as spiders will build nests and lay eggs on the plants, and these will hatch in the warm spring sun early next spring as the cycle begins again.

Burdock has a long history as a medicinal plant as well, with the juice from crushed leaves and stems an effective emollient for burns and rashes including sunburn and poison ivy.

But its greatest claim to fame is to be the inspiration for Velcro. You can find that anywhere.


Dragonfly

dragonfly

Dragonfly

This one came to visit my back yard this morning. She looks like either a Common Whitetail or a 12-spotted Skimmer to me.


Me and My Shadow

black-winged damselfly

Damselfly

A busy damselfly pauses on a leaf, her shadow clear in the bright mid-day sun. She looks right at me and seems just as curious of me as I am of her.

I’m not as informed about damselflies as I could be and can’t really identify this one beyond a few guesses. I found it as I was wading in Robinson Run in Collier Township, Pennsylvania this weekend.