Monthly Archives: March 2014

An early blister beetle

Apalus bimaculatus (Coleoptera, Meloidae) is probably the first sign of the approaching spring if you are a coleopterist in Hungary. They usually appear in February when the temperature hits 10°C, first males fly above the weak grass in the sunshine.

Few days later females come out but they fly less, rather walking on the ground and waiting for the males to be attracted by the feromons. Since they move less, it is more difficult to spot them inspite the flashy color. This coloring may warn off the predators – mainly birds. The chemical what the body contains is cantharidin which causes painful blisters on the skin and who knows what else in the tract if swallowed.

This species parasitise solitary bees, primarily mining bees (Colletes sp.). Before the bees start their adult life, these beetles end their life cycle, females lay the eggs then die. The hatching larvae clamber the bees when they visit flowers, and travel to the nest to start the parasite life.

Female sits quietly on a haulm.

Females’ abdomen is always orange, here is full of eggs

Mating begin immediately after one male meets the female. It usually takes only few minutes whilst they sit motionless, performing cooperative subjects. Otherwise capturing them may be painful, especially in warm sunny weather.

The species is surprisingly spreaded in urban areas, it’s known from several point of Budapest. The spot I have photographed them, found in the suburb, next to a subway station:

All the macro shots were taken handheld with the Canon MP-E65/2.8 macro lens at various magnification. Illuminated with a single diffused Speedlite 270EX flash.

Playing with Squills

The beginning of spring brings new opportunities for the macro photographers. In Europe, Squills (Scilla spp.) start flowering by the end of February. There’s a growing population of it close to my home in the city park of Budapest, each year I find more and more plants. Now I visited the site with a camera and used a newly discovered vintage lens of my father’s ancient Praktica. This is the Meyer Optik Primoplan 58/1.9 which is famous of its unique bokeh.

I had to attach a short extension tube and a 1.5x teleconverter from Vivitar, to achieve the required magnification.

Each shot taken handheld on a low angle, illuminated by the natural light.

Later I decided to take some wide angle shots with an Olympus OM Zuiko Auto-W 24/2.8 objective. This lens is a superb piece of glass with a very short (34mm) and small diameter body. It has an excellent, 25cm closest focus giving the ability of macro shots. This will show you the surrounding area with big trees and buildings in the background:

Since I am very close to the plants here, illuminating the foreground is necessary. The best way to avoid unnatural impression is to use a diffused twin flash with reduced power. Mine is a DIY-ed Canon-Minolta blending and it doesn’t let me adjust anything so must play with the sensitivity and the distance of the flashes.

At last here are some older macros starring ants (Prenolepis nitens) on the flowers, taken with Canon’s MP-E65 macro lens: