Collembola and friends

Dicyrtomina saundersi
This little critter is a globular springtail (Dicyrtomina saundersi). At about 2mm long, it’s a tiny member of the garden wildlife fraternity. You can’t see it clearly in this image but it has a hairy behind, illustrated in the otherwise terrible shot below.


Before macro photography took its hold on me, I didn’t know these little beasts existed. They aren’t even insects. And there are loads of them, everywhere. The shot below is of a raft of assorted springtails that I found floating in a pink bucket outside the back door. I think there are 32 individuals here. Thanks to the springtail experts on Flickr, I can identify many of them:
Sminthurinus niger
Sminthurinus aureus
Dicyrtomina saundersi
Dicyrtomina ornata
Dicyrtoma fusca
Tomocerus minor
assorted Isotomidae.
There are also a couple of psocids (bark flies), which I have photographed before.
I discovered that buckets of water are often fatal because springtails, so named because of the way they leap, are unable to choose the direction of their spring. If they end up in deep water they can become trapped by meniscus effect and die. Of course, I rescued my models (how could I not after they posed so nicely) and released them onto some leaf litter.
Now that my eye is learning to spot ever smaller garden beasts, I also found this little alien, a plant hopper nymph. Odd little thing, again no more than 2mm.
insect macro
But if you google planthopper nymph, and select images, you will quickly see that this little fella doesn’t even merit an honourable mention in the roll call of strangeness.

For these images I have used my macro lens and cropped in but to get decent detail with something this small, I really need to get closer than 1:1.  Canon do a nifty lens that gets you as much as 5x magnification, although I gather it is a tricky thing to use.  I don’t have one but I do have my trusty, and inexpensive Raynox, so for the next garden safari, I will bring it along.


Back to Australia tomorrow.

17 thoughts on “Collembola and friends

  1. Great post; I do need to pay more attention when I am out among the flowers. There are many times in post-processing that I notice a bug or insect I had not noticed while shooting. Of course, by then it’s too late.

    • I find it is something that gets better with practise. For example, although I have been photographing larger bugs for a while now, it is only in the last 18 months that I have started to notice the really small ones, the springtails and similar at about 2-3mm.

    • I haven’t used lens extension tubes myself. I have a macro lens and a Raynox lens that I can pop over the end of my macro to get closer than 1:1. I do know some photogs who have achieved great results with extension tubes.

  2. I love the photographs and commend your efforts on finding the names of these little creatures. I think you have to get close into their world to appreciate them so thank you for giving us this glimpse.
    I have checked the lens and notice it’s a manual focus. Would you find that a problem taking insect photographs? I always use automatic focus and I find that difficult enough to be fast enough with it.

    • I think that the MPE is very tricky to use, not just because of the manual focus but because depth of field is really wafer thin at those kinds of magnification. No idea how people shoot bugs with it. I just know that they do!

      • I know they do image stacking but I don’t understand how you can get focus in different part of a live insects body unless it is not moving and mine all seem to move! In some cases bees are asleep and that would work but in other cases they are not asleep.
        I asked for some advice on bee hotels, as I am concerned about parasitism, from an insect/bee forum. I received such a thoughtful reply from El.gritche – I was so excited! (I don’t know if you have seen any of his photographs on Flick

        Still can’t believe he’d be so helpful. He must be an entomologist as well as a photographer.

      • He sounds like a good contact. I will go and look. As for the focus stacking, a lot of it is done with immobile insects. Bugs tend not to move much when cold so going out first thing helps. But, sadly, a lot of bug shots are taken after the poor models have spent a while in the fridge. Not a practice I espouse. I never interfere with the bugs, preferring to capture them in their natural environment, even if the shots aren’t as good.

  3. Fascinating what critters lurk around us, unseen. Speaking of which, pack your insect repellant if you’re going to be on the coast! My mother in Brisbane (probably miles from your destination, but still…) kept complaining about the sandflies, how they were worse than in memory, even inside the house. I thought she was exaggerating – at first.

    • I experienced the flies! We even resorted to fly nets. Argh! Augusta was the worst, at the lighthouse. They weren’t sandflies, just really annoying flies. But I got very bitten by sandflies on the beach at Busselton. I know all about Australian flies, having encountered Marchies in Queensland back in 1989. Ow!

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