It’s been a while since my last blog post, but I haven’t been idle. Among the many projects on the go, this coming week sees me participating in Surrey Artists’ Open Studios for the first time. Together with my friend, Jenifer Bunnett, I am opening my studio to the public. The Open Studios project offers the public access to artists and makers by visiting studios, meeting artists and makers, browsing completed works and learning about their method and work in progress. Our first open day is tomorrow, Sunday 5th June, and our studio is ready and waiting. In addition to sharing our printed work, there’s a slideshow of other photographs, a demonstration of the on-camera filter system we both use, and drinks and homemade cake served in my courtyard garden (weather permitting!). If you are able to make it, you will be very welcome. Dates and opening times in the flyer below.
On Friday afternoon I spent a couple of happy hours rediscovering my macro ‘eye’ by photographing bees on cherry blossom. The light was bright and unpromising but I found a spot in the shade of a cherry tree where I could capture something of the softness and delicacy of the blossom. I am not sure who was happier, me or the bustling bees.
A shot from October that I had overlooked. Lacewings appear delicate but are formidable predators of aphids. According to my Collins Complete Guide to British Insects, ‘the larvae of some species camouflage themselves with the dead skins of their prey’ (p.106). I thought it was pretty, toning with the autumn colour of my dogwood tree. Lacewings look amazing in flight; a photographic challenge for this year perhaps…
Cropped for those who like their bugs up close and personal
When I first posted this, I very tentatively identified it as a male four spot orb weaver spider (araneus quadratus) (maybe). Or possibly a marbled orb weaver ( araneus marmoreus var. pyramidatus). I hadn’t found the I.D. especially easy, and asked if anyone knew better, for them to please tell me! Thanks to two very assured comments below, I have now changed the I.D. to an adult male crab spider (misumena vatia). Thank you both. I should perhaps give up trying to identify the bugs I find in my garden as my success rate is woefully low. Anyway, this tiny crab spider was photographed peering over a leaf in a tree rather high up and I was using my macro lens when I spotted it, so these are big crops. A characterful little thing.
One of the most common hover flies in my garden is episyrphus balteatus. I am fairly confident about my identification in four of these shots. Less so in the one below.
I believe episyrphus balteatus is one of the flies also known by the common name, marmalade fly. Obviously, this is because of its colour and not because it has a penchant for preserves!.
Making a bee, err … hoverfly, line
I think hover flies are a delightful addition to the garden. The adults feed entirely on nectar but the larvae are voracious predators of aphids, which makes them jolly useful! Episyrphus balteatus is also one of the best hover fly hoverers, making it a relatively easy target for the photographer.
Hovering over candles?
Hover flies disguise themselves as bees or wasps as a defensive mechanism. Unfortunately, they are so good at this that many people assume they are bees or wasps and, if they think the latter, they tend to swat them. What a shame. Hover flies have no sting and no downside for humans. They aren’t even interested in our food.
Each Spring, the return of the insects to my garden prompts me to dust off my macro lens. After that, it tends to be the default lens until Winter sets in once more. However, it always takes me a while to get my macro eye back in. This year, other commitments meant that I didn’t have much time for photography; a foray into the garden yesterday showed me that my macro eye is most definitely still out! Never mind, there’s always next year…
These shots of a hawthorn shield bug are from earlier in the year. One of the challenges with photographing insects in this country is most of them are so small. In warmer climes, there are big, chunky bugs to capture. These shield bugs are among the biggest I see in my garden, and they are still only 8-10mm when full grown.
I must confess that I was not 100% certain of my ID here and originally misidentified this as a birch shield bug. Thank you to Maria for the correction in the comments below.