So Much for Timing!

By the time I got into my studio at 6:30 am last week three out of my four remaining Monarch larva had emerged, or eclosed, as butterflies. Quckly I made sure I had everything ready for the last ones. I know, from previous experience, that they are very sneaky. You can sit and watch and wait for a couple of hours and as soon as you walk away for two minutes, they start.

I did a few things that took only a minute or two but still managed to miss the very beginning. I do have lots of images from previous eclosions, though.

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It amazes me that they can hold on so tightly as soon as they drop out.

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They all appear to be females.

The last two have now gone as well and I do see the occasional one floating around my garden and nectaring on various flowers.

Out on my lake in the third week of August were many damselflies and dragonflies. There was a pair of this species mating in every area of Pickerel Weed. I would really appreciate someone letting me know what species they are. I think they are spreadwings but no idea which ones.

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There are a couple of new books out this year that could be of help in identification. Both are part of the North Woods Naturalist Series, Damselflies of the North Woods and Dragonflies of the North Woods.

I would like to add that I just returned from the Orillia Dragonfly Festival organized by Kids for Turtles. Colin Jones, one of the co-authors or “The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Algonquin Provincial Park and the Surrounding Area”, gave a presentation. The book is beautifully illustrateded and covers all the species that would be seen around Georgian Bay, Muskoka, and Orillia as well as Algonquin Park. The North Woods books cover species seen further north.

There was another surprise for me after one of my paddles around my lake. I discovered that I had taken images of Mink Frogs rather than the Green Frogs I had assumed they were.

Mink Frogs are medium-sized, from 7-9 cm, have no barring on their hind legs, may or may not have dorsolateral ridges and their bottom lip is plain bright green or yellow. Another of their distinquishing feature is the fact that the web on their hind feet reaches the last joint. All these features may be seen on this individual.

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My friend, Jack Jennings says, ” I figure if I’m paddling along and I see a frog out a ways from shore and it croaks then hops from lilly pad to lilly pad before it dives, it’s a mink frog”. That is exactly what they did when I saw them. Green Frogs usually dive and don’t come back up.

I had never identified them in my lake before so this was a treat. I haven’t heard them here in the spring as their calls are hidden by the loud calls of the many Spring Peepers.

All Images are the property of Eleanor Kee Wellman and may not be used for any purpose without my written permission.

Jewels of the Morning

For the last five mornings I have been out on my lake by 7:30 am. Beautiful time to be out there as there is a bit of mist and the dew hasn’t had time to burn off.

Being out so often in a short period of time has allowed me to see the many dragonfly species that are flying right now. There are several bluet species, that give me a difficult time with identification and use the lily pads and pickerel weed around my dock to hunt, procreate and rest. One of the easiest species to photograph, because of its size and habit of perching on nice large plant stems, is the Slaty Skimmer.

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While the dew was still on the plants I got this bejewelled Marsh St. John’s Wort. It will open later when the sun has warmed it.

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The Yellow-eyed Grass closes overnight, as well, and opens in full sun.

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I have seen all manner of marvels! Five loons together for a late summer meeting. Dragonflies catching mothes and eating water striders. Bull frogs and green frogs enjoying the warm mornings.

In the house three of my Monarch crysalids have produced female Monarch Butterflies. They were all put out carefully on the Butterfly Weed in my garden and I watched one of them fluttering around this morning.

One of my favourite subjects around the lake has been the dew covered spider webs. These really are magic jewels!

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It has been a challenge taking one camera body and one lens, although I have been using a 36mm extension tube for closer focusing. This combination allows for very little depth of field. I do like the results this has given me with some of the spider webs. Very abstract and minimalist with the darks and lights only.

We have had one full week of summer and I’m enjoying every minute of it!

All images in these posts are the property of Eleanor Kee Wellman and may not be used for any purpose without the written consent of the photographer.

More on Monarchs!

With some intensity and patience I have watched more of what happens when the Monarch larva prepares to pupate. The image below shows it resting after it has stopped eating and before it starts to spin the silk pad from which it will hang to pupate.

To me, I must admit, they look a lot nicer a bit further away!

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The larva has started spinning the silk pad with its spinneret located below the mouth parts. It swings its head back and forth building up a cylinder.

As it spins more silk thread it uses its first pair of true legs to help guide the silk. It keeps adding more and more and makes the post thicker and thicker.

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As the spinning is nearly completed the larva spins and attaches thread further out from the post. The larva needs this to be able to turn around and still hold on upside down.

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After the post is completed the Monarch larva turns around and finds the post with its anal prolegs. It clasps the post with the prolegs and moves the legs around and tests to make sure it is attached securely.

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It has taken the larva about two hours to get to this stage in its preparation for pupation.

What an amazing process the larva goes through! I had no idea just how much work was involved. Just think about how this wonderful creature has evolved to do these tasks that are so important to its survival!

Once again I have used my Canon 1DMK2N, 180 Macro lens with 36mm Kenko tube and 1.4 converter on Bogen tripod with Wimberly clamp. Canon 580 II flash on Bogen Magic Arm with Super Clamp.

All images in these posts are copyright of Eleanor Kee Wellman and may not be used for any purpose without the written permission of the photographer.

How the Cremaster is Formed – Even if You Don’t Want to Know!

Cremaster comes from a Greek word meaning, I hang or to hang. In entymology it is the little stem that connects a crysalis, or pupa, to a branch.

When a larva starts to form itself into a pupa it spins a little silken pad on the object from which it wants to hang. After it drops into the “J” position it is suspended just from that little woven pad.

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After the skin splits it wiggles and wiggles with the old skin attached to the rear end.

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The cremaster is being formed from the skin that is being discarded.

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After the skin falls away you can see the perfect little stem that has formed to allow the pupa to move with the breeze.

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Here we see the newly formed Pupa or Crysalis with the cremaster holding it securely to the top.

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After my first attempt at photographing the pupating process I found a new set of props that I hoped would work. Using a 600 g clear container that nuts or trail mix come in I put the caterpillar into it with a few milkweed leaves. I poked holes in the container and the top with an ice pick. The top of the container is clear, also, and pliable enough to be cut easily with regular scissors. After the larva formed its “J” I cut the edges of the lid away which left a clear view of the whole caterpillar and included the top of the lid. Yes, I am a packrat and this is just one of the occasions when that trait has come in handy!

Even though this set-up is anything but natural-looking I like the view of the subject and the reflection on the top.

The camera gear used was the same as for the images of the Monarch Pupating in the previous blog.

All images in these blogs are the sole property of Eleanor Kee Wellman and may not be used for any purpose without the written permission of the photographer.

Monarch Pupates

My last post to this blog was on July 17th, the day the Monarch egg hatched into a larva. It grew and ate and grew and ate until yesterday morning when it began moving around its container. It was big and fat and ready to pupate. After it escaped twice I put a stick into a container and taped a lid over it with the hope that it would attach itself to the stick. No such luck. It attached itself to the lid which meant that I should have chosen a better and more photogenic lid!

Last night at about 6 pm it formed itself into the “J” position. After that it usually takes 12-15 hours for the caterpillar to pupate.

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I set my alarm for 5 am to be sure to catch the next action. At that time the larva was moving its head around and it almost looked like it might be eating something.

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It was still in a tight “J”. By 6 am the J was a little looser and by 6:10 am the tentacles began to wilt. Apparently it then takes about an hour after the tentacles to wilt for the big transformation.

At 7:40 am it began to straighten out and 4 minutes later the outer skin started to split from the back of the head area which was at the bottom.

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It wriggled and wriggled and the skin, which was only the black markings connected by clear areas, split further and was pushed up toward the rear end where it had attached itself to the lid.

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The skin fell away and the larva continued to wiggle around as it compacted itself. It was now only pale green, white and yellow.

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By 8 am the area in the lower right that would become the wings could be seen clearly and the faint veining was apparent. The larva changed shape, the sections disappeared and by 9 am the pupa, or crysalis was in its basic shape.

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This was the first time, out of many opportunities, that I had seen this happen. It was a transformation worthy of a monster movie!! Amazingly beautiful and awe-inspiring and yet grotesque at the same time!

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It takes about 2 weeks for the result of the next transformation to be seen. I have photographed the butterfly emerging from the pupa many times but will attempt to capture this special one to have most of this one’s cycle.

These images were taken with a Canon 40D, 180 2.8 Macro lens, 1.4 X convertor, 36mm Kenko tube, 580 II Flash on Manual at 1/64th power. The flash was on a Manfrotto Magic Arm with Super Clamp and the camer and lenses on a Manfrotto tripod with Wimberly 1.

All of the images in my posts are copyright protected owned by Eleanor Kee Wellman and may not be used for any purpose without the written consent of the photographer.