Today I present to you this fly……on a flower. This fly is called a green bottle fly because of the shiny metallic green color of its body. Flies such as these have very important uses in both forensic science and medicine. They are often the first flies to arrive at a human or animal carcass, and this is where they can begin their lifecycle – A female will lay about 200 eggs which hatch and become larvae in 1-3 days, fully developed larvae in 3-10 days, and pupal development takes 6-14 days after which an adult fly emerges. Forensic investigators can use this knowledge to approximate the length of time a deceased has been dead.
These flies (or more correctly, the maggots) are used by doctors to treat wounds which are unresponsive to conventional treatments. They eat away the dead tissue and bacteria, and also secrete antimicrobial enzymes which together prevents infection and allows healthy tissue to grow successfully. Given the increasing resistance of bacteria to known antibiotics, this may just become the medicine of the future. Sorry to give such a literal example of making your skin crawl….
Gary I found one!!! Australia definitely doesn’t have such boldly colored leafhoppers, they are mostly a boring green color, making them very hard to spot amongst the leaves. In contrast, this red-banded leafhopper I found in Central Park is incredibly colorful, and doesn’t blend in at all. Native to North and Central America, this insect is so teeny tiny, it makes some ants look big! I wouldn’t have even known what I was looking at if it wasn’t for a post by Gary on his blog called krikitarts showcasing this spectacular insect (click here for post), with a fantastic photo as well. As soon as I spotted it, I was so excited to see one for myself. It was incredibly hard to photograph as the breeze kept moving the leaf, and the little critter wouldn’t stay still at all, and he’s so tiny I kept losing him, so this is as good a photo as I could get. This colorful insect certainly brightened up my overcast and dreary Sunday afternoon.
Life is supposedly based on a simple equation… Work hard and you will be successful. This may be somewhat true, but I believe that a whole heap of luck is also involved. There are many things you can do in life to increase your chances at being lucky – optimism, open mindedness and determination will go far in helping you live the life you consider successful, which of course, is very different for all of us. So today I offer you this lady beetle, which is considered a sign of good luck by many cultures. My grandmother strongly believes in luck, and would tape four-leaf clovers to all of the framed photos she had around the house. When I was a young child I would go hunting in the garden to find shiny red, yellow or orange lady beetles. After returning from the garden with one in my hand, my grandmother used to recite a nursery rhyme in Italian as she was tracing circles around the lady beetle on my palm. I no longer remember the words of the rhyme, but it was telling the lady beetle to fly away and find me a husband. As it turns out, a month after my husband and I started dating he went to Italy with his parents for 2 months. On his return he gifted me a necklace with a beautiful lady beetle charm attached, and 5 years on we were married. So, sometimes in life working hard doesn’t mean anything at all, you just need a little luck and a lady beetle.
This weekend I met a magical hoverfly. Why magical? Because this is by far the most magical and festive photograph I have ever taken. As soon as I saw the result, I imagined this fly to be a character out of Alice in Wonderland. Those giant round eyes and delicate transparent wings are perfect compliments to the whimsical pattern of his yellow behind – hovering above a background of delicate pinks and greens, punctuated with bright yellow stars which complete this beautiful world. A snapshot of the most perfect moment in time and space.
This past weekend I went to Mexico and had some amazing experiences that I will share with you next week. However, of all of my photographs, this one was quite unexpectedly the most beautiful (and I never thought I would say that about a giant grasshopper!). This almighty insect which visited my balcony was an incredible lime green color with striking blue eyes. It happily sat still while I took my time getting the photo just right. Later that same night as I was walking along the beach, I spotted a few more (even bigger ones!) which I almost stepped on in the dark. One of them was in the direct path of a crowd of people coming down the beach and in need of rescuing. I decided to carefully nudge the insect onto the book I was holding so that I could safely relocate it (mind you, the book was no bigger than the bug itself). However, rather than happily complying with my request, it instead took a flying leap onto my knee, and although I am not at all afraid of insects, this was still a most unpleasant surprise! After a successful second attempt, I moved the big guy out of harms way, and I’m sure he will make a very large and tasty breakfast for some bird in the morning.
You know you were meant to be a biologist when you get excited to discover that snails from different parts of the world look different. Both Puerto Rican and Malaysian snails are the size of mammoths compared to snails found in Sydney backyards (hopefully this fact makes Sydney gardeners a little happier). However, the shell shapes of these slimy creatures is very different. The snails from Puerto Rico are quite flattened, with the center point of the spiral barely protruding at all (photo above). Malaysian snails have a very elongated shell with the spiral being very pointed (photo below). If you are unlucky enough to have lots of snails in your veggie patch in Sydney, you might one day be lucky enough to attract a blue tongue lizard to your yard. These stocky lizards will happily take care of your slimy infestation, which is reason enough for me to keep feeding the snails in the hope that a lizard one day comes to dinner.
I thought it about time for another spider, also a very common species on the east coast of Australia. Don’t worry, just like the St Andrews Cross spider, this is also one of Australia’s friendly spiders which wont kill you. The garden orb weaver is a beautiful arachnid, easily identified by its signature plump belly. It spends the early evening making a magnificent web and spends the night sitting in the center, waiting for an unsuspecting winged insect to fly into this brilliantly formed trap. During the day, the spider will leave the web and tuck itself away in a rest spot, often a leaf very close to edge of the web. If you are walking around and get a face full of spider web, its usually from these guys, thankfully its most often without the spider on your face too!
Not necessarily an image you want with your leisurely morning coffee whilst browsing your WordPress reader (sorry for that). This spider is just one of the species under the genus Argiope which are known for the striking colors on their abdomen. A. keyserlingi and A. aetherea are found in Australia and we call them St Andrews Cross spiders because they sit in the very center of the web with pairs of legs together in an X shape. They also often incorporate a much larger X across the web with silk (part of this can be seen in the bottom left of this photo). Rest assured, this is one of Australia’s friendly spiders which wont kill you 😉
This one’s for you Walter… (for everyone else, if you want to see AMAZING dragonfly photos you should most definitely click here to visit Walter Sanfords blog). So here are my amateur attempts at photographing some dragonflies, and I’ve discovered that you need a lot of patience to do this. These first two are from Singapore, which were sitting in a giant lily pond in the national botanic gardens, a stunning place, especially if you like orchids.
The last one was from Costa Rica, and was continually circling a small pool of water outside my door. I stood for at least 45 minutes (felt like hours) in sweltering hot sun and ridiculous humidity, sweating like never before, all waiting for this dragonfly to land so I could take a damn photo. It actually did land every now and then, always in the same spot, but only for a second before taking off again and flying in circles. So I knew exactly where to point my camera and wait for the landing. Disappointingly, this was as close as I could get, otherwise it refused to land at all. So not a great photo, but I really tried!
This past weekend was a bit of a cold and ugly one in New York, so I didn’t get outside much. I was wishing for better spring weather, but it seems like winter is trying its best not to let go too soon. So instead I painted my own spring, just a fun, light and colorful piece to brighten up my weekend. I hope it brightens up your week too!