Look deeply into my maw!

There’s a late summer feeding frenzy in the garden at the moment, as this year’s crop of monarch caterpillars do their competitive best to turn into butterflies.   This is indeed a very hungry caterpillar, and if not quite as adorable a gourmand as the Eric Carle version certainly as ravening.

monarch caterpillar eating

Also, if you’ve ever wondered how a caterpillar manages to cling on while dangling upside down on a windy day  . . . here’s a closeup of the hairy hooks on the bottom of their prolegs (the ones at the back), which I did not know until I just now looked it up are called “crochets”.

sticky feet caterpillar

Admirable admiral

Spike here was about 15mm long, and sitting in the middle of a plank on the deck.  I couldn’t get the camera low enough for a great angle, and hey, I wasn’t going to touch it.  A cautious attempt to encourage it on to a leaf with another leaf just resulted in a small bidibid shaped ball of caterpillar rolling around on the deck.   So, sorry, this is not the best photo composition ever, but it is a view of one of the most interestingly strange minibeasts currently in my garden, the yellow admiral caterpillar, with this one likely a little lost on a trek to find more nettles.  Photo with the 4:1 20mm lens.

spikey caterpillar

The tiny photo bomber

A photobomberpillar?

This morning I was trying to capture an image of the mouthparts on this tiny 3-4mm monarch caterpillar, using my ridiculous new 4.5:1 lens, to see if I could.   I’ve almost nearly figured out the flash settings needed, and this time almost almost had the minuscule in-focus zone right when some sort of bug started messing things up by moving around just in front of the lens.  Pulling back a bit, it turned out we were being photobombed by a much faster and tinier lava of some different species.  It seemed to just want to rear up in front of the front of the lens and wave about, firmly refusing to hold a pose long enough for a decent identifying photo.

Amusing, so long as the intruder doesn’t turn out to be the harbinger of some kind of swan plant mothy doom.  I hope at least some of the new crop of monarchs make it to the butterfly stage this summer.  Since I have this new lens and all.


Hey, what is this blurry fast blob that keeps getting in the way?  Ah, that fellow.   

20mm, F11, 1/100, iso 400

Looking closer . . . closer . . . just a little bit closer!

When a new camera lens arrives you just have to put it on your camera and go take photos.  The only creature in my garden willing to pose for my 20mm Zhongyi  4.5x super macro budget lens was this particularly dozy fly.  Possibly the 160 km hours whipping through town at the moment may have moved on many of the other potential subjects.  I’ll need to do a bit of experimenting . . . but so far I like it.   This shot at ISO 1000, f5.6, 1/200 sec.

Macro fly

Pholcus phalangioides – a kitchen-variety alien

There are people with telescopes and various recording devices constantly scanning the skies, convinced that there must be alien eyes watching us.  Some believe in friendly ET type aliens, while others fret about the less friendly Mars Attacks variety.  Either way, beings constructed to the same general scale and with the same basic bipedal design as humankind.

Which makes very little sense.  Five minutes wandering through any suburban garden, even on a cool winter’s day, and you’ll discover a dozen quite different systems to solve the biological problem of moving around, feeding, communicating, creating offspring, and all the other necessary life-tasks.

Alien eyes are watching us, and using other mysterious sense organs to gather information.

Daddy Longlegs is a name given to several quite different creatures, including crane flies and harvestmen.  Daddy Longlegs spiders create messy webs that hang in long trails and collect dust, exposing my sloppy housekeeping.  These webs aren’t sticky, and basically work by tripping up and entangling passing creatures, giving the spiders time to wrap up and bite the hapless bumblers.

Known in the US as Cellar Spiders, since they like to live indoors, and can breed undisturbed in cozy basements, they are also called “skull spiders”, because of a vague resemblance to a skull in the round head shape and three clumps of eyes.  I can sort of see it.

Daddy Longlegs spider

One urban legend claims that Pholcidae are the most venomous spiders in the world (even accumulating venom from their habit of eating other spiders), but are harmless to humans because its fangs cannot penetrate human skin.  An episode of Mythbusters explored and exploded this myth, their bite does penetrate skin, but their venom is fairly mild.

Daddy Longlegs spider