Macro/Close-up thread for August 2011

Started Jul 31, 2011 | Discussions thread
Victor Engel
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Re: Pachypsylla celtidisvesicula
In reply to hesbehindyou, Aug 15, 2011

hesbehindyou wrote:

Victor Engel wrote:

I guess this picture is nothing to write home about. I just like the juxtaposition of the long name of this little creature and its diminutive size.

I've always wondered what kind of creatures live inside those things; it's the extra information that kinda makes the photo. From the other photos it looks like the little fella was making a run for it - must've been frustrating to photograph. How long did it take and what magnification did you use?

I'm working on trying to catalogue all the bug life in my yard. It's all being put here:
http://victorspictures.com/bugs

First round of work involves going through all my old pictures and finding pictures with bugs. If I don't have an ID, I try to ID them. If I can't, I post them to bugguide.net for an ID. I'm mostly finished this step.

Second round (overlaps first round) consists of taking pictures of more bugs that I know I haven't pictured yet. These psyllids are an example of that. I knew that hackberry psyllids are usually classified based on the shape of the galls, so the first thing I did was to simply scan the bottom side of a leaf. I scanned the bottom side only because the top side was relatively uninteresting. Big mistake. For ID purposes, it's the top side that's important.

Anyway, the person helping me out with the ID asked for a picture of the top and possibly to extract the creature from inside and post it as well. So that's what I did.

The dissection process was tricky because the gall is harder than the rest of the leaf and the insect is more delicate than either. I used a pointy Exacto knife to shave off a layer of the tissue. I also excised a single gall. In the first case, I tried poking under a layer of the leaf and prying it up to reveal the insect. That didn't turn out so well. In the second case, I tried cutting along the inside edge of the gall so that the margin became two layers separated by a space. I hoped to be able to gain purchase between the layers to be able to separate them. I think I accedentally did this and the insect dropped out. But I didn't see that.

I continued to pry the layers out until I found something that I thought was the insect. I photographed it only to realize it was just a shard of leaf, so back to the drawing board.

When I went back to my work area, I noticed a yellow speck by itself. I got a loupe (actually a 12X Raynox lens) to look at it and realized it was an insect.

I very carefully brushed it onto a lens cap and placed it in front of the camera for some pictures. I realized at that point that it was on its back and wasn't going anywhere, so I used that time to get exposure, ISO, etc. the way I wanted them. Considering my flash setup and aperture, I was limited to ISO 800 (I could have adjusted the flash, but that was more work than I cared to do).

The MPE-65 was set to 5X. The images uploaded here are 100% crops. That's as much magnification as I can get with the 5D II. I'll probably do a round two with my new camera, a T3i. I won't be able to use the same insect, but there are plenty other galls where the pictured ones came from.

As far as making a run for it goes, these insects are used to living inside an enclosed area, so they're not set up for a fast getaway. When I finally righted it on that piece of leaf, it walked around but took several seconds to travel its own body length. Most insects I photograph are much speedier than that.

Third round consists of vetting all the pictures and throwing out the bad ones.

Fourth round consists of adding new pictures to existing species and new ones. Very few pictures so far were taken with art in mind. That will change. I want the gallery eventually to be informative and nice to look through. Some of the other entries to these threads will be good inspiration.
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