Category Archives: Bugs

New Opportunities

There is nothing quite like being out on water in a quiet lake cove, with your only company being that of a beloved dog, and the wildlife that calls the lake home.

I recently purchased a kayak.   I am wondering why I didn’t do this years ago.  Not only is a kayak a whole lot of fun, but it also affords a wildlife painter new opportunities for gathering that much needed photographic reference.    Animals and birds naturally gravitate towards water edges.   And most animals and birds are not nearly as afraid of a boat drifting quietly by as they are of a human being tromping through noisy leaf litter in a woods.   Getting close to your subjects is a real advantage of being in a boat driven forward simply by your own desire and a few arm and shoulder muscles.

Both of our dogs like to ride in the kayak.  Below Pawsome shares a wonderful morning with me out on the water.


In the early mornings the coves are aglow in shafts of sunlight, accentuating the steam that rises when water is warmer than the crisp morning air of autumn.


There are many rewards for those willing to rise and shine early…


A muskrat slowly cruises by…


A Flicker eyes me from above…


Sunlight makes the autumn woodland glow…


A Painted Turtle has decided that on this stump, there is only room for one.  The snake just to the right will have to find his own island for sun bathing…


More paddling reveals more surprises…


There is nothing like having a camera pointed at you while “doing your business.”   A young Double-crested Cormorant  finds a “rest stop” between fishing expeditions…


Three heads are always better than one…


A Zipper Spider perches on her glowing web…


Mr Heron allows me to get very close when I’m in my kayak…


Two does came down to the water’s edge for a drink.  I don’t think they knew quite what to make of that floating red-orange thing out on the water…


That was FUN!  When can we go again???


Butterflies flutter by…

September is a wonderful time to watch butterflies.   Some migrate south in autumn.  Others end their life cycles right here a bit later in the season.

The beautiful Monarch butterfly begins his long journey south to Mexico in September.  They can be seen just about anywhere flying clumsily along in the often brisk winds of autumn.  Food sources such as this are a very important part of their migration.

A Golden-banded skipper (below).  This little fellow is showing some wear on his wings.

The amazing Pipevine Swallowtail (next photo) is an iridescent blue over black.

The male orange sulphur butterfly (below) creates stunning contrast against a purple backdrop.

A little female orange sulphur butterfly appears almost white until the sun shines through her beautiful translucent wings.

This stunning male Giant Swallowtail has the same flower nectar on his menu as the Monarch.  This is a very large species of butterfly.

Giant Swallowtail butterflies can be a challenge to photograph, as their wings quiver in a constant fluttering motion, even when they stop to feed on nectar.

A fast shutter speed freezes the constant flutter of those big beautiful wings…

Charlotte ain’t got nothin’ on this lady

Late summer in east-central Kansas is spider time.  Summer begins to loosen its grip and signs of autumn are felt in cooler, dryer air.    Huge  webs created by an assortment of orb spiders begin to emerge en mass, draping themselves high in the tree tops, in our gardens and all over our decking.  Some spiders spin in the evening and take down their great webs each morning.  The beautiful black and Yellow argiope (often referred to the zipper spider, yellow garden spider, banana spider, or golden orb weaver) is one of the most beautiful of these great web engineers.  Her web stays up day and night while she hangs upside down patiently waiting for dinner to come flying or crawling by.  “Welcome to my home, said the spider to the fly…”

An adult female golden orb weaver (photos above and below) positions herself nicely for yummy things to come.  A light misty rain rolling through in the morning lit her great web up with sparkly diamonds.

Females of this species are much larger than males.  Although she is big enough to deliver a bite, she is not poisonous or aggressive.  She liked my camera too, and proved to be quite photogenic.

The Golden orb weaver is capable of creating as many as seven different kinds of silk using several different glands that supply her spinnerets.   The different types of silk have varying amino acid compositions and can vary in the stickiness of the silk as well as it’s thickness.  She uses these differences as a capture strategy while building her great web.

In order to grow, spiders must periodically shed their exoskeletons.   When the spider is about to shed, the inside layers of its skin are digested.  The spider anchors her legs on part of her web, hanging upside down.  The top of the carapace splits and the spider literally falls out of her old shell.  She doesn’t fall to the ground because she is anchored by a strand of silk from her spinnerets.  She expands in size as her new skin dries.  She can even grow back a new limb at this time if one was lost before.

These beautiful creatures have a life span of only a year.  So when the cold of winter begins to set in, our beautiful girl will see her last days.