Remember the Spruce Goose? Technically known as the Hughes H-4 Hercules, it was built by the Hughes Aircraft Company for transatlantic flight transport for use during World War II. Although it basically couldn't get off the ground, it made aviation history as (1) the largest flying boat ever built, and (2) the largest-ever wingspan. If you want to see it, it's on display at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, McMinnville, Ore.
Just like the Spruce Goose, the bumble bee doesn't look flight-worthy, either.
But it is.
We saw scores of bumble bees in May of 2015 when we attended a BugShot Macro Photography Workshop, taught by noted insect photographers Alex Wild, John Abbott and Thomas Shahan at the Hastings Natural History Reserve, a biological field station owned by UC Berkeley in the upper Carmel Valley, Monterey County.
While at the four-day workshop, we had plenty of time to capture images of bumble bees in flight--and we did. We especially marveled at the yellow-faced bumble bees (Bombus vosnesenskii) foraging in a lush meadow of vetch and lupine. It was bumble bee heaven! We posted some of the images on Bug Squad.
Enter aerodynamics expert Phillip Burgers of the School of Arts and Sciences, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, San Diego. He asked for--and received--permission to use one of the bumble bee images for his research paper for an aerospace journal.
"Your photograph is perfect, as it shows those wings flapping back-and-forth, highlighting their kinetic energy concept I am introducing in my paper," he wrote. He signed off as "Phillip Burgers, Ph.D., Aerodynamics & Performance Flight Technologies, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc."
You can read his paper, published July 29 in a special issue, Flapping Wings, Aerospace 2016, 3(3), 24; doi:10.3390/aerospace3030024. See http://www.mdpi.com/journal/aerospace/special_issues/flapping_wings#published
His illustration, titled "Evaluating the capability of generating lift by flapping wings during hover & forward flight," points out "lift," "wing reference area," "kinetic energy of wings" and "air density."
It's good to see the focus on bumble bees--whether in flight or in the Aerospace journal.
The event takes place May 12-15 in Austin and will be taught by noted insect photographers/entomologists Alex Wild, Piotr Naskrecki and John Abbott. (See information on instructors.)
"BugShot courses are designed to help you improve your macro photography technique in the field and in the studio, regardless of your equipment or experience," the organizers say. It covers, among other topics:
- Macro-and microphotography equipment
- Lighting and flash
- Working with live insects
- Introduction to insect biology (track 1) or Introduction to photography (track 2)
- Special techniques: focus-stacking, time-lapse and video
- Digital asset management and workflow
- Field sessions in beautiful natural habitats
- Evening photo-sharing presentations
- Photography in social media
Who should attend BugShot workshops?
- Entomologists who aspire to improve their photographic skills for work or pleasure
- Photographers who wish to learn arthropod- specific techniques
- Naturalists, beekeepers and gardeners who enjoy the little things
- Bug bloggers, social media users, and BugGuide.net contributors who'd like to spice up their online imagery
We attended BugShot Hastings 2015 at the Hastings Natural History Preserve in the Carmel Valley last May. Operated by UC Berkeley, Hastings is a biological field station with much to offer and much to photograph. We fanned out to capture images of everything from bumble bees to honey bees to ants. The instructors-- Texas-based Alex Wild and John Abbott and Oregon-based Thomas Shahan--not only offered instructions and fielded questions but each delivered an evening program--Wild on ants (he received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis with ant guru/professor Phil Ward; Abbott on dragonflies, and Shahan on jumping spiders.
We love looking at insect images.
Drum roll...the winning images for the Entomological Society of America's Photo Salon, a global competition, have just been announced. They will be shown at the ESA's meeting, Nov. 15-18 in Minneapolis, Minn. (The ESA theme this year is "Synergy in Science: Partnering for Solutions.")
You can see the list of winners and their images here: http://www.peoriacameraclub.com/Steve/Html/sect_1.htm
You'll see the best of show, a stunning butterfly image taken in Croatia. You'll see pests, prey, and predators. You'll see insects having a "happy meal." You'll see bug porn, or insects love caught in the act of reproducing more of the critters we love to shoot. You'll see insects you've never seen before--and probably will never see again.
They're spectacular. They're awe-inspiring. They're amazing.
As an aside, two of my photos were selected for the Photo Salon: One is of a bee fly that I titled "Pollen Power" and the other of two praying mantids ("Giddy Up").
Next year, you enter! Track that robber fly, follow that moth, and dash after that Blue Dasher. And don't forget the spiders. They're not insects, but arthropod images are also welcome in the Photo Salon competition.
If you want to learn more about macro photography, check out the Bug Shot Macro workshops at http://bugshot.net/. The instructors include noted insect photographers:
We attended the four-day workshop May 7-10, 2015 at Hastings Reserve, a biological field station owned and operated by the University of California, Berkeley. Texas-based Alex Wild and John Abbott and Oregon-based Thomas Shahan served as the instructors and shared their knowledge and research. By the way, Wild received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis and recently moved from Illinois to be the curator of entomology in the College of Natural Sciences, University of Austin. Wild specializes in ants; Abbott, dragonflies; and Shahan, jumping spiders. But they, of course, focus on other arthropods, too.
It was an incredible four days. More will come.
Ready, set, focus! Oh, no, where did that yellow-faced bumble bee go?/span>
Last summer we spotted what appeared to be the red-backed jumping spider, Phidippus johnsoni (famiiy Salticidae), stalking native bees and honey bees in our yard.
Its iridescent green chelicerae, which characterizes many species in the genus, literally glowed.
It wasn't a good hunter. It missed its prey time after time.
So, it should be interesting when Damian Elias, assistant professor, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley, comes to UC Davis on Wednesday, Feb. 8 to speak on "Multimodal Communication in Jumping Spiders" from 12:10 to 1 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 8 in 122 Briggs Hall.
"Animals use a variety of senses to navigate the world," Elias says. "While humans are adept at sensing the world through visual, auditory, and olfactory (smell) information, some animals use senses that are imperceptible to human observers. The vast majority of life on the planet uses vibrations transmitted through solid objects (substrate-borne vibration) to communicate and up until recently, this crucial aspect of animal biology was completely unknown."
The jumping spider he is currently focusing on is Phidippus clarus.
Elias, who received his doctorate in neurobiology and behavior from Cornell in 2005, says he uses behavioral ecology techniques to study different aspects of communication. In particular, he is interested in questions regarding sexual selection, mating system evolution, signal design and responses to population, ecological, and environmental variation.
If you look on YouTube, you'll see an excellent macro video of the same jumping spider, Phidippus clarus, that Damian Elias studies. It's the work of Oklahoma artist Thomas Shahan (who also teaches macro photography in the popular BugShot workshop).
And, if you think that's amazing, check out the even more spectacular images of jumping spider photos on Shahan's website.