That is, you saw a photograph of a Danaus plexippus ovipositing.
The image, by Joe Virbickis of Washington, Ill., won a medal at the international Insect Salon, a highly competitive annual event coordinated by the Peoria Camera Club, Illinois and showcased by ESA. Each year photographers worldwide are invited to submit images of insects, spiders, and related arthropods (such as barnacles, crabs, lobsters, shrimp, centipedes and millipedes).
The 2021 Insect Salon drew a total of 256 images from photographers residing in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, England, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Scotland, Taiwan, United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, as well as within the United States.
An image must receive a minimum of 13 points of the maximum 15 points to be accepted into the show, said Virbickis, chair of the Peoria Camera Club's Insect Salon committee. This year the judges accepted a little over 100 entries. The names of the winning photographers and their images are currently posted online.
ESA member Tom Myers, a Board-Certified Entomologist and noted photographer, chaired and emceed the Insect Salon showing at the Denver meeting.
The "Best of Show" medal went to Marcus Kam of Ipoh, state of Perak, Malaysia for "Bugs Love." Kam, an 11-year insect photographer, also won the medal for the "Best Image by a Non-ESA Member" for his "Sharing."
- "Medal, Most Unusual," won by Albertus Nugroho of Jakarta, Indonesia, for "Super Ant In Action."
- "Medal, Best Story Telling," Dre Van Mensel of Tielen, Antwerpen, Belgium for "Fall Over."
- "Medal, Best by ESA Member," Tom Myers of Lexington, Ky for "Syrphid Fly Feeding."
- "Medal, Best by Peoria Camera Club Member," Joe Virbickis of Washington, Ill., for "Monarch Laying Eggs."
The monarch image? Here's the story behind the image.
"The story...I was searching our milkweeds for monarch caterpillars. I did not find any, but to my surprise, I encountered this monarch laying eggs. Fortunately, my movements to raise my camera did not startle her. I was able to focus and shoot a burst of six images before she fluttered off. Unfortunately, I could not find the eggs to gather them. I do not rear monarchs regularly. A couple years ago, I managed to find, harvest and raise four monarchs for release. It was quite exciting."
Virbickis created the image with his Canon 80D, and a 100-400mm Tamron lens, zooming in at about 200mm. "I have learned that monarchs can be skittish as they are sensitive to movement, sounds and shadows and I did not want to make any more movement than necessary."
A past president of the Peoria Camera Club and a repeat Insect Salon winner, Virbickis also won the same medal in 2012 and 2014 and has scored several acceptances over the years. "I have been interested in photography since age 12 and much of my collection is connected to travel (45 states and 7 countries)," Virbickis related. "I enjoy taking all sorts of images but wildlife, landscapes, nature, grandkids, travel and photojournalism are my favorites."
Virbickis worked as a school psychologist and director of special education from 1980 to 2015, and since then, has continued to work post-retirement as a part-time school psychologist. He has entered photographic competitions "within our local club, within our regional camera club association, in regional art fairs and some national/international contests (like the National Insect Salon). Over the years I've had a good deal of success in competitions and have sold several prints. I like to print my images, as I believe printing is the logical conclusion of the photographic process. It is very satisfying to hold the physical representation of my works and share that with others. Nothing beats watching someone get immersed in viewing one of my images and appreciate what I have captured. I have a very precious collection of prints of grandkids and the wildlife I have encountered over the years. I try to capture stories in my images and share those stories with others."
Known world-wide for his skills as a photographer and entomologist, Myers has traveled to all seven continents, sometimes under the most extreme circumstances, "to document our world and the people and wildlife in it." His images have appeared in USA Today, The Rachael Ray Show, National Geographic publications and Nature's Best, among others. They are also widespread on the Internet, as well as on calendars and in newspapers, textbooks, TV news broadcasts and scientific guides.
Myers, who has worked in the urban entomology field for several years, owns a pest management company in Lexington, KY. The National Pest Management Association and ESA extensively use his insect images. One recent image appeared on the Spring 2021 cover of American Entomologist. His images have won local, national, and international awards. His credits also include two invitational exhibits in Washington D.C. at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
Among the two California entries accepted was one by yours truly, Kathy Keatley Garvey. It depicts two passion butterflies, Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae), "keeping busy." Garvey, a communication specialist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and a member of ESA, quips that it is "insect wedding photography." An image of two bees, titled "Bee 4066" by Nan Carder of Lancaster, Ca., a retired registered nurse and active in the Photographic Society of America, was the other California entry accepted.
ESA, founded in 1889 and headquartered in Annapolis, Md., is the world's largest organization serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and others in related disciplines. Its 7000-members are in educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government.
One point about insect wedding photography is that you don't need an invitation to attend. You just have to keep your distance and not disturb the bridal couple. No sudden movements. No stressful impatience. And no camera flash, please.
It helps, though, if you grow the host plant so a bride and a groom will show up. In this case, we grew passionflower vine (Passiflora), the host plant of the Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae).
One morning we saw a butterfly eclose from her chrysalis. Wedding Day! Within minutes, a male suitor arrived.
They became a couple.
Then unexpected guests arrived...a hungry caterpillar munching on the leaves and a second prospective suitor (PS) (rejected) and a third PS (rejected) and a fourth PS (rejected).
PS, leave them alone!
When the "ceremony" ended, the couple simply left. One sipped nectar from the nearby Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifola. The other flew over the fence.
Soon we'll have more eggs, more caterpillars, more chrysalids, and more adults.
Life is like that when you're growing Passiflora and hoping for a Wedding Day.
You know the drill, lay 'em on the tendrils.
But Gulf Fritillary butterflies, Agraulis vanillae, don't always lay their eggs on the tendrils of their host plant, the passionflower vine (Passiflora) although textbooks may indicate that.
We've seen Gulf Frits lay eggs on and under the Passiflora leaves, on the stems, on the blossoms, and on nearby fence posts and screen doors.
Hey, Gulf Frits, are you trying to tell us something? Don't you like the accommodations?
But the other day, we saw a Gulf Frit executing acrobatic moves to deposit an egg on a tendril. A little breakdancing, Lindy hopping, pole-climbing, scooting, rolling, hooping and juggling--and she's done.
The egg is tiny, bright yellow and pinpoint in size. It will probably hatch, but the larva or caterpillar may not make it.
Currently we have several California scrub jays enjoying an all-you-can-eat caterpillar buffet every morning. They sit on the fence, swoop down, grab a 'cat, and look for more.
There's always food in a pollinator garden. A Cooper's hawk that hangs out in the birdbath knows that, too.
It's Day 2 of National Pollinator Week.
So, I guess I should "toot my own horn" (we don't have one, but in our household we do have a piano, a double bass, a guitar, a banjo, a ukulele, a dulcimer, a harmonica, a sousaphone, a set of hand drums, and two accordions. Note that the last one to play the piano well was the...um...cat).
Yours truly of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, just won a silver award or second-place honors, in a photography competition hosted by the international Association for Communication Excellence in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Life and Human Sciences (ACE). ACE announced the awards today (June 22) at its virtual conference.
To draw attention to the plight of monarchs, I captured (with a Canon MPE-65mm lens) an image of a monarch egg in our family's pollinator garden where we create habitat for assorted bees and butterflies and other pollinators.
“The purpose of my image is to draw attention to the dwindling monarch butterfly population,” I wrote on the form. “They are on life support.” The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation's reports that overwintering monarchs have declined 99 percent in coastal California since the 1990s.
I posted the image at https://bit.ly/3cUx358 Aug. 10, 2020 on my daily (Monday-Friday) Bug Squad blog on the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources website.
Wrote the judge: “Capturing a subject this small is really quite impressive. I appreciate the photographer sharing their equipment and process to capture this image of such a delicate and beautiful little butterfly egg. Very well done.”
The image scored 25 out of 25 points in creativity/originality, audience interest/impact, and overall evaluation.
The egg, I commented, is “an incredible work of nature! The intricate egg is about the size of a pinhead, 0.9mm wide and 1.2mm high. It's creamy yellow with narrow longitudinal ridge. Unless it encounters a predator or parasitoid or another life-threatening factor, the egg will usually hatch 3 to 4 days after Mama Monarch deposits it beneath a milkweed leaf.”
“A good place to see butterfly specimens from all over the world is at the Bohart Museum of Entomology (now temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic)," I added. “Of the nearly eight million specimens in the Bohart, some 500,000 are in the Lepidoptera collection, curated by entomologist Jeff Smith.“ I also drew attention to the butterfly-rearing process of Bohart associate and natural historian Greg Kareofelas.
In addition to the silver award, yours truly won a bronze award or third-place honors for my image of a photo series of male and female Gulf Fritillaries, Agraulis vanillae, “keeping busy.” The Bug Squad post, “Fifty Shades of Orange, with a Touch of Silver,” appeared July 13, 2020 at https://bit.ly/2Q6cU3q.
Wrote the judge: “This submission was a delight! I adored the written piece that accompanied the photos, describing the insect wedding during COVID times. To take notice of these delicate creatures, which many people just pass by without noticing, and to document them in photos is unique…. When photographing subjects of this size, the tack-sharp focus which captures the details that our eyes cannot normally see is what makes them so captivating. It's also incredibly difficult to capture--the photographer did a lovely job.”
“So there they were," I wrote. "The two of them. The blushing bride and the quite dapper-and-dashing groom. They didn't invite me to their wedding. I was an uninvited guest, the only guest. So, I felt obliged to crash their wedding and capture some images…Who can resist insect wedding photography? That's about the only wedding photography happening during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
I also drew readers to the research website of butterfly guru Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, and his information on A. vanillae, (see https://bit.ly/3uw9Yf1) and to specific work of insects “keeping busy” (see https://bit.ly/3rVU1xg) by UC Davis alumnus and renowned macro photographer Alex Wild, curator of entomology at the University of Texas, Austin.
ACE, founded in 1913 primarily for ag communicators, is now an international association of professionals who practice in all areas of communication.
(Editor's Note: Last year, three UC Davis-affiliated communication specialists won a total of six writing or photography awards in the ACE global competition for their work accomplished in 2019 (pre-COVID pandemic). Steve Elliott, communications coordinator for the Western Integrated Pest Management Center, Davis, won one silver (second-place) and two bronze (third-place) for his writing and photography; Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist for the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, two silvers for her writing and photography; and Diane Nelson, communication specialist for the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, won a bronze for her writing.)
If so, then when the 107th annual UC Davis Picnic Day, themed "Discovering Silver Linings," takes place virtually on Saturday, April 17, better wear your sunglasses with all that silver blasting at you.
A silver lining is a sign of hope in a negative situation, like the COVID-19 pandemic. So positivity blocks such negativity as "every rose has its thorn" or "there's a fly in every ointment" or "all that glitters is not gold."
All that glitters is silver now.
On April 17, you can discover scores of silver linings at this "all virtual" family-oriented event, which promises to be informative, educational and entertaining.
Picnic Day officials have released the schedule of events and they include entomological exhibits and talks. Think UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, Bohart Museum of Entomology and the UC Davis Graduate Student Association. (See yesterday's Bug Squad blog)
Don't miss the pre-recorded talk on the Gulf Fritillary butterfly, Agraulis vanillae, by Greg Kareofelas, Bohart Museum associate and naturalist. These orange-reddish butterflies, with their silver-spangled underwings, are glorious. (See what UC Davis butterfly guru Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, says about them on his website.) Kareofelas will showcase them and show you how to rear them, which is what he did last year during the pandemic.
Entomologist Jeff Smith, the volunteer curator of the Lepidoptera collection at the Bohart, will present a live Zoom event from 1 to 2 p.m. on Saturday on mimicry in Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies). "I will briefly mention camouflage," Smith says, "and spend most of the time on mimicry for defense--mimics of toxic or distasteful species, mimicry using odors or sounds, mimics of snakes or spiders, and mimics of non-food materials such as bird feces."
To connect, access https://ucdavis.zoom.us/j/92841203978?pwd=ay91SUpFZnl5MEdnVmlzOUxmMFFZQT09
Zoom Meeting ID: 928 4120 3978
Zoom Passcode: 160485
"People who want to submit their questions to Jeff or request to see certain species from the collection can email their requests to firstname.lastname@example.org with Picnic Day in the subject," says Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum's education and outreach coordinator. "We won't have the time or capacity to access the collection during the event for any requests. Instead, we will pull the items that are requested or relevant to the talk and have those prepared to show. Of course we may not be able to honor everyone's request, but we will do our best."
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane (the museum is closed now due to the pandemic), is directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology. It houses nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a year-around gift shop and a live "petting zoo," comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas.