Posts Tagged: Alex Wild
Honey bees love it.
We watched a honey bee foraging on lavender blossoms last weekend, when an ant appeared on the scene. The ant? A worker of Liometopum occidentale (velvety tree ant), according to ant specialist Phil Ward, professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.
If you don't know much about ants, but have always admired them, then "Dr. Eleanor's Book of Common Ants," is for you.
It's the collaborative work of two entomologists: biologist/science writer Eleanor Spicer Rice, who received her doctorate in entomology from North Carolina State University, and biologist/insect photographer Alex Wild, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, studying with Ward.
In a recent Myrmecos blog, Wild describes the book as "an entry-level ebook written for the general naturalist curious about ants. Dr. Eleanor recounts stories of the most common species seen in the southeastern United States, interspersed with photographs from my galleries."
"It’s the kind of book you give to the young naturalist who wonders about the ants on the sidewalk," Wild says, "or perhaps to that grumpy uncle who never quite seems to get what it is you are doing in graduate school studying the little creatures."
And, guess what? The Dr. Eleanor/Dr. Alex book is free to download. One way to receive it is to access the Myrmecos blog and click on the I-Tunes and/or PDF links.
Rice relates that she's always been fascinated by ants. So is Andrea Lucky, who, like Wild, received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis with Phil Ward. Lucky heads the widely acclaimed citizen-scientist project, "The School of Ants." (The School of Ants project is based in the Lucky lab at the University of Florida's Department of Entomology and Nematology and the lab of Rob Dunn in Biology at North Carolina State University. (Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to know more.)
But back to "Dr. Eleanor's Book of Common Ants." It's fascinating. It's riveting. It's superb. The easy-to-read text and the amazing photos draw you in. You can literally feel the excitement, enthusiasm and passion when Dr. Eleanor asks "What's the big deal about ants?"
"We might not notice them, but ants surround us, occupying nearly every type of habitable nook and cranny across the glove," she writes. "Right now, ants snuggle up to your house, lay out their doormats in front of the trees in your yard, and snooze under your park benches. Some even nest inside the acorns littering the ground."
"We might not notice them, but they're there, and they shape, literally shape, our world," she points out.
And if you look closely in your own back yard, you just might see an ant and a bee sharing a lavender blossom.
A honey bee encounters a velvety tree ant. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Velvety tree ant touches the antennae of a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Of course you do.
But probably not as much as Andrea Lucky, the "Queen of Ants."
(Or as much as Phil Ward, her major professor at UC Davis or Alex Wild, the Illinois-based biologist and insect photographer who also studied with Ward. Both Lucky and received their doctorates in entomology from UC Davis.)
It's a citizen-scientist driven study of the ants that live in urban areas, particularly around homes and schools, Lucky says.
Anyone can participate: teachers, students, parents, junior scientists and just plain (and fancy) ant enthusiasts.
The project involves collecting ants in backyards and schoolyards "using a standardized protocol so that we can make detailed maps of the wild life that lives just outside (or even in) our doorsteps," Lucky says. The data-rich maps "will tell us a lot about native and introduced ants in cities, not just here in North Carolina, but across the United States and, as this project grows, the world!"
Many folks, Lucky says, have asked her about contributing to the project, so there's now a SciFund Challenge and donations are being accepted. "Our fundraising campaign has just six days left," she says, "but of course the project goes on past that deadline."
And the spectacular ant photos on School of Ants website were generously provided by...drum roll...Alex Wild.
Between the photos and the text, there's a wealth of information about ants on the site.
All in all, it's good to see citizen scientists monitoring ants. Ants don't share the same PR image as ladybugs, butterflies and native bees, also tracked by citizen scientists.
One, two, three, all together now, can you say "Myrmecologists"?
Close-up of aphids and ants at the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at UC Davis. This is a Formica moki, a native ant. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Staff at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine's Center for Equine Health encountered "a strange little bug" that they'd never seen before outside their office Friday on Old Davis Road.
Barbara Meierhenry, senior editor at the Center for Equine Health, described it as "a strange little bug...It was about an inch long, with two rounded body sections covered with 'blond' fuzz, and six legs. He was actually very cute. We have never seen a bug like this before."
She emailed us two cell-phone images taken by Equine Control Officer Laurie Christison.
Enter UC Davis bug experts. Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis, quickly identified it as a "female velvet ant (family Mutillidae)."
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology, added: "The photo is of a female velvet ant, genus Dasymutilla, family Mutillidae. The females are wingless and parasitize ground-nesting bees. The males are winged. These ants are not commonly seen. They're usually associated with sandy soil, and are mostly active on cloudy days or at night. Males squeak when handled, females have powerful stings, so it's not a good idea to try to handle them."
Meierhenry speculates the velvet ant "may have come here on a hay truck as we had a delivery of hay on Friday. In the years we have both worked here, we have never seen such a creature."
As a side note, renowned insect photographer and ant specialist Alex Wild, based in Illinois, posted a Mutillidae family member on his popular Monday night insect quiz last February. He titled it "What's That Fuzz?" The responders got the genus right: Dasymutilla, but differed somewhat on the species.
For another amazing photo of Dasymutilla, check out Alex Wild's Dasymutilla gloriosa, aka Thistledown Velvet Ant. Talk about a good hair day!
By the way, Wild, who received his doctorate in entomology at UC Davis in 2005, studying with major professor Phil Ward, will return to UC Davis this week to speak on insect photography. His talk is Wednesday, Oct. 26 from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall. Professor James R. Carey plans to webcast the seminar and post it on UCTV.
It's a good week for bugs!
Equine Control Officer Laurie Christison of the Center for Equine Health captured this cell-phone image of a female velvet ant.
View from above: The female velvet ant by Laurie Christison, UC Davis equine control officer.
There are those who point and shoot, those who shoot and point, and those who see the world through a viewfinder.
And then there's Illinois-based Alex Wild, who is in a class by himself. He's an evolutionary biologist turned full-time science photographer whose visual explorations of insect natural history appear in numerous magazines and textbooks, on websites, and in museum exhibits.
Wild also runs photography workshops, teaches entomology and beekeeping at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and blogs for Scientific American.
He's an amazing photographer, Alex Wild is. His work has been showcased in the New York Times, National Geographic and Scientific American, among others.
Wild, who received his doctorate in entomology in 2005 from the University of California, Davis, with major professor and ant specialist Phil Ward, will be on the UC Davis campus on Wednesday, Oct. 26 to speak on "How to Take Better Insect Photographs" from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall.
This is his first visit to the campus since 2005 and he says "I can't wait."
Neither can all the folks eager for his tips on insect photography and an opportunity to view some of his spectacular photos.
"I am aiming this talk specifically at graduate students," Wild writes on his blog, Myrmecos (derived from the ancient Greek word for ant). "Because scientists use images in many applications--from lab websites to posters and presentations--and because cameras are so available and inexpensive, I think basic photography should be as much a part of academic training as learning to assemble a poster or a conference talk. Thus, 50 minutes on simple tips for taking better photos.”
"I do hope those of you within easy travel distance can attend," he adds.
When you access his Myrmecos blog and his Alex Wild Photography portfolio, you'll be transported into the fascinating world of insects. It's not just a journey; it's a trip. A delightful, exciting, inspiring, educational and informative trip.
One of Alex Wild's favorite photographs (below) shows Lasioglossum sweat bees gathering pollen from sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula). He captures a moment in time, and time in the moment.
Noted insect photographer Alex Wild captured this spectacular image of sweat bees on sideoats grama. (Photo by Alex Wild and used with permission.)
Will the real honey bee stand up?
Not all bees are honey bees and not all floral visitors that look like bees are bees. Sometimes they're flies.
A recent trip to the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road at the University of California, Davis yielded a variety of floral visitors.
They all took a'liking to the 8-foot-tall Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia), as orange as a Halloween pumpkin.
The floral visitors?
One was a drone fly (Ristalis tenax).
One was a sunflower bee (Svastra obliqua expurgata).
And one was a honey bee (Apis mellifera).
Scores of editors have mistaken drone flies and sunflower bees for honey bees and published photos that make entomologists cringe.
Entomologist/insect photographer Alex Wild of the University of Illinois (he received his doctorate in entomology at UC Davis with major professor Phil Ward), wrote an eye-opening piece on his Scientific American blog about mistaken insect identities. You'll want to read this--and then take a look at his amazing Myrmecos site.
And if you want to learn about insect photography from a master, be sure to attend his seminar from 12:10 to 1 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 26 in 122 Briggs Hall, UC Davis. His topic: "How to Take Better Insect Photographs."
And maybe he'll mention that Bees of the World book cover. The image is a fly.
Drone fly visiting the Mexican sunflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Sunflower bee packing a load of pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee nectaring a Mexican sunflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)