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Two syrphid flies feed from a peony flower at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Arboretum’s Idea Garden. Click/double click image to enlarge.

National Pollinator Week (June 17-23) in Champaign-Urbana ends with two days of pollinator-related activities. As usual, the University of Illinois’ entomology department coordinates all of the local activities. Information regarding several particularly noteworthy workshops follows:

Saturday, June 22 – Exploring the Science of Pollination (11 AM – noon, Urbana Library)

Sunday, June 23 – Guided Nature Walk (10 AM- noon, Meadowbrook Park, Urbana), Insect Photography Workshop (Noon – 1 PM, Meadowbrook Park, Urbana), Nurturing Native Bees Workshop (2 PM – 3 PM, U of I Pollinatarium, Urbana)

Alex Wild, author of Myrmecos, will lead the photography workshop. It’s a great opportunity to learn about macrophotography. His National Pollinator Week insect photography workshop in 2009 was the catalyst that started my interest in macrophotography.

All activities are free of charge. The full schedule, accessible at http://www.life.illinois.edu/entomology/pollinators/, provides additional detail.

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Sphex pensylvanicus, found throughout the U.S. except for the northwest, is an important pollinator of plants including the milkweeds. Click to magnify.

Like other sphecid wasps, the female paralyzes living insects and carries them to her underground nest. She lays her eggs on the paralyzed prey, which survive for the several weeks required for larval development.

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Mesquitebug Nymph - Image taken using Marian's point and shoot camera during a day of hiking at El Charco del Ingenio Nature Reserve, just outside of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico, June, 2011. Click image to enlarge.

Results from the 2011 ESA International Insect Photography Salon arrived this morning. I love this particular salon. It allows me to see how a subset of four of my images stack up to those of many of the world’s best arthropod photographers.

I diverged completely from my normal international nature photography strategy, entering a set of images four images that have never been entered in a PSA competition before.

Aren’t I reckless? No, I don’t think so either, but this is as reckless as I get…

I was pleased to see three images receive honors.

Results follow:

Mesquitebug Nymph 14/15 points (see above)

Sonoran Desert Ant 14/15 points

I photographed this ant in the Sonoran Desert (my VERY FAVORITE place) during the 2011 Invertebrates in Education and Conservation Conference (July, 2011). Click image to enlarge.

Pollinating Megachilid 13/15 points

This megachilid was thoughtful enough to pose for me at the University of Illinois Arboretum's Idea Garden, August, 2011. Click image to enlarge.

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Female Dolichomitus irritator showing the elongate ovipositor used to insert her eggs into the larvae of wood-boring beetles. Click to magnify.

Ichneumonidae is the largest family of the order Hymenoptera – the bees, ants and wasps. Even expert arthropod taxonomists often have difficulty classifying individuals in this group. Ichneumonids are characterized by long antennae. Females typically have an elongate ovipositor. The majority are parasitic on the caterpillars of moths and butterflies.

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Female white-banded crab spider (Misumenoides formosipes) with prey. Image captured during BugShot 2011 at Shaw Nature Reserve, Gray Summit, MO. Click image to enlarge.

White-banded crab spiders are ambush predators found in open habitats. Located on or under flowers, their prey consist largely of pollinating bees, flies and wasps.

Individuals can change color to match their surroundings, though the color transitions can take several days.

Ted MacRae shows another image of an individual of the same species with differing coloration at http://beetlesinthebush.wordpress.com/2011/09/08/bugshot-2011-final-thoughts/.

A wide variety of color variations, as well as images of males with females, can be found at http://nathistoc.bio.uci.edu/spiders/Misumenoides%20formosipes.htm.

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These economically beneficial flies parasitize a number of crop pests throughout the world. Click to magnify.

The 1300+ different species of this family are internal parasitoids of other insects. Parsitoids, unlike parasites, generally kill their host, avoiding the vital organs until the end of their larval development.

Adults commonly feed on flowers. Adult females adhere their eggs to the top of either a leaf-footed insect or squash bug. Larvae exit their dying host to pupate in the soil.

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Bumblebee (Bombus sp.). Click image to enlarge.

Bumblebees, the only native social bees, are able to fly at cooler temperatures than other bee species. Buzz pollination allows them to be particularly effective in the pollination of plants such a tomatoes, blueberries, cranberries and eggplants.

They, like honeybees, have shown recent worldwide population declines. The cause? Like honeybee decline, a pathogen is partly involved, but inbreeding caused by habitat loss is a major concern and potential contributing factor.

Professor Sydney Cameron of the University of Illinois, performed a three-year study of 382 sites in 40 states and examined more than 73,000 museum records. Her team found the relative abundance of four species declined by up to 96 per cent and that range of the species surveyed geographic ranges have contracted 23 to 87 percent.

Genetic tests indicate the four studied bumblebee species are inbred while other tests implicate the pathogen Nosema bombi as a causal agent.

Read more at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1343979/Bumblebees-risk-wiped-96-decline-species.html#ixzz1Vmnft9kM .

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