THE SECRET LIFE OF BUGS (in my Garden)

What is so secret about the life of bugs? Read on to find out!

Aside from flowers and raindrops, another thing that I usually focus on with my camera are bugs.

Various bugs inhabit my small garden but compared to flowers, they usually are harder to take pictures of because they move around a lot. So, most of my photos of bugs are either chance encounters or “stalker” encounters.

Chance, because they happen to be on the flower that I am taking a picture of or “stalker”, because I purposely wait out for them as they go about their business. Either way, I always feel elated if I come up with some clear shots.

So here are the bugs I encountered in my garden.

jumping spider, a common bug in my garden
jumping spider, a common bug in my garden

SPIDERS

There are at least 3 (maybe more) different kinds of spiders in my garden.

Before I started focusing on them with my camera, I didn’t know much about spiders. The only thing I know is that they are not insects but arachnids.

Insects have 3 pairs of legs while spiders or arachnids have 4 pairs. I was therefore surprised when I discovered that most spiders have 4 pairs of eyes too. Isn’t that neat? Aha, I bet you did not know that too!

The picture on the right is a jumping spider. It belongs to the family Salticidae . Members of this family do not build webs for capturing prey. Rather, they prowl around and stalk their prey, then when ready to capture, they jump or pounce on them.

If you look at the photo, you will see that this spider has a pair of large center eyes and another pair beside them. With eyes this big, you can be sure that this spider is a hunter. Just look at the insect that it is holding on its jaws. By the way, this spider also has two other pairs of eyes. One pair is behind the center eyes and the other is along the sides of the head. These additional pairs of eyes are not seen in this photo however.

The number as well as arrangements of eyes in spiders is usually used as a basis for their classification.

If you want to know more about spider eyes then click on this link: http://bugguide.net/node/view/84423

This is an orb weaver spider. Unlike the jumping spider, orb weavers do make webs that are usually spiral or rounded in shape, thus their name – orb weaver.

Although orb weavers also have 4 pairs of eyes, these are not very prominent like those of the jumping spiders. They therefore capture their prey with their web. If you notice, the captured beetle is even much bigger than the spider.

Notice too that the web has some white decor on it.  Compare this with the décor of this other web. Aren’t they something?

housefly
housefly
blowfly
blowfly

FLIES

I’ll be the first one to admit that I don’t like flies. I always swat them every time I see them especially when inside the house. However, I must also admit that it’s nice to take pictures of flies because they not only have colourful eyes, but they also stay still, long enough for you to take some good shots.

There are many different kinds of flies. You are most likely familiar with the common housefly (Musca domestic) or the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) and the blowfly (Calliphora sp.). And of course you are familiar with the mosquito which by the way is also a fly.

Flies and mosquitoes belong to the same insect order, Diptera, or true flies.

blowfly (greenbottle)
blowfly (greenbottle)

Blowflies are bigger and more colourful than the ordinary housefly. This is why they are also called bluebottles or greenbottles depending on their color. Since flies feed only on liquid food, I usually chance upon them on flowers or some decaying material.

By the way, did you know that blowflies are valuable tools in forensic science? Yes, they are!

In forensics, after 72 hours or 3 days, it is usually hard to tell how long a body has been dead. Since blowflies can smell decaying flesh from long distances, they are usually the first ones to visit and lay their eggs on the dead being. This is the reason why blowflies are also called carrion flies. Then, since the life cycle of blowflies is very predictable, you can always tell how long a body has been dead by looking at the stage of the life cycle of the blowfly. Depending on the species, blowflies can transform from egg to pupa between 5 to 11 days.

According to Wikipedia, - “the name blowfly comes from an older English term for meat that had eggs laid on it, which was said to be fly blown” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blow-fly).

Millipedes mating
Millipedes mating
Curled millipede
Curled millipede

MILLIPEDES

Millipedes abound in my garden during the rainy months. I always see them slowly moving around inch by inch either alone or with a partner. Yes, they still move around even as they mate! If you try to touch them, they will immediately curl up in defense.

Unlike centipedes that are predators and dangerous, millipedes only feed on decaying leaves. Thus they can be kept as pets if you care for them as such. 

You can distinguish millipedes from centipedes through the number of legs per segment as well as through the speed of their movement.

Millipedes have two pairs of legs per body segment while centipedes only have one pair. Millipedes also move very slowly (inch by inch as I mentioned earlier), while centipedes move fast. That's why the latter are predators. They can even attack animals twice their size.


back view of bee
back view of bee
side view of bee
side view of bee

BEES

There are always plenty of bees buzzing in my garden. However they rarely stay long enough to enable me to take their picture. Thus, when I chanced upon this resting bee one day, I just clicked and clicked away.

One other thing that prevents me from having more bee photos is – I am wary about getting close to them. I am allergic to bee sting, you see! 

I discovered this painfully when I was in high school. One bee stung me on my forehead and my whole face as well as arms became swollen! I looked like a monster from outer space for a few days then! Ugh! Shhh...this is a secret!

By the way, the idea that bees die after they sting is only true if their victim is a mammal or a bird. The barb in their sting lodges in the victim’s skin and will tear loose from the bee’s abdomen as it tries to fly away. Thus, the bee soon dies after this.

praying mantis
praying mantis

PRAYING MANTIS

The “prayer stance” of the praying mantis is due to the folding of its front legs. This is clearly seen in the picture to the right. I found this mantis inside our house “praying” on top of a clock (the blue thing in the photo). What this mantis was praying for on top of our clock remains as a puzzle to me to this day!

By the way, the front legs of the mantis have barbs. The barbed legs are used to strike and hold the prey securely. Once a prey is captured, the mantis almost always goes right for the “neck” much like going for the “jugular” in mammals.

rhinoceros beetle
rhinoceros beetle

BEETLES

I have seen at least 3 kinds of beetles in my garden. However, I was only able to get a picture of this rhinoceros beetle.

It is obvious why this beetle has this name. The horn like structure on its head is very prominent. This is used by male beetles for fighting with other males during the mating season. Because of this behavior, it is not surprising then that they are kept as pets and “beetle fights” are staged as a form of gambling especially in some parts of Asia.

butterfly
butterfly

BUTTERFLIES and MOTHS

Taking photos of butterflies is very challenging because they fly around all the time. So even if I have seen several species of butterflies flying in my garden I do not have any collection of butterfly pictures. I only have this photo plus the one I used in my hub on courtship strategies in animals: http://hubpages.com/hub/Courtship-Strategies-What-We-Can-Learn-From-Animals

caterpillar
caterpillar

CATERPILLAR

If taking pictures of butterflies is hard, taking photos of their larva, the caterpillar, is a cinch.

Caterpillars are so fat and slow moving. They are rather hard to notice because their color usually blends with the leaves they gorge on. This caterpillar on the right certainly is proof that "you are what you eat". Don't you agree?

ANTS

Ants are amazing creatures such that it’s always fascinating to watch them. I already devoted one hub to them: http://hubpages.com/hub/Amazing-Ants

I am sharing here just one favourite photo. You can’t imagine how long I waited for the ants to get into this position so I can take this photo!

When a friend saw this photo, she commented "Awww, how sweet!"

Actually, these ants are not kissing but exchanging info about food!

"There's food nearby. It tastes like this"
"There's food nearby. It tastes like this"
dragonfly
dragonfly
damselfly
damselfly

DRAGONFLIES and DAMSELFLIES

Dragonflies and damselflies are also hard to pin down for a photo session. So my photos of this group are almost always chance encounters. I always have to click fast before they fly somewhere else.

I was actually taking shots of ants when I chanced upon this damselfly. I was afraid it would fly away (it actually did) if I still change my camera settings and my position, so I just clicked away. This is why I was only able to catch its head.

The secret to distinguishing a dragonfly from a damselfly is through the position of their eyes and wings.

In dragonflies, the eyes are right on top of their head and are very close to each other while the eyes of damselflies are separated from each other. When resting, the wings of dragonflies are spread away from the body while that of the damselflies are held close to the body.

milkweed bug
milkweed bug

SEED BUG or MILKWEED BUG

The last bug I will share here is the seed bug or milkweed bug. It belongs to the order, Hemiptera which is considered as the order of true bugs. Also included in this order are water striders, water bugs, and assassin bugs.

True bugs are those insects that have a triangular marking behind their head. Also, their mouth parts are modified into piercing and sucking structures. We can thus see them sucking either plants or other insects.

By the way, these insects do not undergo metamorphosis. That means their young do not go through larval and pupal stages. Instead their young hatch directly from the eggs as young adults called nymphs.

More Bug Secrets

There are still several insects and bugs in my garden. However, I haven’t had a chance to take their pictures yet.

There are several termites for example. I haven’t taken their photo though because every time I see them I just feel like crushing them to smithereens! Why? Because they ate volumes of my favourite books and some clothes, that’s why!

Ok, enough of that. Here’s something to end this hub on a light note.

A Bug's Life

More by this Author


Comments 43 comments

Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 6 years ago from India

It's amazing how you make everything look so beautiful, Jill. I can see that I'll have to look at all bugs and things with new eyes now :)


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Thanks for being the first to visit again Shalini! You just filled my heart with gratitude because of your beautiful words!

Yes, isn't it amazing how bugs can show us the wonders of life?


Green Lotus profile image

Green Lotus 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Jill, your photos are a joy to behold. So beautiful. Thank you for sharing them with us. I'd like to link to this hub from my 'green bug catcher hub' with your permission!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Green Lotus,

Thank you very much for your kind words! They make me very happy.

Go ahead, you have my permission to link. I am actually honored that you considered linking. Thank you very much too!


Angela Rhodes profile image

Angela Rhodes 6 years ago from York, PA

Great Hub with beautiful pictures! Thanks for publishing!


lancelonie profile image

lancelonie 6 years ago

Macros are amazing! They make yucky bugs into gems! :)


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Angela,

Thank you very much too! Thanks for visiting and leaving an inspiring comment.

Hello lancelonie,

You are right! Until I started macro photography, I never thought that I would appreciate a fly for example!

Thank you for dropping by and leaving a wonderful comment.


coffeesnob 6 years ago

Jill you write with your camera as beautifully as you construct your hub articles - you have such amazing talent - i Love to read your hubs


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

What a beautiful thing to say dear coffeesnob. You never fail to inspire me and make me happy with your words.

Thank you very much dear friend! I am happy that you enjoyed this hub.


dohn121 profile image

dohn121 6 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

You have such an amazing talent, Jill. Your profile name really says it all. When my I was helping my brother do some landscaping at his house I came across two huge praying mantises which were just awesome to see, because I rarely see them. One was about 5 inches long and the other one was 6 inches long! I really think that they were mates. You gave such great information on all of these insects. Thank you so much for sharing this.


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 6 years ago

Your photography skill is amazing--these pictures are good enough for life-sciences textbooks and more. I can't help but admire the clarity and the beauty of your shots. Thanks for sharing.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello Dohn, It's nice to see you again!

I am happy that you think I am living up to my profile name! I try my best to, or I don't deserve to use it.

What color were the mantises? They usually use camouflage so it's sometimes hard to see them.

I am happy that you learned something from this hub. You are always welcome!

Hello anglnwu,

Thank you for being a regular visitor. I always enjoy your comments.

Wow, do you really think that the photos are good enough for textbooks? That is a very nice compliment! Thank you very much!


tony0724 profile image

tony0724 6 years ago from san diego calif

Jill you are better then a night watching the Discovery Channel . I love that picture of the dragonfly ! And the detail on the picture of the caterpillar is no less then amazing . OH ! And did I mention I like the picture of the preying mantis too ? I know I say the same thing all the time , but Jill just another piece of great work !


tony0724 profile image

tony0724 6 years ago from san diego calif

Oh by the way did I tell you that you do great work ?


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England

fantastic and enjoyable hub well done!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Tony,

Thanks very much for the visit. You are too kind comparing my hub to Discovery Channel. I'm really flattered and happy of course!

That dragonfly picture is one of my earliest pictures. I did not have time to get a very sharp focus because I was afraid it might fly away (which it did). But I'm really happy I was able to get a shot.

Thank you for being such a dear friend who appreciates my work.

I don't mind you repeating yourself at all. What you say is music to my ears.

Hello D.A.L.

I'm am happy that you enjoyed the hub. Thank you very much for visiting and leaving a wonderful comment.


tim-tim profile image

tim-tim 6 years ago from Normal, Illinois

Love the pictures!I am not a big fan of the bugs but I really enjoy your hubs! Thanks for sharing. I love the photo of the ants!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi tim-tim,

I'm happy that you love the pictures. I am not a big fan of bugs either. However, when I focus my camera on them, they never cease to amaze me with their beauty. Their colors and patterns are just fantastic! Then their stories and secrets are also fascinating. I can't help but thank God for the beauty and wonder of His creations.

Thank you very much for dropping by.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

These photos may be your best yet. The images are incredibly sharp. I had no idea you were an expert at micro photography (or whatever they call it—help me out here). Very impressive. I enjoyed this Page so much.


jiberish profile image

jiberish 6 years ago from florida

You have done a great job photographing those little critters, most of us can't even see them. Great Hub, thank you.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello James,

Sorry I only got to acknowledge your comment now. I was out for 2 days and just got back today.

Thank you very much for your kind words. I treasure them because they are coming from an artist like you.

Macro- or microphotography is actually my first love in photography. I think it's a carry over from my microscope days in school. Macrophotography is more commonly used although some prefer to use microphotography. I prefer to use macrophotography myself because I feel that microphotography is more appropriate for photos taken through a microscope. I used to take a lot of microphotographs while in school.

I'm happy that you enjoyed this hub. Thanks very much again!

Hi Jibberish,

Thank you very much for visiting and leaving a wonderful comment.

You are right, we hardly see these critters nor do we pay attention to them. However, when I started photography, I discovered they are interesting and challenging subjects.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

Wow! You must have been on an eye level with those ants to get that "kissing" pose. Of all of these photos, I think that one is the most amazing simply because of the pose YOU must have taken to get it. Great job as always!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello Peggy,

It's nice to see you again! Thank you!

Yes, I was practically knelling on the ground when I took that picture. I'm really happy I caught them in that pose.

Thanks again for leaving a heartwarming comment.


AdamCairn profile image

AdamCairn 6 years ago from UK

Fascinating, thanks a lot for sharing. It's amazing to think how much life is thriving in the garden, even when it is cold and everything looks dead.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Thanks very much Adam. Yes, it's always fun to explore the garden, you will never know what fascinating things you will discover there.


Hongliang Zhang profile image

Hongliang Zhang 6 years ago from China

Watch very carefully. The effect of shooting is also very good.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello Hongliang Zhang,

Thank you very much for the visit and wonderful comment.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

Thanks for the great photos and the words. Love gardens and the variety of life that goes on in them.

Love and peace

Tony


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello tonymac,

Thank you very much for your inspiring comment. It's nice to see you again!

All the best!


Rose Kolowinski profile image

Rose Kolowinski 6 years ago

I love A Bug's Life! I think bugs are so interesting and you don't realize how interesting until you watch and take macros. Those spider's eyes in the first picture are hilarious! Thank you for another entertaining hub...and I don't have to tell you how much I love your pictures!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Rose,

That makes two of us, I also love A Bug's Life!

Yes, bugs are so interesting, that's why I love to take their photos.

Thank you very much for your visit and heartwarming comment!

See you around!

God bless!


Granny's House profile image

Granny's House 6 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

So cool. Thanks for the pics


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Nice to see you Granny's House!

Thank you very much!

You are welcome! My pleasure really!

God bless!


louisxfourie profile image

louisxfourie 6 years ago from Johannesburg, South Africa

Everything look so beautiful, GO HAVE A LOOK at eyefetch.com and publish your photo's there.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Louisxfourie,

Thank you very much! Your words are music to my ears.

I will check out eyefetch. Thanks for telling me about it. Are you a member there?


Ask_DJ_Lyons profile image

Ask_DJ_Lyons 5 years ago from Mosheim, Tennessee

I have always enjoyed trying to capture pictures of bees on flowers. I loved the beauty that I saw in all your bug pictures. Inspiring!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 5 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Debbie,

It's nice to see you again!

Thank you very much for dropping by and leaving a wonderful comment!

God bless!


Aquatic Guru profile image

Aquatic Guru 5 years ago from Goodspring, Tennessee

Amazing pictures !! I wish I could get photos of my fish to turn out that good! Wonderful Hub! Voting up! Keep up the great pictures and hubs please!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 5 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello Aquatic Guru,

Thank you for your wonderful comment! Will, it might be harder to get a fish photo because it swims most of the time. You will just have to keep watch and wait for the time that they stay still for a while.

Thanks for the vote up! I really appreciate it. I got more photos in my other hubs, you check them out.

See you around!

God bless!


holdmycoffee profile image

holdmycoffee 4 years ago

Love your pictures and information you have included. I especially like the pictures of your spider, ants exchanging food information and dragonfly. It is awesome how you were able to get so close and personal with these little creatures. I also have a hub about creatures living in my yard. Here is a link, if you are intersted. http://hubpages.com/entertainment/Closeups-of-resi...


HikeGuy profile image

HikeGuy 4 years ago from Northern California Coast

Glorious photos! So clear and detailed, and I learned a lot from your writing on all of these creatures.

I'm creating a butterfly garden and I read that they like to bask in the sun on damp sand. My understanding is they take in the moisture through their legs -- I have much to learn about butterflies. You might try putting a tray of damp sand in your garden in a sunny spot to see if they'll light there.

I'm stunned by how you captured all of these insects and showed their beauty.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 4 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello holdmycoffee,

It's great to see you again!

Thank you so much for your wonderful comment. Bugs are really difficult to take photos of. However, once you get a good shot, everything is worth it.

I'm really happy I was able to get that shot of the ants. That is a favorite of mine.

I'll go check out your bugs hub. Maybe we can link up.

God bless!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 4 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello HikeGuy,

Nice to see you again!

Thank you so much for your beautiful words. They make me happy I came up with this hub!

Wow, a butterfly garden! That's wonderful! One thing I notice about butterflies is their preference for certain kinds of plants. Citrus plants usually attract them. I notice that the young leaves of my citrus plants are favorites of some caterpillars.

I'll try your tray of damp sand. Maybe I can attract more butterflies so I can take more photos. Thanks for this tip.

Thanks again for you visit and wonderful comment!

God bless!

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