Seventh Annual Day of Insects–A Huge Success

If I was to rank all of the events I go to every year, the one that gives me the most pleasure is not a concert, not any kind of athletic event, not a party, not a reunion, and not a local celebration.

The event I enjoy the most is an event hosted by Rieman Gardens in Ames, Iowa, and it is called Day of Insects.



It is a day-long event (actually, now there is a get-together before the event, so it is sort of a day and a half), with enthusiasts giving short talks about some of the things they have been doing.  These people are involved with conservation, identification of rare insects, or just general exploration.    There were 110 or so people in attendance, all with some deep passion for conservation of the small stuff.


It was topped off by a short visit to the butterfly wing, where there are a lot of colorful non-native butterflies.


This ragged individual was there.  It still has the color though.

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Fun with Flowers

Yesterday we had two crocus flowers blooming–both yellow.  Today the yellow ones are blooming, and a couple of purple ones have popped up as well.  I got a chance to enjoy my hobby of photography today, but I also got a little nostalgic for how things used to be.  Digital photography has some great advantages, but I really miss taking photos with my old film camera, which was a Pentax 67.  Let me try to describe why.


The 67 was a beast to lug around, and I use a big heavy Gitzo tripod as well.  Combined weight for the camera and tripod was probably around 15 lbs.  But I would find a flower (and the woodland wildflowers are a lot more fun), attach the camera, and position the whole setup to try to get the best angle.  The tripod has a short center post, so I can get down low to the ground–touching the ground if the photo was vertical (or “portrait” format) and a few inches above the ground if the picture was horizontal (or “landscape”).  I found that I preferred to shoot most of my pictures in the vertical, so by default most of my photos were portrait format (even my landscapes), and only when the picture demanded it did I shoot the landscape format.

When the tripod was set up, I would push the “mirror lock-up” button, then the shutter release.  There was a soft sound as the shutter released.  When I took photos of flowers the shutter speed was often 1/15 second or less, so the sound even felt slow.

This was slow photography.  I could take ten or fifteen minutes just to set up one shot.  And I loved it.


Today I used the same tripod but I use a Nikon D5300.  I tried to use a similar technique to what I used to do.  The tripod still pushes me towards portrait format photos.  The camera does not take a shutter cable–instead it uses a wireless remote.  There is a tiny button under the lens that I have to press in order to use the remote.  Then I have to navigate a computer menu to find the proper setting for the remote.  It does work pretty well, but the setting will time out after a short period, and I have to keep resetting it to get it to work.  I always use manual shutter speeds and aperture settings on the camera which on the digital camera always seem more difficult to set than the film camera was.

So I am doing about the same thing with the digital camera that I used to do with the film camera, but it involves a lot more work and involves tiny menus on LCD screens.  I really miss the simplicity of photography I used to do, and I have not seen a digital camera that captures that simplicity of operation.

That being said, I then used to have to take the film to a specialized dealer to get it processed, which could take anywhere from a few days to a week.  Then, with the cost of the film and processing, each photo I took cost me a little over a dollar.  And the picture was on slide film–making a print added extra cost.

I still enjoy my photography, and I find there are certain types of photographs that are better when taken with digital equipment than they would have been when taken with film.  But there are types of photos that were easier (and more fun) when taken with the old stuff.


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Now it’s Spring

I keep finding some small signs of spring, but really it is not here until there are flowers blooming.  I looked for them yesterday, and I looked for them this morning.  Not blooming.


But this crocus was blooming this afternoon.  Finally…

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Another Sign of Spring

This is the first day of spring, and I am really ready for spring and summer weather.  About three weeks ago it seemed like it would never come.  I haven’t seen my first butterfly of the year yet, but I have seen my first snake.


I don’t really know my snakes, but from looking through the guide books, I think this is an eastern garter snake, Thamnophis sintalis.  Feel free to correct me if you know otherwise.

I thought I would get a little closer to get a snake’s-eye view.


The eye seems a little cloudy.  I take that as a sign that this snake will shed its skin at some point in the near future.

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Spring is Here and the Bugs are Out

After a month of below normal temperatures, and temperatures that stayed below freezing all day we finally have some relief.  It is still cool today–the predicted high is 45 but I think it will get warmer.  The snow is melting.

Our lawn is about 50% covered with snow.  The ground is still frozen.  I noticed a fairly large number of cluster flies landing on the grass that is free of the white stuff.


Cluster flies lay their eggs on the ground and the larvae are parasites on earthworms.  To get this photo, I did soak the knees of my pants–the ground is still frozen, and even where it looks dry there are pools of water.  But I love it!  Photography is about getting a good image, but it is also about having fun while you get that image.

The elbows of my sweatshirt got wet, too.

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Obey the Sign

I bought a new radio alarm clock today, and being from the “old school” I did read the instructions:


O.K. so far…


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A Winter’s Day

It is cold today and the wind just cuts through.  But I saw some geese in the water on Beaver Creek when I drove across the bridge.  I went back home and got my camera.

The geese are not spooked by moving cars, but if you stop and walk to the edge of the bridge they get scared off.  I took a few pictures then left them alone.


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Maybe in a Few Weeks

The temperature hasn’t reached freezing today, and the weather forecast has below freezing temperatures for highs for the rest of this week.  But we are half-way through February.

Every year I like to photograph the first flowers I see.  Judging by the dates of my photos, the first bloom might be coming up soon–anywhere from three weeks to eight weeks from now.



I took this picture on March 9, 2012.  Other first bloom dates were March 14, 2010, April 3, 2011, March 29, 2013, and April 10, 2014.

It does not seem like it so much now, but the flowers will be blooming soon.

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Under the Weather

Our bird feeder is, as they say, a little under the weather.


But another six weeks or so and winter will be gone.


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What is your State Butterfly

A number of the states here in the U.S. designate state birds, state flowers, and even state soil types.  Some have either state butterflies or state insects (or both).  Iowa does not currently have a state butterfly, but some folks from Reiman Gardens have proposed to the state legislature that we designate the regal fritillary as ours.  And it is a great choice.  It is a large colorful butterfly.  It is generally considered a prairie obligate butterfly.  It was once widespread across the United States, but now is only found in a few places with good prairie vegetation.


I looked at a list of state butterflies.  Slightly more than half of the states have a state butterfly or designate a butterfly as the state insect.  Six states have monarch as their state butterfly.  Five have the eastern tiger swallowtail.  Arizona designates the two-tailed swallowtail, and Oregon designates the Oregon (old world) swallowtail as their butterflies.  Both of those bear striking resemblances to the eastern tiger swallowtail.

Fourteen states have butterflies that are not monarchs or resemble the eastern tiger swallowtail.  All of those are unique butterflies.   Kentucky has the viceroy (possibly to make fun of all the states with monarchs as the state butterfly).  Maryland has the Baltimore checkerspot, Florida has the zebra longwing.  No other state has the regal fritillary.

I think all butterflies are beautiful.  Each has its own degree of charm.  But the regal fritillary has a razzmatazz that most other butterflies can only dream of.


If caterpillars wish they were butterflies, most ordinary butterflies wish they were regal fritillaries.

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