MY BUGS LIFE

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Today it’s Roddy’s turn to take over the blog, and he’s written about something completely different, but read on and I hope you enjoy it!

It all started with a spider two summers ago. 

Gigi came in from the garden with her hand over a plastic glass and said brightly,”Daddy, I’ve found a tiny spider outside and it’s very beautiful!” 

It was indeed, a tiny dot of a dark creature with three gold spots on its back, so small I couldn’t even see it in the glass at first. The joy of being young, I thought, as I finally located the creature and got out a magnifying glass. An hour later, I was puzzled. None of the varied books on my shelves showed it in their pages, and a 30-minute trawl through the internet revealed nothing similar save for an exotic cousin of a spider from India. I took a photograph of the one we had on the little Canon and sent it to a friend on FaceBook who I knew was keen on dragonflies. He could’t help, but knew someone who could, and so I waited, intrigued.

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The answer came back the next day, from a man on a Facebook group called ‘Insects of Britain and Northern Europe’. I was amazed to see the group had 13,000 members, and even more amazed to see Gigi’s spider identified and commented on with some excitement. It had turned out to be the exotically named Theridula gonygaster, a spider from the far south of Europe, and a species never recorded as far north in France as our little garden, the previous record being 400kms to the south in the foothills of the Pyrenees  For two days Gigi basked in glory as comments and messages from various groups and organisations reached us, and along the way I began to appreciate the interest the little creature was creating. I learnt a little too, not just about global warming, but how insect migration is heavily affected by humans, and how a spider from the toe of Italy could be in a garden centre in suburban England 48 hours later. The fuss over the little spider died down and time passed, life returning to normal.

Then, 10 days later, the children came in to say they’d seen the most amazing caterpillar outside in the hibiscus hedge. It took me just two minutes to become smitten with its glory, and even though I had not have a clue what the creature was going to turn into, I at least now knew some people who did;  two hours later I was on the slippery slope to insect addiction as people by their dozens liked the first photo I ever posted on the same Facebook group. 

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(in case you were wondering, this crazy caterpillar turns into Europe’s biggest flying insect, the Peacock moth) 

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So that first summer I found an alternative universe as I developed my interest in both the macro fauna in our garden, and in the countryside about us. Each night I would go through the pictures I took with the little Canon, trawl the internet for information, and discuss the tiny beasts I was encountering with other people on-line who were similarly intrigued, impassioned, or technically involved with the same fauna that was fascinating me. I exchanged messages with amateurs and experts across the world, shared photos on message boards and found myself inexplicably drawn further into the insect kingdom – and along the way I surprised myself by also becoming more passionate and informed about our surrounding ecosystem, and the role that all these insects played in it.

Then finally there came a day when I realised, or perhaps fully understood, that there is a whole intricate relationship between insects, plants, geography and ultimately, climate. For the truth is that without humans the planet would flourish, but without insects it will shrivel, die and become a barren desert.

It was also at this point that the family realised I was losing the plot, as I started to rescue insects from the swimming-pool and – with a €50 Raynox macro filter attached to an old Canon SX40 bridge camera – started to take even more intimate portraits of even smaller insects, such as the tiny 3mm long blue carpenter bee below, a microscopic little blue mote that floats about European gardens in large numbers at a crucial time of the year; it’s a terribly important, seldom recognised and un-noticed pollinator. 

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Part of my discovery also involved a lesson, one in which I learnt that our insect numbers, especially here in Europe, are disappearing at an alarming rate; the decline is suspected to lie at the hand of humans, and the pesticides and fertilisers which we spray with abandon about our landscapes. An amateur group of entomologists in Germany really made the scientific world sit up and notice last year, when they put out a bulletin that noted a dramatic 80% decline in species and numbers at over 100 sampling sites since 1989. There’s a link to their story at the bottom of this post.

But all of this is something you can find out more about yourselves. There are books to read that make good sense and fine reading, and I’ll mention them later, too. Even if you have just half a yard of lawn or flowerbed, it’s a story worth investigating – you’ll certainly never buy weed-killer with such abandon again, for sure, and hopefully like me, you’ll start throwing tiny lifejackets at drowning insects in your pool or pond. 

Hand in hand with the discovery of the insects in our garden and my investigation into them came a development that I had not anticipated, which was a return to the passion I once had many years ago for photography. In a different lifetime I once owned some fancy gear and made half a living selling photographs to the boating and fishing world, but when Susan and I started to have a family, the Nikons were sold and our photographs became a blur of snapshots of family life taken by a series of small Canons. Creativity still reared its head, but the cameras were smaller, less intrusive and easily pocketable. However, when we moved back to France three years ago I found my little Canon Ixus 900ti had been broken in transit, and so I replaced it with a newer Canon Powershot – a small s120 – little knowing that this was a tool with a great ‘macro’ capability that would even surprise the experts, and it slotted most conveniently into my new-found hobby. 

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With the little camera in hand, I learnt a great deal about the bees and other aculeates in our garden, finding out along the way that there are over 950 species of bees alone in France, from the German wasp (above), to the mighty Carpenter bee (below)

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There was so much to find out, so much knowledge to absorb, that I developed a second life, slinking through the undergrowth after hoverflies with the little camera as Susan toiled in the flowerbeds in bemusement, rightly glowering with disdain at my refusal to help with the wheelbarrow.

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After dark I took to loitering with intent between the chicken shed and the compost bin, the camera in one hand and a torch in the other to illuminate the nocturnal spiders that lurked unseen by day. 

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The children got involved too, and over three years they have brought many things to my attention that my blundering efforts have failed to discover. The little s120 meanwhile has proved itself to be a very capable camera, even with the small sensor it has, and people have been amazed (as have I) with its competent ability to capture fast moving insects in flight, especially the various bees, moths and butterflies it has encountered along the way, from the gloriously named Hairy-footed Flower bee, below, 

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to the dizzyingly quick Humming-bird moth

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The highlight of my budding macro career happened last year, when I discovered a small house-fly sized bee buzzing me as I inspected the Russian sage. At first I thought the little creatures were hoverflies, but after 20 minutes in the hot sun I finally managed to get a photo of one and set off indoors to see what it was. Within five minutes I had narrowed it down to an Anthophora species, and then I was stumped. It didn’t appear to be anything I could find out about at all. 

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I turned to the contacts I’d built up over the past 24 months, and was soon sending photos to important bee-people worldwide. A week later, I had my answer from an American professor who works in Europe every year. The little thing was called Anthophora pubescens, a wee beast never before recorded so far west or north in Europe, and only known before from a tiny corner of Provence. Quite apart from being happy with my find, I was again reminded how how little we really know about the smallest of the animal kingdoms, and how much we are detrimentally changing their world. What was it doing in our garden? How had it got there? Was there another more insidious reason for its visit?

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It appeared from the photographs I took that there is a colony of the bees nearby, so I await next month’s flowering of the sage with great excitement to see if they have successfully left a generation deep underground through the cold winter, ready to emerge this summer; if they have then they will have gained a foothold far north of their normal range. Excitingly, there are several people who want to visit with cameras if the bees are still in residence – and I have to say I’ve become quite paternal to them!

It is perhaps the spiders and bees that I have encountered most of, and learnt the most about. I’ve always found spiders fascinating, and when I discovered that France has over 2000 species it set me off on a trail of arachnophilic delight. Big ones, small ones, tiny ones, they all appeal, not least because I think I understand the place that they occupy in the ecosystem. While I have learnt that the bees and flies are some of the most important insects the world has, pollinating a vast percentage of our crops and flowers, and thus ensuring the success of their growth (which ties in nicely to CO2 and climatology, of course), the spiders remain an order unto themselves – killers of pests, removal henchmen, bailiffs, cleaners, janitors – and in some cases, show amazing bursts of character and intelligence. As far as I am concerned, they deserve a place in every household, solely for the insects they keep out.

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Of course, when one starts to keep an eye out for small creatures, it is not long before one runs into some real characters in the insect world, one group of which is the jumping spiders – small bouncy creatures who fix you with huge eyes and a glare of such intelligence that it seems foolhardy to even argue with them. Typically found in sunny spots waiting for insects to land near them, they are a great pest-control team and will eat their way through as many mosquitos, silverfish and baby cockroaches as you can throw at them. 

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Along with the bees (some of whom became old friends and stopped flying away when I appeared with a camera),

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there were other insects, too. Some were shy, like the ant-lion below,

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and others were charismatic and wanted to appear in films like the Lion King

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And of course, everywhere one looked there was not just life and death, but also sex, and plenty of it. There is antenna-ed passion everywhere, of many sorts, all of which ensures the survival of the natural world as long as humans don’t muck it up too much

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Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 21.10.40Hurry, I think someone’s coming!

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Bloody paparazzi – why can’t they keep away?

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 14.34.54As one Harlequin ladybird said to the other – “The joke’s on me!”  ……… (note the aphid on the right, making good its escape)

Above all else though, I feel a much more attuned person, both to what happens in the garden, and to what’s going on in the countryside. I still have much to learn, but I’m very happy with the knowledge I have accrued to date, to the point that if I see a tree or a flower, I can delight in some knowledge of which insect’s world revolves around the existence of that particular plant, some understanding of the plant’s pollinators and their predators, and to the parasites that are dependent on everything. Consider this; a plant may be pollinated by a bee, but the bee will have a parasite that will either lay it eggs in the eggs of the bee, or alongside them. That parasite will have its own parasite too, and there may be additional creatures that breed and live in the detritus of the nest. There may also be parasites feeding on the droppings of those parasites feeding on the detritus. It is such a complex world, a house of cards that bristles with antennas, wing-cases and hooked feet, where the slightest wrong move can lead to death and where the demise of just one of those species may bring about the downfall of the whole edifice, host plant included.

It is also a world full of characters and peace, one where European and Asian hornets may feed on a fig tree side by side with a human collecting the same fruit, and where a nocturnal visitor might devote a minute of trust to a camera-wielding stranger one dark summer’s night

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I’m happy to say that the children have become awarealong the way too, with that greed for knowledge that only the young can have. Hetty and Gigi both hunt insects with their cameras now, too, and I believe that even Susan has started to display a little interest. Did I see a dragon-fly in last week’s blog? I think nothing peeks a gardener’s interest more in her insects perhaps than when the clod with the spade knows better than her what is being dug up and fed to the chickens!

Above all, I find it hard to not be fascinated by the tiny world that surrounds us, not just in the understanding of the importance it has in our lives, but for the beautiful moments it presents. Can anything beat a small spider, with a John McEnroe headband and green Raybans, sheltering from a summer shower?

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I hope you have enjoyed my hijacking of the blog today as much as I have enjoyed sharing my world of insects with you.

Notes:

  1. All the images in this post are mine, achieved with nothing more than a compact Canon s120, or a Powershot SX40 with a Raynox filter. No $500+ camera gear is required if you want to try the same! If you have a camera and want to take photos of your insects, I’ll help with advice very happily. It’s part of the education and almost all of the fun!
  2. Recommended reading; “A Sting in the Tail” and “A Buzz in the Meadow”, both by David Coulson and both available on Amazon. Stunning, entertaining and sometimes hilarious, there are books that will open your eyes up to what really happens in the countryside. They’re good enough to be read by the pool or on a plane-ride – they are not some dry, factual scientific journals. There are many reviews of them on-line and I highly recommend them.  I think they should be required reading in school, as far as I am concerned.
  3. This is the link to the German amateur entomologists’ story. It is a quick, 2 minute read.

182 thoughts on “MY BUGS LIFE

    • Roger, the pleasure has been all mine. I did not need asking twice when Susan suggested I do something for a change! I just hope I have not bored too many of her regular readers! I would imagine you have a plethora of ooglies down your way – you should take a pic or two and see if you catch the bug [pun intended] 🙂

  • SO enjoyed your photos, and stories that went with them. This has really piqued my interest in the insect world. Thank you!

  • Roddy those are some fantastic pictures, You have shown me a new and delightful world I will not go to the garden and not look at insects the same again. Thank you

    • Marilyn, thank you! Welcome to insect fandom ! I hope you find them as interesting from now on as I do, it was certainly an eye-opener for me, I just hope I can convert a couple of readers to join the macro-gang!

  • Fascinating and scary!! No, I am not afraid of the creatures that you photographed. I am afraid of the precariousness of their existence. Thank you for sharing the beautiful photos that you took and the story behind your interest, as well as the links!

    • Hi Anne – yes the precariousness of their existence is intricately linked with ours. I do hope humans can sort something out or we won’t be here for much longer…..that’s my worry

  • I echo Roger’s comment – the photography is simply amazing! Normally I would cringe when I see such startling crisp images of bugs, but this post certainly grabbed my attention and gave me a new respect for the insects in our world.
    … now if only they would stay outside … 😉

    • Ha! You are too kind, Joanne. There are some outstanding insect photographers in their fields, and I am a long below their level! Hope your insects behave!

  • I have never really given insects more than a cursory glance but this has certainly piqued my interest, I shall certainly be more aware in future

  • Thanks for the blog post. Great subject matter, one each of us can learn from. Love the diversity of your family and all of your interests. But on! 🐝🐜🕷🐌🐛🐞

  • Welcome to the blog Roddy! How I enjoyed your post, insects don’t interest me at all, normally, but I found myself strangely captivated, brilliant writing and photos.

  • Excellent work! I’m a bit phobic about many insects, but I understand and appreciate that they have an important place in the life cycle of the planet and everything on it, including us. This was a real eye-opener, though, and the photos are utterly amazing.

    • Angela – wonderful you know what they’re here for, and I’m sorry they don’t make you happy. They simply do that to some people, I can see that now. But they are extremely important, as you’re aware. Thank you for the compliment, too 🙂

    • Difficult not to be passionate about them when you see them lifesize in the viewfinder, fulfilling their potential without any fuss or drama. It’s certainly a different world when you get down to that size.

  • Great post! Your camera really takes good photos, I have been disappointed in my more expensive camera. As I like to say, I live with bugs in our subtropical climate and I try to let them alone as much as possible as every creature has a place in this world. Our local science museum has helped me identify some of the visiting insects.

    • Your camera may not be at fault, and it may not be you either. If you have a small compact in the house see if it has a Macro mode and use that instead to start with. If you’ve been taking photos with the expensive camera, using your flash on an Auto program will help a great deal, and a tripod can also help. Have you got a macro lens for it?

  • Roddy, great post!! Your passion for the little buggers is contagious and the photographs beautiful…I’m especially fond of little John McEnroe. I’ll definitely be looking at my garden a little more closely now. Thank you for that. We now also know that the artistic talent your children all display comes from both sides of the gene pool!

    • Isn’t that little jumping spider beautiful? It’s Europe’s most colourful species in some ways, and very endearing! Thank you for the compliments, lol, I’ll forgive you the exaggeration, I think. 🙂

    • You’re too kind, Carole. I’m probably a tad soft in the head too, which helps. Susan certainly thinks so….. 🙂

  • Wow!! As a freelance wildlife and landscape photographer, I am in awe of your shooting ability. And stamina. I’ve often said…sitting in wait for the perfect shot is the best free therapy there is! Much time to collect your thoughts and lowers your blood pressure!!
    And isn’t it heartwarming to realize that “the eye” and skill are much more important than 1000’s of dollars spent on gear! If you don’t have the want and the talent, the equipment is for naught!!!!
    Hope to see more of your work!!!!

    • What a lovely comment, thank you. When it comes to equipment I seem to be the poor relation in the family, even Millie and Izzi have APS-C sized cameras, but then I think I may be the only one mad enough to stand thigh deep in the mirabilis in the dark as the mosquitos eat me from the shoes up. There’s a fishing term that’s probably familiar to you – “You won’t catch anything tied to the dock!” which I live by. It’s sort of slid from one lifestyle to another….. Truthfully though, I am also continually amazed at how good the little s120 is for such a small sensor-ed camera. It lives in my pocket and so always to hand. I have a flickr page if you really want to see more photos, so pop over…..you may get bored, I’m warning you 🙂

      https://www.flickr.com/photos/roddyhays/

  • A great post, it’s always the little things that matter isn’t it? I hope you don’t mind me adding this little rhyme, it used to amuse my boys when they were young. Maybe some of my passion for insects has rubbed off on them.

    THE SIPHONAPTERA
    Big fleas have little fleas,
    Upon their backs to bite ’em,
    And little fleas have lesser fleas,
    And so, ad infinitum.

    And the great fleas, themselves, in turn
    Have greater fleas to go on;
    While these again have greater still,
    And greater still, and so on.

  • I am in awe of your photography and your dedication, I imagine you must have had a huge amount of patience to get these shots.

    • Arabella, I am not the most patient person, but I find the whole macro-photograpghy thing quite serene and calm – it’s really not a great hardship to sit still for a while and watch when I have time. Thank you for your kind comment.

  • Not one but two talented bloggers in the family, loved this today, I have a new found respect for insects and I learnt so much whilst being highly entertained at the same time, thank you

    • Hah! I am hardly a blogger, Amanda, just a fella let loose on someone else’s blog for the day, BUT I like the way you think! Hope the insects keep you interested – we will require proof of your continued interest! LOL

  • thoroughly enjoyed your pix and writing, roddy…what a delight! makes me want to go get a decent camera and start investigating my garden more…we are pesticide free, always and i , too, rescue dragonflies and bugs from our pool and send them on their merry way…hope to see more of your writing and pix here…thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Mary, how great to meet a fellow lifesaver! If you want help with the camera let me know, only too happy to help!

  • I totally loved the blog & your beautiful pictures. I have to say spiders outside protecting my home fine, inside no. I live in Texas & with the Black Widow & Brown Recluse can be deadly. I don’t care for wasps & hornets making nests on my front porch, but love honey bees. Loved your pictures!

    • Hi Deborah. I’m sorry you are fearful of those two spiders, they cause a lot of grief and I can still hear people in Florida gleefully telling me all about them! Glad you liked the rest of the photos though! Thank you…..

  • Wonderful!! The pictures and the narrative were both exceptional! Who knew insects could be so fascinating? The colors you captured were gorgeous.

    • Hi Nancy! Imagine the trouble I would have got up to if I’d slipped into this addiction in FL? I’d have been stung, bitten and eaten alive by a host of dangerous things over your way! Thanks for the compliments. Are we going to see you one day over here?

  • Amazing photos and such important words. Insects are crucial to the planet’s – and our – survival. I have always tried to protect and carefully remove the tiny creatures (maybe with the exception of house flies and mosquitoes… sorry) I find trapped in our house or somewhere else they shouldn’t be, and I’m always heartened to know that others do the same. You have inspired me to look at getting a marco lens for my camera and see what is hiding in our garden.

    • Brilliant! So happy you enjoy insects as much as I do and hope you find the right equipment to do the job your end when it comes to photos. If I can help with advice just fire away with questions. I’d love to put someone else on the path to macro-dom! Try finding one of those books – it sounds as though you’d adore them.

  • Good grief Roddy – insect porn on Susan’s blog! Where will it all end? Your photographs are quite superb, and I would have thought that they were taken using very expensive and sophisticated equipment. As you say, insects are so important for the existence of this wonderful planet, yet we seem to be more than happy to destroy them with complete indifference. Hopefully, blogs such as this will enhance interest and enthusiasm for these fascinating wee beasties.

    • It would be nice to think so, Ian, but unfortunately individuals – no matter how many – doing the right thing in their gardens will have zero results in the face of the enormity of the agricultural usage of pesticide and fertilizer. Things will have to change at an industrial scale before we see any great differences.

      Happy you enjoyed the photos! Thank you for the compliment…..

    • I totally agree that it is the industrial scale annihilation of invertebrates that is the real threat, rather than individual gardeners I remember (not too many years ago) that when farmers ploughed their fields the plough would be followed by dozens of birds feasting on the creatures that were exposed. Now, nothing. The soil is effectively sterile. The mass use of antibiotics to promote weight gain is also something that we should worry about.

      Thanks for the book recommendations. Somehow I had missed this author, but both titles will be winging their way from Amazon shortly. Have you ever read ‘The World according to Monsanto’? It is a fascinating and rather sinister exposé of the power of multi-national companies.

      • Hi Ian, you’re also right on the button with your comments about sterile earth. If you have a moment, try looking at this, it’s a frightening prospect for the future.

        http://www.monbiot.com/2015/03/25/3703/

        Monibot has a great deal to say about present day life, and while I do not always agree with everything he says, all of his arguments are very intriguing.

        You’ll love the books – they will really open your eyes, and Monsanto is mentioned more than once in them, as you can imagine. Let me know what you think of them. Drop me an e-mail if you want to talk further, I like chatting to similar mindsets!

      • Hi Roddy, I would be delighted to exchange email chat – I think you have my email address from these replies. I’m not at all sure of the protocols for blogs, but suspect that it would be somewhat frowned upon to take over Susan’s, so if you can send me a note of your email address that would be great. ‘A sting in the tail’ has just arrived, courtesy of Amazon, so once I have finished Monbiots ‘ How did we get into this mess’ , that will be next on the list. Like you, I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says, but it certainly gets me thinking.

        Kind regards

        Ian

  • I didn’t send you the Theridula but we have them in in Southern Spain. haha… I still don’t understand how a flap of a butterfly can change climate. Magnificiant creatures and so sad, that the most of us humans don’t know about their
    importance although some of them are venomous
    Wonderful how discovering a spider can refresh a forgotten hobby. Carry on because your photos are amazing as Susann’s are.

    • Thanks for the feedback, Mumbai! You would, of course, be familiar with gonygastor. I didn’t think of that but you’d see them quite regularly no doubt. Thank you for your kind comments too,.

  • What a terrific post, and like everyone else I am impressed by your photos. I had no idea you were using such minimal equipment!

    I’ve had your newly acquired obsession all of my life, and luckily grew up in a family that encouraged and shared it. I’ve only recently joined the FB group, but I find many old friends there from when I used to be active on Diptera.info. I find the range of people on the FB group fascinating — everyone from the idly interested to the full on published museum taxonomists. We really must meet up in person sometime 🙂 There are a couple of others in our general area (someone from Saumur area, and at least one person in the Charente).

    • Hi Susan – yes, would be good to meet up one day. Come here when the A. pubescens are about. They’re a sight to see, they really are. IF they come back….. love meeting all the people on the group too – I have made some good friends there over the past two years, nice people with wonderful characters.

  • Wonderful photographs, gorgeous article. From now, I won’t look at bugs as I was usually doing. I once left an enthusiastic comment to Susan about her blog and your beautiful family. Next summer, when I have more free time, I will enjoy reading all the posts. I know by advance that it will be a pure delight. Thanks to both of you for this great blog. Anna (North of France)

  • This has been fabulous! Informative, fun and stunning photography! Thank you so much! Hijack again!

  • Hi Roddy. When we spent a wonderful few days with you all last year, I remember our conversation, and your strong desire to return to your photography. I am delighted that you’ve re-kindled your passion, and in such a fulfilling way. Your skill as a photographer combined with a natural way with words, has given us readers a very powerful message. I hope you will share your future discoveries; assuming Susan gives you the space.

    • Hi Bob! Sorry not to have been in touch, we must write and catch up. And yes, thoroughly enjoying the rebirth! Drop me a line and we’ll have a chat – much love to Ali!

  • Loved this post! So encouraged that you were able to do so much with the s120. I’ll have to give it a try. Utterly amazing photography. Your carpenter bee looks like a superhero getting ready to take off and save the world. Never a dull moment at the French Oasis!

    • No, never! Always someone running somewhere! If you buy a s120, give me a shout and I’ll let you know how I set it up to shoot my insects. Thanks also for the kind comments 😀

  • This was a great post. Thanks so much. My interest was immediately engaged, because when we lived in the Pyrenees, I’m pretty sure we spotted the Theridula gonygaster. Then I started to enjoy your photos. Again from our time in the Pyrenees, I never managed to get any kind of image of the hummingbird hawkmoths which were our constant summer companions. My camera, which satisfies me most of the time, doesn’t do macrophotography very well, and as soon as I have the time, I’m going to research cameras which do – you’re clearly impressed, as I am, by your results. Susan’s posts always engage and entertain, but I hope you’ll be a regular guest on her blog because this post was a real inspiration. You both have the knack of making me wish I was back in France (no, wait, that’s probably the horrors of Brexit Britain)

    • Hello Margaret – if I can be of any help in your camera search just let me know. And thank you for the comments, those Hummingbird Hawk moths are a challenge indeed. I find the best thing to do is to sit in the flowers and let them come to you. Watch till you see which flower they always visit, then sit by that one, camera already focused. Breathe deep when they appear!

      • Thank you! Mind you, hummingbird hawkmoths are a bit thin on the ground in North Yorkshire. Even the odd lizard would be nice! I’ve been trying to do some research on The Camera Question. Your camera is only averagely reviewed, but if your wonderful results are anything to go by, I simply can’t agree. I’ll persist in my search, and may come back to you for advice. If I may!

  • Totally fascinated by your blog takeover this week Roddy. Waiting on Bentley and Evie’s current state of affairs. I do have to admit though, the enormous wolf spider that attached itself to the bottom of Josh’s mattress upon jumping from his bureau was consumed by the vacuum cleaner. The screeching of three girls and an even louder young lad created turmoil that had to be resolved quickly. The Dyson did it’s job and the room was put back together. No pictures were taken. Contents emptied quickly into trash bag so possibility it is enjoying a quiet life at the landfill.

    • Now that I would have liked to have seen, Debra. But then next time you’re going to take photos, right? 😀

  • Love, love, love your post, Roddy almost has much as your wifes. I enjoy sitting on my garden bench and watching all the goings on of the insect world. Having only one eye to see all of Gods , creatures I especially enjoyed your work up close. Keep it up. I’ll be anticipating your next foray into the tiny life of insects.

    • Oh Alice, I’m only too happy to help you out when I can. Hopefully you’ll see more from my camera 🙂

  • Thank you Roddy for interestingly detailing about all the insects. Beautiful pictures and I enjoyed reading about them, I have never before been a fan of insects, though I love butterflies, but you made me took a small interest of knowing them. But I hate spiders ohh my god – I wish I had the energy of Gigi to put up with them haha! But you know what, I will surely continue to take an interests in them, you made it for me, I will them and my camera at the same time, and make sure I take them to my computer with my camera in had and find out what I have found. Thank you so much for this. Update us more! Hi Susan!

    • Very thought-provoking and such great photos. We have become so divorced from the natural world around us. We noticed a real dearth of bees last summer and have just put up a bee house, courtesy of Costco would you believe? (no pun intended) Just doing our bit in Toronto.

      • Eileen, thanks for the reply! I find it hard to believe that Costco (harbinger of Monsanto doom) is doing its bit – do you think it’s simply a pacificatory offering, openly in the public eye?

      • Yes and no, Roddy. One major food company started a Bring Back the Bees campaign here and gave out wildflower seeds from PEI with cereal boxes. Questions arose as to their GMO status, were they invasive etc. They were cleared on all counts but I’m sure it had a chilling effect on other potential corporate sponsors in the environmental arena. I think we are all justifiably cynical about corporate altruism but I prefer to believe they too are waking up to the fact that we all share this beautiful planet and must take shared responsibility for our effect on it. They have great reach and can fund early childhood educational programs. Call it enlightened self-interest if you will. Whatever works!

  • Oh, I loved your post, Roddy. Fabulous photos and text. You have certainly piqued my interest in insects and I will look more closely from now on!

  • Oh Roddy, I so wished I hadn’t insisted reading this post before going to bed….. ;(
    IF I can sleep at all with those (amazing, incredible, wonderful) fearsome looking beasts etched behind my irises, I wd love to comment later, maybe Tuesday (will have some 25 ppl tmorrow)
    bonne nuit you brave man

      • Wow oh wow….. I had to leave my reply for another day – this post is just TOOOOOOO awesome, interesting, scary, wonderful, informative for a ‘quick quick’ comment.
        I ‘have things to say’ (on nearly everything, in fact, & mostly utterly unnecessary, but fascinating, ha ha – I’m sure!).
        – You made me totally ‘sit up’ with both your immaculate shots and great descriptions. As a somewhat handicapped person who only has to go out in my garden with long sleeves, socks and garden shoes, hat and sunscreen 100, I still manage regularly to be out for 20′ and return with 70 bites, stings and hay fever ‘forever’. So, I don’t think I’ll ever venture to take actually pics of all those little beasts but I’m more than happy to learn about them from your tutoring. I even put an ‘insect hotel’ I bought in Switzerland in a little cherry tree. I don’t ever kill spiders, and put all the little buggers I find back in the outside world where they belong without harming them. So, I’m basically a good person 😉
        – I would be very happy to see posts of you on other occasions! You have, same as Susan, got your priorities right and are happy to share your knowledge and your principles with us which is only too rare and very appreciated.
        Now a big ‘me’ bit:
        – I had a wonderful Canon with lenses who did brilliant macros – and was working with FILM ….. When it broke (and it was a huge investment at the time), I swapped it for another Canon – again at great cost and super quality shots. But then, that one broke too (in both cases the motor bit gave in), and also I started seriously loosing my eye-sight – suddenly everything looked ‘macro’ to me, you know, all blurry, bokeh, the ‘textures’ feature became my sight. I also was truly fed up with the heavy weight of my camera and I hunted for something a bit more lightweight. I then bought a Canon Powershot SX30 IS. One of the main reasons for this was the very large display, knowing that I can’t use the visor anymore…. and yes, It’s a fantastic toy – not too heavy and takes brilliant ‘large frame’ shots, landscapes, city scapes, anything really but close-ups. They’re so bad that for years now I’m dreaming about a ultra-light small camera with a large display (again, the Canon one moves nearly in every direction, it’s a dream) and ONLY for macros…. I’m small, fat, not in great physical shape and I’m always carrying the camera in my hand. So, it must be lightweight. Wd you think that the PS s120 would be for me? Pls say yes and I shall hop over to the shop 🙂
        Also, I pulled out my ‘latest shots’ of a tiny, still growing little snail from my indoor jungle and those ‘fake macros’ were so horrendously inadequat that I cleared them from my camera. You give me depression with the quality of your photography, my friend ;(…. NOT.
        Thank you for sharing; can’t wait to have long discussions with Susan and you – one day….

      • Kiki! Wow – what a reply, and where to start?? Best at the far end, perhaps….. with the camera. If you can find an s120, then absolutely YES, it will fulfill your macro dreams very adequately. Find one (buy one on eBay even, there are always some great deals in Germany) and then come back to me via Susan and email and I will set you up on how to best use it for macro. You’ll find it easy to use, very very very effective too. I like Canon’s instant WYSIWYG live-view technology (which they license to Sony) and this helps immeasurably too.

      • Kiki – this is Susan. The reply above is from Roddy, obviously, who replied at lunch to you from my computer without thinking about being logged in on my account, silly man!

      • Kiki – sorry, I thought I had replied to this already. If you find a s120 it will suit your purposes very well. I’ll help you set it up and so on. Tell me if you want to do this….

  • The macro world is amazing and a fantastic source of discoveries. Thanks for a great post and beautiful photos. I especially love the jumping spiders! And the online community is very supportive.

    • It is – a far better place to be than some forums where people seem unable to contain their bad manners. Jumping spiders are simply wonderful to photograph….

  • Hi Roddy, this is the first time I have ever replied to a blog entry . I was so moved by the obvious passion you have developed and it all started with one spider . Life takes us in most unexpected directions at times. You have opened my eyes to something so precious and truly marvellous. Especially this week as mr trump turns his back on climate change, it is important that we all understand how interconnected this web of life is. Thank you for the amazing photos and commentary, caused me to pause and reflect (and call my son who is doing a phd ar University of British Columbia on the web of life that grows under the trees in the form of fungus!) all the best

    • Barbara, what a lovely reply, thank you. I hope I have most of my details right and your son doesn’t say I’m a fool, but he is also studying something else so vitally important that it would be great to hear from him, too. I know some who work in that same line of study as him who same the underground root system of every plant connects whole countries, and hand in hand with the belief that plants are sentient this makes our existence even more fascinating. I must add too that I find Trump’s divergence from the climate debate somewhere disturbing at the very least. I hope you continue to find insects as interesting when your son talks to you about funghi !!! 🙂

      • I didn’t want to mention the orange man for once – but hey, you did! What an utterly and terrible decision and (at least!) hurrah for all the other countries who will take EXTRA CARE now, plough extra money into the case and to all of us who do, on a daily basis, our tiny little bit – France still has an enormous amount of catching up to do. They are still discussing stuff Switzerland decided years, decennies ago (eg selling eggs & chickens from ‘production in cages’….. I won’t go into the discussions I started in Auchan at the beginning of our stay in France!!!)

      • Ha – no, not a good idea. I used to do the same in the USA and always ended up in trouble. The girls at the bread counter in Publix hated the sight of me. “Call that bread?” I used to say, “it’s more like a scientific experiment with 27 ingredients!”. They did an organic loaf occasionally and I used to like asking why it was double the price when it only had a seventh of the ingredients….. 🙂 I’m pretty sure I got called a smart-arse one day, too. I did giggle….

  • Your photos are amazing, Roddy. And it all started with one of your children. I thoroughly enjoyed your hijacked blog posting.

  • Wow, that caterpillar was something and all the bees are fascinating. The moth…goodness. I was just thinking the other evening that in the summer the air is abuzz with gossamer wings. It is great what you can get through groups on the internet now and how you can learn where things are moving. Bird and insect migrations are changing because of climate change and sometimes there is a disconnect with the time an insect or bird arrives and the time the plant or animal it eats does. Thanks for a fascinating post.

    • The internet is a wonderful tool for education, that is one of its best points for sure. It is easy to get answers to so much in this day and age. If you have a powerful torch, go outside one night when it is pitch black and simply turn it on and point it straight ip in the air. Within seconds you will realise the night sky is alive with billions of the tiniest of insects, floating past in the breeze, along with the very earth itself – our particulated planet is on the move all the time, in motes of dust so small we never notice. At the right time of year you will also realise that there is pollen everywhere, seeding the land with new life as it passes. The very air we live in is almost a living organism itself. On the outskirts of the beam of light you will see insects zapping around at high speed, probably some are animals that have never been identified by science, for they surely do not appear in moth traps. I’m afraid to say I waste far too much time these days gazing at this phenomenon this when I go down at night to feed the chickens. It’s a universe on yet another level, some nights so strong I feel I am standing in a current of life, other nights feeble and almost empty. But get a good night and you will, as my children do, simply wonder in awe at so much that we do not know. Thank you for your comment!

      • I am always using my bug book or going to the internet to describe an insect. It’s fascinating what you can learn–and how much is out there, I agree.

  • Thank you Roddy for encouraging interest in such a fascinating subject! The photos are fascinating and will go into a special file to be studied at length. Originally an urban kid I have to admit to having called many such as ‘creepy crawlies’ to be walked around outside and gotten rapidly rid of inside . . . . and yet all are fascinating and many oh so beautiful. I suppose the number of even very small ones in Australia which are highly poisonous have made one wary . . . Shall go back . . . and no herbicides here . . .

    • Eha, you have some wonderful beasts in Australia, and I follow a very interesting blog by an insect-hunter whose photographs are five times better than mine. Go his way and see, and I hope you’ll lose a little of your distrust, 🙂 He’s a very interesting person, too.

      https://beingmark.com/

      • Thank you, Roddy! Well, now I shall be ‘following’ also and am certain learning a lot . . .

  • It’s official I want to be adopted by the Hays family. Everyone is so talented!
    Roddy, such a well-written and beautifully photographed post.
    I admire your passion with these little critters!
    In my lifetime I have not seen any insects that embody the colors and beauty that your camera has shot. Impressive!
    I can only imagine the discussions at the Hay’s family dinner table when a new spieces is found…
    I believe… like You…the importance of insects in our society. Let’s face it Roddy, (like Susan) I see a beautifully handcrafted coffee table book in your future about your past two years adventure.
    Thanks for being a fabulous guest writer! 🐝🐜🐛🐞🐌

    • I’ve checked with Susan, you can come next week. There’s a small room under the stairs you’re welcome to and as long as you can clean out chickens it’s a deal. Susan will be along shortly to sort out plane tickets.

      I like the way you think, too, Stephanie, but the truth is that new insects get somewhat swept aside now. Sigh. 🙂 I might have bored them all a little too much.

      I’m not sure a book of my photos will happen yet – I really do need to get a decent camera for that, but I agree with the sentiment! Susan has a book in the pipeline, I’m certain……

      • Roddy and Susan,
        I am working out the details on my end! I will be getting back to the both of you shortly. Have a wonderful day!

    • Debra – thank you for the comment! Glad you enjoyed reading the piece….hope the ‘little’ world continues to fascinate a little longer…..

  • Wow. Those are some amazing photos. Your diligence has paid off. And I love that it was the children’s interest that sent you down this path. Nice story.

  • I echo the awe expressed by many of your commentators on those photographs. I’m not at all afraid of bugs of any sort even though I am generally very allergic to any sort of bite. Go figure as my American friends would say! I loved the story and really enjoyed the post. Thank you very much. I needed something to take my mind off incessantly worrying about things I can’t fix in this very poorly-sick world of ours 😊

  • Whoa mr. Roddy! Just visited your flicker page. Maybe you should consider a second career……excellent photography!!!! Blew me away.

    • Ha ha – I wish!! I would definitely need an equipment upgrade to start doing that, but it’s something I would love to do. I have no idea where to start though. There are millions of people who take great photos of insects…..

  • Oh your photos are fantastic!!
    Seriously book worthy!
    We notice bugs around here too…though not quite the same enthusiasm. We note that bees have declined significantly in that last few years…to the point that even the “lures” don’t work so well. At least we have some to attract and pollinate. We also have noticed that others are pollinating as well….hover flies etc…though we haven’t a clue who they are …
    We’ve noted too that hummingbirds also pollinate…though they too have dwindled in number….
    I have seen hummingbird moths in our garden in previous years…not for a few now…
    Our garden is mostly organic….we aren’t perfect…but no weed killer is sprayed and our garden is the “spa” of the neighborhood for the birds at least…must be for bugs too. (We have a bluebird that has raised two broods for the last 5 years in our yard)….
    I notice people just haphazardly spray if a weed shows up….I am the weed killer here…and if needed use vinegar to kill weeds on the path…
    Again….you need to publish your pictures and get the info out there. It will help others to appreciate what we have and try to save it….
    Nancy (California, USA)
    wildoakdesigns.blogspot.com

    • You’re too kind, Nancy, but thank you for the kind thought about a book! There are some great websites out there to look at if you want to attract more bees, for example. Honey bees are not the only ones you need in your garden and there are so many solitary bee species you can help out that it makes no sense not to do it. And good on you for using the vinegar. That RoundUp stuff is deadly to everything including the soil and everything in it.

  • Roddy, brilliant photos and post. You have brought us into the tiny world and shown us how lovely it is, thankyou.
    Virginia

  • Wow! Totally in awe, Roddy! Fabulous photos & blog! Certainly piqued my interest too! Hope there’s as many interesting “bugs” in NZ! I do want to know if you’re going to willingly hand back the keyboard, now you’ve become a successful blogger yourself! Warmest regards to you & Susan

    • Oh Sue, you have one of the mightiest and most interesting bugs in the world to look out for – the mighty WETA!! When we lived in Kerikeri we had some on our property but I never took any photos – it never occurred to me that I could do so with the little camera I had at the time (and i could have done, too)…… sigh. And as for the keyboard, I am in negotiations to do something again later in the year. Hopefully my agent will work out a good deal with Mrs Hays 🙂

  • Fabulous photos and great information Roddy. I’m particularly interested in plants and birds and, sadly, it’s the same story with birds and their difficuloty surviving in the present heavily pesticided (is that a word?) and fertalized world. Keep up the occasional posting Roddy!

  • Plants and birds go hand in hand with insects! It’s a holy trinity, almost, and of course, as you have realised, the decline in insects will lead to a decline in insect-eating birds immensely – and not only do some plants also have difficulty surviving without insects pollinating them, but many also depend on seed dispersal by birds, so some fairly important plants face a double whammy. Effective pollination of crops and fruits is of course one of the reasons bumble-bees have been introduced willy-nilly across the world by the food industry, to pollinate the millions of acres of glass-house plants (tomatoes, in particular). Some countries now have so many escaped species of bee from the agricultural industry that the new bees affect local species and that results in a decline in plants too too, since the local species are important symbiotic pollinators of endemic plants. There are worrying signs that some endemic plants in the Antipodes and South America are in severe decline as a result of this.

    Intricately linked, our world is. We should really stop mucking around with it….

    Thank you for commenting !!

  • Well done, Roddy! Your photos are most impressive and it was such a joy to read the accompanying prose. I LOVED the John McEnroe commentary. You would be welcome to do a guest post on my blog any time! 😁Hope Susan let’s you commandeer the blog with another post again soon. Totally loved seeing the garden from a bug’s perspective. And thanks for the notes.

    • No one is average, Vicki! But I agree that some people do not have a clue. I hope I may have opened some eyes here and there, though. Thank you for your comment!

  • Thank you for sharing your photos and stories! I was leaving lucky enough to come across a Luna moth one morning as I walked between buildings at work. This was before cell phones had cameras…so I quickly called a co-worker who was never without his Canon and demanded his presence NOW. He quickly appeared, snapped a pic of that beautiful green beast, and identified it for me! He said it had just emerged from its cocoon and was drying off before flying away. A once in a lifetime treat!

    • I refer to our hummingbird moths and the bee moths as B-52’s, they make so much noise! And yes, they are top of my favourite list by some margin. I never tire of trying to get photos of them….Thank you for the comment,,,,,

  • What a stunning photographs you have of those ‘tiny’ living things, Mr. Roddy. I learned a lot from this post. I sometimes look at insects as ‘pest’ as they also carry some disease. I didnt know that they are also important to the continuity of the earth. Glad to meet the other half of Ms. Susan. I won’t say better half though 😀 Both of you are better. Thank you for the information. You both have a talent on photography and writing. There’s no boring moments in all your posts. – From Ms. Susan’s no. 1 fan in the Far East.

    • Thanks for the kind comments, Jenneth. Happy too that you found something useful in the post. And I am very happy you are the Far East’s no.1 fan – I’m not sure how many she has out in that direction….. 🙂

  • Hi Roddy – a brave bloggerloper indeed!! You cannot be serious!! I’m not a fan of spiders in the house, but strangely find them fascinating and non-threatening in the garden! But I just loved your John Mackenroe!! Last year, an elderly neighbour found a huge fat caterpillar in her garden, with huge black ‘eyes’. I’d never seen one before, but got straight onto Google and hey presto! It was an Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar. I’d never seen the moth itself either, but what a beautiful creature with its green and pink markings. I printed out pictures of the moth and took them down to her. She was amazed that I’d found the answer so quickly! This is where the internet is a fabulous research resource.
    You have taken some great photos and I enjoyed your post, full of boyish enthusiasm and grown up inspiration!!! Thank you.

  • Love your photos, Roddy, thank you for sharing, and also for opening my old eyes up a little to the wee creatures. I had no idea everything was so interconnected. I shall keep my eyes open for ‘dune life’ from now on. I think I have an old Olympus that takes good macros so i may well send you some for ID! Lovely post, Mrs C thought the jumping spiders were very cute and wonders if you could send her some for midge control!!

    • Hello Phil, not sure what the rules are for sending spiders, but I’m sure there are some UK species which will happily do the same job. They’re just really small – find somewhere with some sun and watch the flat surfaces, you’ll find some for sure!

  • I’m hooked…I’m enthralled…I honestly glued to every word and photograph. I think I may even have started to obsess. I’m running into the garden first thing tomorrow morning to look for something!
    Your photography is “other worldly”. The detail that you’ve shared with us all is truly remarkable and memorable. Thank you for stirring me to go deeper now.
    I’m ordering the book.
    The camera 🎥…..Holy Cow….brilliant!
    I sincerely thank you!!!!!

  • I’m a little late commenting on this Roddy. I read this post in bed on my phone and was lulled back to sleep, dreaming of beautiful bugs in a colourful and insecticide- free world. Your research is quite incredible and I think you should start your own blog with updates of your finds. You have also inspired me to search out my own little camera with its dedicated macro function. My current camera doesn’t do such a good job on macro, but inspired by your pics, I have located the old one, charged it up and am ready to go.

  • Thank you very much for this beautiful post. I am not a fan of insects (escept the cuddly ones), but you have managed the unthinkable: I looked at your beautiful photo’s of bugs and spiders and actually loved each and every one of them. I even looked at the photo of the little spider and thought ‘That one is so beautiful, and so cute’. I never would have quessed I could like an insect, especially not a spider, but I thank you for this!

    Kind regards,

    • Hi Bettina, that’s the one that always works – the little cute jumping spider. You have no idea how many people I turn into spider-likers with that picture 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the post….. 🙂

    • Isn’t it the best looking thing? I loved it, but unfortunately have never found another…..thank you for your comment

  • Wow! Your photography is amazing! I so enjoyed reading all your fascinating information. (You’re a talented writer, as well) I’m the sort who will always carry a spider that’s in my home outside rather than step on it. Glad to know there are so many others out there, especially you, that appreciate nature even down to its tiniest creatures. This blog was truly inspiring for me. I hope you do more posts in the future! Thank you!

    • Hi Pamm, thank you for your kind comments, and I’m very happy to meet someone who cares for little things! Without them we wouldn’t be here but it’s a hard message to get across.

    • Derrick, you may have three species that look quite similar in the New Forest. You will certainly get the Hummingbird Hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) but you may also get the Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth (Hemaris fuciformis) and also perhaps the Narrow-bordered Bee Hawkmoth (Hemaris tityus). At first glance all three can seem very alike, but in reality are quite easy to distinguish from each other. More info and some pics can be found here:

      http://butterfly-conservation.org/51-1098/broad-bordered-bee-hawk-moth.html (there is a link to the second moth at the bottom of the page).

      They all act much the same while feeding on flowers so quite easy to get confused. I was too at first! Thank you for your comment, too, and do let me know which one(s) you have in your area!!

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