Life in miniature

Whilst most of my photography focuses on bird life, I also enjoy capturing some of the smaller inhabitants of the natural world, the insects and invertebrates, which are currently thriving in this extended period of hot weather.

It can be difficult to appreciate the beauty of insects at a glance and so I like to use macro extension tubes to capture my subjects a little closer, and bring some of their finer features to life. For those working on a budget an unable to afford a dedicated macro lens (like myself!), adding extension tubes to a standard lens will allow you to get closer to your subject and produce some pleasing results without breaking the bank.

Here is a female Red Tailed Bumblebee, taken without the use of the extension tubes. Whilst her distinctive red tail is obvious, much of her features are difficult to see at this distance.

Red Tailed Bumblebee (female) – Bombus lapidarius

With the addition of the 21mm extension tube the lens will focus at a much closer distance from the subject, effectively magnifying the bee so that you can now see the insect’s eyes and fine covering of hairs lining the body and legs. As there is no additional glass in the glass in the extension tubes, there is very little noticeable impact on image quality.

Red Tailed Bumblebee (female) – Bombus lapidarius
IMG_7334 (2)
Red Tailed Bumblebee (female) – Bombus lapidarius

Another bumblebee, this time with a white tail. As several species of bumblebee have white tails, it can be difficult to identify them from each other, but when viewed up close, identification becomes just a little easier.

Bumblebee with a white tail

This is a male buff tailed bumblebee, as determined by the fine line of buff/yellow hairs separating the black body from the white tail hairs.

Buff Tailed Bumblebee (male) – Bombus terrestris

A tiny leaf cutter bee, yet to start it’s work on this particular leaf. Here you can see a fine border of golden hairs edging the body.

Leafcutter bee

This Mason Wasp is only around 13mm long, eye catching even from a distance but even more striking when viewed with the aid of the extension tubes. The vivid yellow stripes on it’s abdomen are a warning of the sting in it’s tail.

Mason wasp – exact species unknown, possibly Gymnomerus laevipes?
Mason wasp, also known as potter wasps

Another smaller species of wasp from the ichnuemon wasp family (comprising of over 2,500 species in the UK!), taking shelter from the sun beneath a leaf.

A delicate ichneumon wasp

Even the bothersome flies can be rather fascinating when viewed close up, their bright metallic exoskeletons reflecting dazzling colours in the sunshine. These species are from the blow fly family which includes the blue bottle and green bottle flies as shown below.

Large bluebottle
Greenbottle fly – Lucilia sericata
Green bottle fly (left) with the similar blue bottle fly (right)

With the magnification provided by extension tubes The Large White Butterfly it not uniform white as it first appears, with a delicate pattern of spots and scales revealed, along with hints of colour on the wing and a green hue in the eye.

Large white butterfly – Pieris brassicae

This very obliging butterfly took a brief rest on my finger, before I returned it to the purple and green petunias.

Large white butterfly resting on my finger

Also on the petunias a little later was this red admiral butterfly.

Red admiral butterfly – Vanessa atalanta

Unfortunately this individual was in very poor condition, with faded wings and patches of missing scales, along with a significant portion of the left wingtip as shown below.

Red admiral in very poor condition

Some more species of fly. Less impressive to look at than the bluebottles but still fascinating subjects.

Flesh fly – exact species unknown
Unidentified fly
Another species of flesh fly

These final photographs show a couple of tiny hoverflies, each only a few millimetres long. Under magnification you can really appreciate the unique patterns and subtle differences among the species, although even then identification of individual species can be tricky, even for experts.

A tiny hoverfly with metallic colouration
Hoverfly on a daisy

All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography 2018 ©

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