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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Just when I’m about to give up…

Ladybugs, ladybirds, or lady beetles. Whichever name you prefer, they’re the same bug that has fascinated me since I was little. This time, I see how they bring joy to Kindergarten students who pick them up with their tiny fingers or with a leaf and let them crawl all over them during outdoor time. Some giggle as they’re tickled by the bugs while others scream once they feel the sharp spines on the bugs’ legs. If they’re told to put the bugs in the garden, they do so but they hang by the garden tirelessly picking up the bugs and placing them on the flowers (as that’s what they see me do all the time). Instead of enjoying the playground equipment, some children simply stay by the garden as if playing “spot a bug and pick it up”. When a teacher hears “Eew! It peed on me,” it’s time to send someone to wash his/her hands. (This yellow/orange stinky goo is actually blood excreted by the bugs for feeling threatened.)

One day, I thought of using my 58mm close-up lens 500D and taking pictures of the ladybugs so that the children will have photos to enjoy during the long cold winter they will spend mostly indoors. As I take pictures during my break, however, the children shifted their interest to my camera. “Can I see, Miss Lina?” said all the tiny voices. “There’s nothing to see. Just put the ladybugs on the flowers, please,” I lied, of course. So they did, but I ended up with a lot of blurry shots because their hands were either on my shoulders or arms while trying to peek on the LCD screen.

It was time to give up.

During the weekend while preparing my little garden for spring bulbs, I spotted a ladybug on the ground. I picked it up and placed it on a cinquefoil and then ran into the house to get my 100 mm macro lens attached to an extension tube, and my tripod.

I thought that there might be time to set up as this bug wasn’t moving a lot. It was mid-afternoon so there was soft lighting and not a lot of wind. I thought it was perfect. When I got back to my “studio,” however, the bug was nowhere to be found. Oh, no! It was exploring the plant, so I just followed it with my lens. A fascinating sight behind a macro lens, however, was seeing the bug open its hard protective shell called elytra (or forewings), extend its black wings from underneath, and lift its elytra.

Uh-oh… My “model” was going to fly away and leave me. But for some reason, it did not. It simply lowered its elytra and withdrew its wings. Phew! I was able to take more shots this day but as my fingers were getting tired, I decided to use the self-timer. The noise, however, stressed the bug and it lifted its elytra several times to give me some final warnings. I thought the punishment on the bug was enough and I ended the session.

Today, while watering the plants, I noticed a lot of ladybugs on the lawn. It was like seeing tiny orange and red mushrooms that sprouted everywhere overnight. They were easy to spot as they settled at the tip of grass blades. I picked them gently with my big fingers. Whenever they fell on the ground, they quickly climbed back to the tip again (for my convenience, I thought). I picked five or more at a time and kept them in my closed fist while I ran to the backyard where there was no direct sunlight. Just like before, I shoved them on the few blooms in the garden and ran into the house for my macro lens and tripod. I thought that with so many bugs, I wouldn’t run out of models. I also set the objective of this session: to take a photo of a bug in flight or simply with open elytra. The big problem this time, however, was the strong wind which would surely blur the photos. I tried anyway and replaced my models several times after the others flew off. This session took longer than yesterday’s as the bugs stayed under the petals to look for their favourite food: aphids. Once they surfaced, however, they scurried from the tip of one petal to another.

Although I did not tighten the ballhead of my tripod in order to follow the moving bugs, I felt defeated by their speed and the weight of the lens, and slowed down by the manual focusing. Nevertheless, it was again a real pleasure to observe these bugs behind a macro lens. Once they reached the tip of a petal, they raised their forelegs as if in surprise or frustration, or to say “Help!” One bug peeked from under one petal as if it was a scared child lying face down on the glass floor of the Calgary Tower 627 feet above the ground.

The rest simply flew off or climbed down the plant only to climb up again upon reaching the ground and then finally flying off after getting nothing from my little garden.

Then it was time to give up and get myself some aphids for dinner. What’s that again? Oh! I had fish for dinner. I wish ladybugs were edible though. Yum! I did get another shot of one with open elytra. Not the best, but all right for now.

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