Hawaiian bugs like to have their pictures taken, too.

30 Mar

Whether you call them u’ku, pu’u or holoholo’na, Hawaiian insects make good photo subjects: at least, all the ones I’ve photographed seemed more than willing to show me their best profiles when I stick my lens in their private lives. Here’s a small sample of  some of my favorite shots of my ho’aloha u’ku (“buggy friends”). (Note: Click on the images to see full-size images in my photo gallery.)

Pincushion Protea with honey bee

The flower head of a Pincushion Protea (Leucospernum sp.), plays host to a pair of Common Honey Bees (Apis mellifera). Kula Botanical Garden, Maui.

The Common Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) is an important member of the the Islands’ ecosystem: it’s responsible for most of the pollination that occurs in our rain forests, farmlands, and private gardens. Honey production and processing is an important industry in our Island economy as well.

Sonoran Carpenter Bee in Jacaranda Tree blossoms

A solitary female Sonoran Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa sonorina) snoozing in the blossoms of a Jacaranda Tree (Jacaranda mimosifolia) near Ulupalakua Ranch, south Maui.

Another common bee species is the Sonoran Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa sonorina), a solitary bee that makes its home by boring into the soft wood of rotting logs. Unfortunately, the female X. sonorina has the bad habit of mistaking the wooden timber products of humans for her ideal homestead. When four or five females have finished with a stout railroad tie or fence post, it looks more like swiss cheese than milled lumber. It’s not unusual for one of these large bees to accidentally bump into you while on its way to pollinate a flower, oblivious to its surroundings. Although they are equipped with a formidable stinger, this inoffensive bee almost never stings humans.

Black Witch Moth

A nocturnal Black Witch Moth (Ascalapha odorata) resting on the overhang of my lanai in Kihei, Maui.

This is a photo of a huge nocturnal Black Witch Moth (Ascalapha odorata) resting on the overhang of my lanai in Kihei. Its wingspan is about 6 inches, almost as big as a human hand. I often see these and other species of “hawk moths” roosting in shady spots during the day. Throughout the New World, this moth is associated with death and is considered to be a bad omen if it flies into one’s house. However, Hawaiian mythology states that if a loved one has just died, the visiting moth is the person’s soul (ūha’ne) returning to say goodbye.

Giant Asian Mantis (Hierodula patellifera)

A very put-out looking Giant Asian Mantis (Hierodula patellifera).

This next photo is of a very immature Giant Asian Mantis (Hierodula patellifera), a species commonly seen on Maui. This one is hunting ants on the leaf of a Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica), near lower Pulehu Road, south Maui. Gardeners consider mantises to be desirable insects, as they prey upon many harmful insect species. However, mantises prey on neutral and beneficial insects as well, indiscriminately eating anything they can capture and devour. Mantises are very visual creatures and notice disturbances in their immediate vicinity. This one was visibly bothered by the intrusive lens of my camera.

Grey Bird Grasshopper

Grey Bird Grasshopper at his afternoon meal.

One of my favorite insect shots, this one is of a Grey Bird Grasshopper (Schistocerca nitens) nibbling on a decayed flower bud near Marker 26, Kula Highway (Highway #31), Kahikinui, south Maui. It is in its immature green phase. This little fellow couldn’t have cared less that the business end of my macro lens was impolitely intruding on his afternoon meal: he sat for more than 25 frames, unwilling to abandon his meal.

Common Paper Wasp (Polistes exclamans)

A Common Paper Wasp (Polistes exclamans) resting on a bromeliad, Ulupalakua, south Maui.

I really like the composition and background for this photograph of a Common Paper Wasp (Polistes exclamans). She’s resting quietly on the yellow-green leaf of a bromeliad in full sunlight… all my setups should be as easy as this one was!

Garden Spider (Argiope appensa)

A large female Garden Spider (Argiope appensa) suspended on her web. Kahikinui, Maui.

I shot this large female Garden Spider (Argiope appensa) on the dry coastal desert slopes of the Kahikinui District, south Maui. Argiope has the disconcerting habit of weaving its thick web strands between trees and schrubs, making it easy for photographers not watching where they’re going to blunder into in and getting a face full of spider and sticky web. Spiders are difficult to photograph on Maui because the strong prevailing winds cause their webs to vibrate violently, making shallow-depth-of-field focusing almost impossible. I shot more than 30 frames of this individual just to get one decent, in-focus pic!

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