I went on a fieldtrip up to the mountains yesterday, exploring some areas I hadn’t been to before. Among the things I discovered was this abandoned house with a blooming apple tree in front of it.
Apple trees are commonly cultivated or found wild at high altitudes – and I was only 200 meters below Mt. Olympus, the peak of the island. The house itself was inhabited by roaches, rats, and some bird (sounded like a pigeon). What follows are pictures I snapped quickly in 3 minutes – I was travelling light, with only a killing jar and the camera body with standard lens (no extension tubes or tripod). The aim of this post is to show you that insects are very easy to observe in nature – all you need to do is make sure the weather’s cool (not too hot, not too cold), and find somewhere where there’s a strong scent or strong primary colours – blooming trees or flower fields are the best.
All pictures have been cropped and downgraded to save webspace (also, not having the equipment means the pictures are not that good in the first place). I will also leave IDs off. You all can try and identify, or ask for tips :)
This being the mountains, coccinellids were pretty common. While they’re commonly known as biocontrol agents in agriculture, many coccinellids also have a reputation as cold-weather and high-altitude specialists. The following picture, for example, shows a coccinellid I took a picture of in March, found on a rock cropping out from the blanket of snow covering the mountain (temperature at the time ~1°C).
The tree was inhabited by many beetles. Here’s two of them; such beetles are very easily collectable simply by placing a sheet under the tree, or holding a tray under the branch, and shaking. They all fall off and you can pick them off quickly before the fly off (usually they walk around in a daze, best time to grab them).
This one’s a pathetically out of focus multi-order image, and multi-trophic level image too: you have the carnivorous wasp (Hymenoptera), the beetles, and the pentatomid (Heteroptera) hiding underneath.
Here you can see the pentatomid. At all temperate times of the year, pentatomids invade the pine tree regions and can be found forming such congregations. On the left you see a game of hide-and-seek between the carnivorous ladybird and its herbivorous would-be prey (I don’t know whether it got eaten – this was all in three minutes, remember?).
Some more multi-order goodness. What the black thing under the coccinellid is is anyone’s guess. The out-of-depth-of-field brown blob is a hemipteran (of the leafhopper planthopper variety I would never dream of getting mixed up with).
Coming back to the car, I noticed many brown masses on the hood and roof. My car was a very welcome source of heat in the otherwise cool surroundings, and was quickly colonised by adventurous insects, like this water beetle look-alike. And by quickly, I mean a spider had built a web between the antenna and the roof in the five minutes I was gone.
And all this was merely during a 5 minute quick look in the area (I actually took a wrong turn and stumbled on this place). For parents or teachers reading, if you want to get your kids/students interested in insects or wildlife, simply find a fragrant tree in bloom and sit in front of it and observe.
And if you want more posts like this, please support my Petridish project, Toxic Geology: A Cause of Insect Endemism in Cyprus. It aims to investigate such habitats. You can find more details on the project page. Sharing it around your friends would be greatly appreciated; donating as well. Thanks!