Plants and Pests

I decided to practice my macro photography for a bit today, in order to procrastinate on my other tasks. It turns out I need a lot of practice.

I needed a subject that would keep fairly still so I decided that the horrible pests that were attacking my shamrock would do.  No need to fret if the lights were too bright for them.

Here’s the shamrock:

Shamrock
Shamrock

The flashlight (torch for British readers) is there both for scale and to show what I’m using for lighting – I bought the brightest LED flashlight I could at Canadian Tire. It wasn’t very expensive, I just looked for the highest lumen value, ignoring any that didn’t even tell you.  Some of the bigger ones that claimed to be “super bright” actually had a lower lumen value and as a bonus it focuses the beam from broad to narrow, exactly what I needed.

So then I put a macro lens and extension tubes and went for as close up as I could get.  This is the same leaf, zoomed in to the point where the three leaflets fan out from the stem.

Here are three mealy bugs in a row with a baby one on top of the middle one.  The one at the top left is just taking a stroll.  The middle one and the bottom right have their beaks stuck in the plant.  You can see why they don’t need to suck; that middle one is bloated right out from the pressure of the sap in the plant.  The bottom one is harder to see but the shiny speck at the bottom right end is a drop of “honeydew” which is what ants like to collect – the plant pumps its sap at such high pressure that the bugs have to secrete some of the sugary fluid.

Mealy bug
Mealy bug

I don’t know why the mealy bugs on shamrock wander around naked like that but they do more often than not.  On other plants and in some places on shamrock, they spin themselves a little hiding place to make it harder for predators to eat them; the sticky stuff gets in the mandibles of predators like lady bugs (ladybirds) and makes it harder for them to eat the bugs themselves.  These pictures are on a Christmas cactus.

Mealy bug nest
Mealy bug nest

In spite of them lending themselves out for photography practice, I must confess that animals were harmed in this experiment.  I squished them all.

Then I decided to take some prettier pictures.

Moth Orchid
Moth Orchid
Variegated Madagascar Dragon-Tree
Variegated Madagascar Dragon-Tree (aka Dracaena marginata ‘Tricolor’)
Bougainvillia
Bougainvillia

Author: Eric Lawton

Eric is a natural philosopher living in rural Ontario

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