Insects Photography

At the Gardens

I have not been a frequent visitor to the Missouri Botanical Gardens this summer. I don’t care for the crowds the Gardens attracts during the “tourist season”. Though the number of people was still a healthy size yesterday, they also reflect the more easy going nature of the “off-season regulars”.

The Gardens seem especially nice this year. Everything was healthy, lush, and the proper color, most likely due to this being the wettest year on record (to date) for St. Louis.


bee on mum

It’s too early for the Monarchs; we should be seeing them in the next couple of weeks. However, there were plenty of Cabbage Whites and Painted Ladies.

Painted Lady

The only reason I knew the name of the small, white (and very hard to photograph) Cabbage White is because of an excellent resource for butterfly identification: Butterflies and Moths of North America. You can look up your state, see what butterflies have been spotted in what county and then click through for pictures and more detailed identification information.

Returning to the Garden, the water lilies are in full bloom, which means, of course, dragonflies.

Dragonfly on water lily

dragonfly on lily

Insects Photography Places Plants

Easter photos

I spent several hours this afternoon at the Botanical Gardens, which is becoming my typical Easter activity. It was a really terrific day, still cold, but pleasant when wearing a jacket over a flannel shirt. It was sunny, but with clouds, which can make the best pictures. I went later, when most people have gone home.

I managed to catch my second bee picture of the year. What was cause for concern is he was the only bee I saw my entire trip.

Bumble Bee

I also decided to get a couple of landscape photos, show some of the architecture of the place. The first is one of the administration buildings–a lovely brick with classic lines. The second is Tower House, where the Garden’s founder, Shaw, used to live.

The maze in the foreground of the second picture is tall enough for most people not to be able to see over the top.

Brick Building

Tower House

The Garden was at the end of its spring blooming season, with crabapple and Kanzan cherry trees at peak.

Kansan cherry trees

I was surprised to see bluebells. That was the oddest thing about this season–very early spring flowers are still in bloom, though the late flowers, like tulips, are almost gone.


Unfortunately, due to the record breaking highs, followed immediately by several days of hard freeze, most of the garden’s fruit trees were loosing their buds. The latest report on the impact of this weather is that Missouri and Illinois have lost anywhere from 50% to close to 100% of this year’s crops for some varieties of fruit trees, winter wheat, early corn, and much of the wine grapes.

It’s been a devastating spring for this area.

fruit tree loosing most of its buds

I chatted with another photographer at the park, a gentleman from Michigan. He mentioned how the colds we were suffering don’t impact on their fruit trees and plants, primarily because the weather doesn’t fluctuate so much. The Great Lakes help maintain a consistent temperature in the surrounding areas: cold in winter, mild much of the rest of the year.

I’ve decided to make the “Lake trip” later this summer, because I’m not sure I can handle a Missouri August this year.

Japanese maple

No matter what the circumstances, the Gardens are, and remain, beautiful–thanks in part to the critters, including this handsome grackle. Still no picture of my fox, though. Someday.

grackle among tulips

The dogwoods in the rhodie garden were disappointing, another tree impacted by the weather. However, this lovely Dicentra spectablis was still in excellent form. This is a flower that needs a closer look, as it’s much more complex than would seem from a distance.

Bright pink flower

I actually managed to capture a picture of a raptor overhead. It’s not perfect, but you can see the details of its head and feathers. Lovely bird, death to the poor finches, though.

hawk overhead

My favorite shot from today (other than the building photos) is of this lovely tulip, still in excellent shape.



Wine for Joe

This one is for Joseph Duemer: having problems with tent catepillars? Make something useful from them: make wine.

From a review of the wine (which also includes more details in how to make it):

Some lucky folks will get a bonus. Reigstad saved and froze 30 large army worms to put in bottles, similar to the worms put in some tequila bottles.

Who will get those bottles?

“Very special people,” Reigstad said. “Not necessarily people I like, but they’ll be special in their own way.

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Last call

I’m off tomorrow into the wilds of the Ozarks, into that part of the state new to me. There will, of course, be photos when I return, but maybe code, too, as I like to work on code when I’m in a hotel room — gives me something familiar.

Today, though, I went to the Botanical for another chance to get photos of the water lilies. Last chance, really, as the summer is waning and you can see this in the richness of the trees, and the activity of the insects. Particularly the insects, as the garden was ripe with butterflies today; so with yet more water lily photos you’ll also be getting yet more butterfly pictures.

Next time: code, I swear. And pictures of something different, I hope.


Still, I don’t think I can or ever will, get tired of being surrounded by butterflies and water lilies. It’s like you’re in the middle of a cartoon drawn by a young child with a new box of Crayolas. Everywhere you turn, you see another bright splash of color.


In the Spring, the insects are lazy, shy, and elusive. Today, though, you could almost reach out and hold them they were that close. But they were moving, constantly, which made getting a photo a little challenging. Now is the last chance for the bees to get nectar for the hive; the butterflies to store up energy to finish the migration; the dragonflies to, well, I don’t know why the dragonflies were frantic.

Not just the bugs, the photographers were out in force today, even at the 7am opening of the garden. Of course, the weather was going to be hot, and the sun isn’t that good for photography, but I must have ran into a dozen photographers within one hour. Most had tripods, a few were like me — just winging it.


Today’s bright and busy activity reminded me of years ago when I would go to a bar, and the bartender or band would announce last call. The lights would come up in the place, and people would scurry about, making good on the last few moments before having to head out into the night.

This girl would run up to her friends and whisper something into their ears and they would giggle and leave; that young man would be writing a phone number down in a match book. Of course now everyone carries pocket computers and cellphones and numbers would be jotted down into some kind of electronic device, but it’s not the same.

Friends would come together and split apart, some for home, others for another party somewhere, yet others to go to breakfast. And not just a small breakfast, either. I don’t know what happens now, in this Atkins Diet time, but back then, it was large, it had eggs, and it had potatoes and butter. Mega-cinnamon roll was optional.

There was one place in Seattle that was famous for the after hour breakfasts they’d make: huge plate size omelets covering a bed of crisp, perfectly done hash browns, served with good, hot coffee–all accompanied by thick, buttered toast and real preserves. The place was small, and people would be lined up for a block to get in, it was that popular. We’d sit there and laugh about the night, none of us wanting it to end–caught up in that perfect moment that’s not quite morning, but not evening either.


I remember a morning just like that in Salt Lake City, walking all night with friends, greeting the dawn with outstretched arms. The last of summer, and summer’s golden light.

This is a good time of year. The roses and other flowers have started to wilt, but in doing so they let out their richest scent. The leaves are at their darkest green, just before they begin to turn. Birds are everywhere, no longer bound to nests or to mating, and free to fly, and sing, just for the joy of it. It’s warm, but we’re starting to get a cool breeze now and again. And of course, all those butterflies.

I did like to walk among them today. They’re not shy of you at all, unless your shadow falls on them and then they take off into the air. As I walked by the rows of flowers, butterflies would leap into the air behind and around me, as if I were a June bride. My last chance to be a June bride, really, as I’m of an age with the summer.


Insects Photography


The rains finally came this last weekend. They blew in strongly on Saturday and took out the power for half the city, but I don’t think anyone minded.

I did lose my internet for several hours on Sunday. When I called in, I finally got through to a lovely woman with a charming Kentucky accent who told me that the reason I didn’t have service is that the power box for the cable was hit by lightning; the only reason the cable was still working was that a cable company worker was down at the station with a power generator in the back of his truck, keeping the cable going. The internet, however, required much more power.

With the rains has come cooler weather, and I’ve been able to get out for walks. However, with gas prices being the way they are, the walks are close to town. When did someone find the secret of alchemy and turn gold into gasoline?

I don’t mind walking close to home, though. There’s a gentle feel to the air — a softness we’ve been missing all summer. It’s almost as if we’re having a second Spring. During Monday’s walk at Powder, under a canopy of dripping green leaves, I came upon a half dozen bucks; to see one antlered deer is uncommon, and to see several at once was an unexpected treat.

And today I found the monarch butterflies. After all these years with trips carefully planned to Shaw and other places, without any success, I finally find my monarchs where I least expected them. Purely by accident — I had a couple of hours to kill before picking up my roommate at work and decided to go to Busch Conservation Area to take pictures of geese. When I arrived, the fields around the main lake were full of a delicate, pink flower (milkweed), freshly bloomed from all the rain, and busy among the flowers were hundreds of monarch butterflies.


I grabbed my camera and raced from flower to flower taking pictures, sometimes stopping just to let the butterflies and bees fly around me, close enough to almost feel the movement of their wings. No one else was about, though I could hear creatures in the grasses and in the water of the lake next to the field. It was worth the summer, all dead and dry and hot bit of it. All of it was worth those few hours with the butterflies.

Needless to say, I have a lot of photos. Be forewarned.


What was particularly funny was the interaction between the butterflies and the bees. The butterflies would usually have their wings folded up. As a bee approached, they would suddenly open their wings, *thwack*! And there would go the bee.


Came home and watched two wonderful movies: Strictly Ballroom and IQ. Strictly Ballroom is an Australian film about ballroom dancing, and would seem to be the usual boy and girl against all odds movies, but it has some wonderfully campy movements. And I love Spanish guitar, not to mention the dancing.

What I liked in particular with Strictly Ballroom was the ending, which I won’t give away, other than to say that the dancing is all that matters.

And IQ, well, it’s sweet and gentle, and isn’t it a wonderful time to be alive? Wahoo.


(The above is a swallowtail butterfly — it wouldn’t stop moving, and kept fluttering it’s upper wings. Really graceful and beautiful creature.)