Finding insects in the house

One thing that I especially enjoy during my entomology pursuits is getting my engineer/photographer boyfriend Pete to nerd out on bugs.  I found these two arthropods in our house recently, and with very little prompting, Pete jumped up to get some photos of them.  He was originally much more of a landscape photographer and has only recently been getting into macrophotography, which may or may not be due to my fascination with the miniscule.  Either way, I like it!

Stink Bug_20150216

These photos are of a brown marmorated stink bug and a spider.  Not the most charismatic subjects, perhaps, but the options are limited in these late-winter weeks.  The brown marmorated stink bug is a true bug in the order Hemiptera, family Pentatomidae (its shape resembles a pentagon).  It is actually native to Asia, and has become a serious pest of fruit and vegetable crops around the US.  Nevertheless, it is very pretty up-close with its red eyes and greenish depressions on the head and pronotum. This guy was sitting on our countertop, and we moved him to the stove to get the black background before putting him in the freezer 🙂

 I don’t want to say much about thelycosidae spider, other than that it was one of many currently inhabiting our tiny house.  Anyphaenidae is my best guess at the family (arachnidologists, help me out!).  I spent almost 2 hours trying to narrow it down using its coloring and the positioning of its eyes, and the list of possibilities is still long.  For a moment I thought it looked like a hobo spider, one that many people claim to have a poisonous bite like a brown recluse (evidence doesn’t support that though) but now I don’t think it is.  One thing I have learned from this is that spiders are MUCH more difficult to identify than insects.   The photo turned out really nice though! I like the clear reflection from the mirror it was sitting on.

Watercoloring

As I’ve mentioned a couple times before, I am in the process of learning to use color in my drawings.  I tried using colored pencils a couple times, and now I am practicing with watercolors.  I’ve never done much with them, and definitely haven’t taken a class on it, and I’m finding the layering of watercolors is not very intuitive. It really requires some planning, and a different order.  So these are my practice bugs.  I used this tutorial for the first two (http://www.johnmuirlaws.com/art-and-drawing/draw-insects-shiny-vs-dull-textures) which was SUPER helpful, and then tried the third one on my own. I’m not convinced I like the final product as much as the pen stippling because it’s much less detailed, but it does take like 1/5th the time!

IMG_1089IMG_1090  IMG_1088

Western Thatching Ant

Thatching Ant

This is a Western Thatching Ant, formica obscuripes.  These guys are aphid-tenders,  meaning they defend plants that are infested by aphids so that they can feed on the honeydew excreted by the sap-sucking aphids.  They are found throughout the US, and make a characteristic pine-needle dome nest.  You have no doubt seen them before.  This was a fun, relatively simple one for me.

Wanna buy some cards?

My cards are ready for sale! I had two new designs printed, and got all the fancy plastic sleeves and stickers and what-not for selling them.  So I have 5 designs total and can sell them individually or in 4-packs (I can’t include all 5 designs in the IMG_1079packs because the tiger beetle is a different size than the others).  They were all printed by a local shop here in Portland on 100% recycled paper, and they look awesome! I’ll probably sell the 4-packs on Etsy, but I will be looking for stores and giftshops to sell the individual cards.  The picture shows the ones included in the 4-pack, and you can check out the beetle card in one of my posts from January 30th.  If you own a shop (or know someone who does) and would like to sell my cards, let me know!

Blue Orchard Bee

Blue_Orchard_Bee-Edit_White copy

Meet Osmia lignaria, the blue orchard bee.  These guys are solitary bees, and are usually called mason bees because they make walls of mud to divide their nest into separate brood cells.  They are particularly awesome bees because the are native and can be kept and used as pollinators for gardens and orchards.  You can buy nests for them, or you can make your own like I did by drilling a bunch of holes into a 4×4, or by cutting a hollow bamboo stem into small pieces and bunching them together.  Someday I will write all about how to make native bee habitat and where to put it.

This was probably one of the most difficult drawing I have done so far.  The metallic color of the bee was difficult to capture with my novice coloring skills, and I nearlIMG_1074y colored a full ‘practice’ bee trying to get it right.  Also, with ink stippling as my primary technique, I am somewhat limited to drawing details in black.  The hairs on this bee are actually blond, and so it might require something like acrylic ink or watercolors. In the future, when I start to incorporate more new media in my drawings, I will definitely try another bee like this.