2014 was a busy year, and an odd one in terms of subject matter. Usually my stream is full of ants. I am trained as an ant biologist, after all, and these charming social insects typically weigh heavily in my photographs (see 2013, 2012, 2011).
I've been broadening my scope, though. Wandering out of my comfort zone, as far afield as mosquitoes and (gasp!) spiders, not a single of my personal picks from 2014 actually covers my favorite animal. I hope you enjoy these departures.
A 10 minute night exposure in a restored Illinois prairie reveals the signals of several different species of fireflies, each with a unique pattern. Homer Lake, Illinois, USA.
A male firefly signals for females at dusk. Homer Lake, Illinois, USA.
The eclosion of a female yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti. Mosquito larvae and pupae live underwater, but the mature pupal casing spilts on a seam at the air/water boundary, releasing the adult to the atmosphere. Laboratory culture at Rockefeller University.
A female yellow fever mosquito in flight. Laboratory culture at Rockefeller University, New York, USA.
A researcher at Rockefeller University feeds her stock of yellow fever mosquitoes.
A second-instar polyphemus caterpillar (Antheraea polyphemus) feeds on an oak. Urbana, Illinois, USA.
King and Queen subterranean termites (Reticulitermes sp.) with their first eggs in a laboratory colony at the University of Kentucky.
A male Sydney funnel-web spider (Atrax robustus) in threat display. Laboratory animal at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia.
A seven-spotted ladybird beetle, Coccinella septempunctata, perches in an Illinois lawn.
After 17 years underground, a brood III periodical cicada crawls up a twig and sheds her last immature skin to emerge as a winged adult. The white filaments are the old lining to the insect's tracheae, or breathing tubes, which are shed along with the rest of the exoskeleton. Panther Creek State Conservation Area, Illinois, USA.
Silhouetted against the dusk sky, a parasitic wasp (Megischus bicolor) lays her egg in the dead trunk of a redbud tree. Her target is probably wood-boring beetles. Urbana, Illinois, USA.
Bed bugs have an unusual style of mating called traumatic insemination. Males, instead of aiming for the female genital opening, pierce her armor and inject sperm directly into the body cavity. This behavior causes some damage to the females but is thought to help males outcompete each others' sperm. Laboratory culture at the University of Kentucky.
Urban plantings of milkweed, such as this patch of Asclepias sullivantii, provide a replacement food source for habitat lost to Agriculture. Urbana, Illinois, USA.
Face to face with a monarch caterpillar. Laboratory animal at the University of Kentucky.