Way to go...



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Stiretrus anchorago the Anchor Stink Bug, in copula, with a twist.
 The anchor stink bug is a predatory pentatomid species that is found in Delaware, but looks very little like a stink bug at first glance.  While taking care of a lab colony of these bugs this mating pair caught my attention.  I was soon amazed to see that the female was upside down, or I suppose she was right side up depending on your perspective.  I soon realized the cause of this bizarre mating arrangement:


um, was it good for you?
That's right - I'm not sure this was a consensual act, or perhaps accepting this male was the female's last earthly act.  Either way, this is the first incidence of insect necrophilia that I have ever witnessed.  I suppose that wont do much for the male's reproductive success - especially if this is indicative of his mate preferences in the future.

Why hiking with me takes patience...



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I know that the blog header says 'photography by Brian Cutting,' but today that is a lie.  I took none of these, and it won't take you long to figure out why:

C'est moi.  When lizards are everywhere, why shoot the one on the ugly plastic bag?  I think maybe the hat is a bit too tight.
That's right, the perspective has been flipped and today I'm highlighting fashion in wildlife photography:
With most of my insect photos, I find that a pleasing natural background is critical.  Khakis are great for an image that makes you think 'what was I thinking?'
 I try to have my camera within reach as often as possible, and have lugged my photo rig along on some great trips I've been able to take in the last year.  I would hate to be caught sans-camera and miss cool shooting opportunities, but I think sometimes I require quite a bit of patience from those I travel with:

"Just a few more shots and we can go - I may never see this again"
"Would you mind holding my flash?"
"Blast! It's blown out"
"Can you please pull that blade of grass out of the way?"
"Argh, underexposed"
"You guys can hike ahead, I'll catch up" (unlikely with 10 extra pounds of photo gear in my pack)
"Just a few more and you can make it stop biting you"
"Shucks, lens cap"
"Oh, sorry!  I should have warned you that the flash was about to go off in your face"

Nevertheless, a few people still go on adventures with me.
Creeping in the bushes in Costa Rica
Chunks of lava make questionable knee pads, Kona, Hawaii
Salamanders in the rain, Shenandoah, Virginia.  Let's face it, there is no way to look cool while doing this.
 The above photo demonstrates one of the greatest assets to my photographic endeavors; my beautiful wife who is both good at finding critters, and also willing to hold them for the duration of the ensuing photo shoot.

Thanks to Aliesha Shutte, Jeff Smith, Noelle Diana, Doug Tallamy, and Kiri Cutting for the photos and for being such endlessly patient fellow travelers.  Your night vision will recover in an hour or so...

Flower Ninjas



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Ambush bugs blend in on yarrow flowers
 I am fascinated by animal camouflage, and Assassin bugs in the subfamily Phymatinae blend in with the best of them.  A different look at the yarrow flowers pictured above reveals a much more dangerous bouquet (if you are a small insect): 

While many insects use camouflage as a means of not being eaten, for ambush bugs stealth also means lunch.  Equipped with raptorial front legs for grabbing prey, these insects can make short work of any flower visitor who doesn't spot them first.
An ambush bug's raptorial front legs
After grabbing an insect, the bug uses it's straw-like beak and drinks the insides of it's unwilling meal:



In Delaware, I commonly find these bugs on yarrow or Queen Anne's Lace, but it takes a bit of practice to be able to regularly spot them!

I like... birds



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Green violet-ear hummingbird, Costa Rica
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