Thursday, 29 August 2013

Mimicry, Macro & Me

Aug.  With some time on my hands this month I was drawn into doing some tidying up of the garden and I still have plenty to do yet.  Perhaps subconsciously, in order to delay the working time I was occasionally taken by some of the garden wildlife.  It’s certainly not the same as being on safari in Africa, although when I got around to trimming the overgrown Holly Trees it did seem as though I was in a forest!  On the whole it was the little things that drew my attention and as anyone with any real interest in nature will know, the little things really do matter.  My recent entry into macro photography has led me on various directions and pathways and I’d argue that if time is spent looking at the little things and studying them they can provide as much reward and excitement as any safari to far away places, and I say that as one who has been to quite a few far away places.  I accept that my small garden may not have too much to offer the naturalist, but I have to say that I do think that the UK has a great deal to offer anyone interested in nature, just so long as you have the waterproofs and thermal gear handy.

Still B' practicing!
One other thought I have is that it is easy to make a joke of what some perceive as Robin strokers and garden birders.  If I’m honest I’ve done so myself occasionally.  I’m mindful however that was where at least some of my interest in nature came about, and I’d be surprised if many more serious and skilled naturalists/birders didn’t experience the same passage at one point.  Elitism is something I really dislike and unfortunately it creeps into most walks of life, and natural history pursuits are no exception.  Anyhow, as I’ve often said, most folk are not going to be seriously involved in natural history issues, be it bird watching or anything else.  However, for nature to remain in safe hands for future generations it is the masses that need to be encouraged to at least take some part in helping conserve our wildlife and environment.  I know from experience that with a sizable minority this is not only hard going, but virtually impossible, such is their outlook on life and their unwillingness to listen to/or do anything which doesn’t fit in with their own immediate needs, but there are many willing to listen and even a fair number willing to act if given sound reasons.  All groups and organisations should in my view be reaching out to this latter group.  Inclusiveness is the way forward.  Individuals need to feel wanted, that they have a role and are an important part of groups and organisations or they just won’t bother to join them and then everyone loses.

I’ve included a few photos taken in the garden during the latter part of August.  It didn’t take a lot of effort to capture the images, just patience, a bit of free time and on one occasion a bit of a balancing act.  Some I’m quite pleased with and already they have led me into checking a few facts out.  I hope they show that nature does already have a home in my garden, but I know I have some work to put in.

Painted Lady Butterfly.  Neighbour gave me some funny looks (often does) as I stood on a chair in my socks trying to capture this image.  I did have other clothes on!  
Autumn is definitely on the way as I had a Willow Warbler on the move through the garden today.  A Painted Lady Butterfly (which required the balancing act to acquire its image) and more Speckled Wood Butterflies visited this morning too.  The Painted Lady Butterfly was only the third one of this species I have seen this year.  I wonder how far this one will get on migration south.

Speckled Wood Butterfly
The Hoverflies kept me occupied for sometime.  I need some more practice to capture one hovering beside a flower.  Well, to be like any standard suitable to put on my blog.  Maybe next year as the dark nights will see me doing some reading on more specialised macro work I think.  Hoverflies are as I’m sure you all know a very good example of mimicry.  In this case Batesian mimicry.

An old favourite Helophilus pendulus aka sun fly or footballer
Batesian mimicry is named after Henry Walter Bates a colleague of Alfred Russell Wallace (I have to say I was expecting to hear far more about Wallace this year, it being the centenary of his death).  Bates and Wallace explored the Amazonian area of South America.  Wallace came back to Britain years before Bates.  Wallace was unlucky and lost his collections when his ship caught fire.  Bates returned with thousands of species, many of them insects and about 8,000 new to science and he gave the first scientific account of mimicry in animals.  In Batesian mimicry palatable species mimic an unpalatable or noxious species in order to confuse predators.  In the case of Hoverflies they mimic the colour and shape of Wasp and Bee species.  It is known and proven by experiment that one predator certainly not fooled by this is the Spotted Flycatcher which often feeds on Hoverflies.

Eristalis pertinax or Tapered Drone Fly
Another form of mimicry is Mullerian mimicry which is named after Fritz Muller who explored Amazonia some years after Bates and found that in some poisonous species two or more poisonous species mimic each others warning signals.  If for example a predatory species encounters a noxious species as prey and then thereafter avoids it, there is no benefit for species that are not avoided.  Therefore there is an evolutionary benefit to species not avoided in a gradual approach to similarity in appearance of the two or more prey species. 

Episyrphus balteatus or Marmalade Fly.  I remember advice from Sam that not everything has to be frame filling to be a good image and I agree, as I prefer the first image of this one.
There are other forms of mimicry such as self mimicry in which a species may evolve to have markings such as false eyes, such as in some butterflies, so that predators will be confused.  It is all very interesting and worth delving into in more depth.

Delilah me friendly spider
Note to self…Must read more about Hoverflies, mimicry and camouflage in animals and plants

Please don't hesitate to mention if I have the names wrong, but best leave Delilah alone as she's quite touchy about such things.


  1. The Macro lens, really makes a difference, even when just used in a garden! I wonder if you had any frogs in there before you tidied it, lol.

    1. I did have a Froglet in the garden some years ago that remained in the rockery for two or three years. Only one I have now is an ornamental one.

  2. You could maybe put the ornamental one in the rockery, as a tribute to the other one, lol.