Creature of the Month – Leaf-footed Bug

Leaf-footed bugs are members of the order, Hemiptera, and in the true bug family, Coreidae.  Leaf-footed bugs get their name from the leaf-like shape of the hind legs.

IMG_7456

(Leaf-like hind leg)

There are probably fewer than 5 leaf-footed bug species in Singapore.  The most commonly encountered species has a tiny head relative to its narrow brown body with pale markings across the wings.  They can grow up to 3 cm long.

(A typical leaf-footed bug)

(A typical leaf-footed bug)

Leaf-footed bugs are primarily plant-feeding insects by sucking the juice from the leaves, seeds, fruits, etc.  When it matures, the male will look for a female to mate.

LFG-MATING

(Mating of Leaf-footed bugs)

After mating, the female usually deposits up to 20 eggs and are laid end-to-end in a single low along a stem or on a leave.  When first laid, the 1.2 mm barrel-shaped eggs are dark brownish in colour. The eggs hatch after about 5-7 days.  The freshly born babies are less than 10 mm and red in colour.

IMG_7491

They will change into black colour within a hour or so.

IMG_4438They will soon abandon their eggshells and start feeding.  When they are small and weak at this stage, they often stay close together to scare away any potential predator.  Sometimes, as a cluster which makes them look bigger:

 

(Together as a cluster)

(Together as a cluster)

Sometimes, in a straight line that makes them look longer:

(Stay together in straight line)

(Together in straight line)

When the juveniles grow and become bigger in size, they will move on and feed in smaller group.  Here is a gang of four:

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(Four Siblings)

Here is a group of three:

Modified by CombineZP

(Three Siblings)

And a twin:

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(Twin)

There are five nymph stages called instars and every leaf-footed bug has to go through five moults before becoming an adult.   The nymphs moult as they grow, looking more like an adult each time.  They often  vary in coloration between their 5 moults.  Based on my observation, the colour of the freshly moulted individual tends to be a mixture of yellow and orange during the earlier stage of moulting.  This following moulting image is most likely into its 2nd instar stage.

LFB Moulting

(Earlier stage of moulting)

However, the colour is more towards pink in the later stage of the moulting:

Moulting

(Later stage of moulting)

Regardless of which moulting stage they are in, the freshly moulted individual will change colour from their brightly yellow or pink to somewhat purplish in colour and eventually into a darker tone of grey within a hour or two.

(Changing of colours after moulting)

(Changing of colours after moulting)

The moulting process is not always successful.  In fact, leaf-footed bugs are most vulnerable during their actual moulting which usually takes about 15 to 30 minutes.  Here is a failed moulting disrupted by a predator, the lynx spider.

IMG_5615

(A failed mouting)

It takes approximately 4 to 5 weeks between hatching and adult emergence.  Thereafter, adults mate and the life cycle of leaf-footed bugs continues.

Macro Photography Outings – September 2015

The annual haze crisis created by illegal agricultural fires due to slash-and-burn practices in Indonesia, has adversely affected the lives of Singaporean since 8 September where it crossed the unhealthy air quality of above 100 PSI.  On 24 September, PSI was at a hazardous level of 361.  The general advice to the public is to reduce all kinds of outdoor activities including photography.  I visited only Chestnut Nature Trail & Zhenghua Forest when PSI was dropped to a moderate level of below 100.

On 12 September, I led an macro photography outing of 12 participants to Chestnut Nature Trail. About 20 metres into the trail, there was a dead tree log with some wild mushrooms growing on it.   These same mushrooms were already spotted a week ago when I was here to recce this site.  Wild mushrooms usually rot within days but this batch certainly lived longer than expected.  Could you spot an insect in one of the mushrooms?

(Wild mushrooms)

(Wild mushrooms)

Chestnut Nature Trail is a popular place for cyclists too. We often heard them shouting “bike! bike!” as they rode pass us. Quite dangerous if we were to shoot along this shared walking / cycling path. Hence, we chose to shoot at a green vegetation some 250 metres from the meeting point.

(Photographers in action)

(Photographers in action)

We spent the earlier part of the morning on the right hand side of the vegetation where there were a few variety of wild flowers and fruits attracting many common bugs and insects.

site action

The first subject that caught my attention was a female Nannophya pygmaea. This gorgeous dragonfly is the smallest species in Singapore of approximately 15mm long and a wingspan of only about 20mm.

(female

(Pygmy dragonfly,female)

We spotted many katydids and its nymph of various sizes and colours. These two are relatively fatter of about 30 mm long.

(Two fatter katydids)

(Two fatter katydids)

Giant Asian Mantises (Hierodula) were quite easy to find too.

(Giant Praying Mantis)

(Giant Praying Mantis)

When it was getting hotter at about 9.30 am, we moved on to the left side of the nature trail where tall trees provided some shades for us.

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Lying lowly on the shrubby vegetation was a big-belly St. Andrew’s Cross spider. These spiders get their name for the way their hold their eight legs in pairs to form an X shape. Besides their standard orb-web, they build additional white opaque zig zag lines on their webs, called stabilimentum. The zigzag lines of their webs match their leg positions, which lead some people to suggest that this helps give the appearance of longer legs.

St Andrew Cross Spider

Not too far away, there was a tiny crab spider quietly enjoying an ant as breakfast.

(Crab spider vs ant)

(Crab spider vs ant)

Other subjects spotted include a pair of mating leaf beetles, brown grasshopper, damselfly, metallic green tiger beetle, etc.

(Brown grasshopper, leaf beetles, damselfly, tiger beetle)

(Brown grasshopper, leaf beetles, damselfly, tiger beetle)

A week later, I visited my favourite macro site at Zhenghua Forest. The stars of the trip had to be the leaf-footed bugs.  Adults lay barrel-shaped eggs in a single row along the underside of leave. The nymphs that hatch bear a passing resemblance to the adults.

(Newly-hatched leaf-footed bugs)

(Newly-hatched leaf-footed bugs)

It is not uncommon to see a group of leaf-footed baby bugs but this was my first time seeing them with their newly hatched egg shells nearby. A lovely sight where, if you look carefully, they formed an interesting pyramid shape.

I found a smaller group of 8 leaf-footed bugs earlier but with a bigger brother nearby giving a false impression that it was babies sitting its younger siblings.

(The babies-sitter)

(The babies-sitter)

Leaf-footed bugs go through five moults resulting in five instars before becoming an adult.  The nymphs moult as they grow, looking more like an adult each time.   They often vary in coloration between moults.  Below is a freshly moulted individual where it has an attractive mixture of purplish orange in colour.  My guess is that it is into its 2nd instar stage.

(A fleshly moulted bug)

(A fleshly moulted bug)

There was another moulted bug but looks likely to be in the final stage where its colour was already darken.

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With that, I end my report and look forward to more outings in October 2015.

Macro Photography Outings – July 2015

The weather in July was still hot but it was a relieve to have occasional showers here and there.  I joined an intertidal outing in the east, visited a new macro site at Sultan Trail, explored Dairy Farm Nature Park twice and led a night cum day macro photography outing at Zhenghua Forest.

We didn’t take a lot of pictures during the intertidal outing on 4 July as the rain poured heavily earlier than expected.  Here is a candid shot of us in action.

(Intertidal outing on 4 July 2015)

(Photo Credit : Endy)

Sadly, this transparent shrimp living on a beautiful carpet anemone is the only presentable shot that I have from this outing.

(Shrime on seagrass)

(Shrime on Carpet Anemone)

The rain stopped at about 10 am and we decided to drop by Pasir Ris Park for a 2nd round macro shoot. We were fortunate to find a delicated parent of Olive-backed Sunbirds taking turns feeding their two chicks.

(Feeding at Pasir Ris Park)

(Olive-backed Sunbird feeding its babies at Pasir Ris Park)

A week later, we explored an abandoned mansion once belonging to a Sultan of Johor. It was hidden in the mass of vegetation between Holland Road and Tyersall Avenue. The mansion was built in the late 19th century and it was subsequently used as General’s headquarters and a military hospital. In 1942, about 700 medics and patients were killed by the bombing of the Japanese.

(The grand mansion in the background)

(The grand mansion in the background)

There were stories about the eerie mansion but with a big group of nature photographers, what was there to be afraid of.

(Photo Credit : Sharon S Lim)

(Photo Credit : Sharon S Lim)

Many spiders were spotted in this deserted place but I was most delighted when Teck Leong shared with me a tiny lynx spider having a brightly coloured red hopper as breakfast.

(Lynx spider & red hopper)

(Lynx spider & red hopper)

I had to leave early for work and here are a few images that I managed to photograph:

(Wild flowers, skipper & praying mantis)

(Wild flowers, skipper & praying mantis)

Citron Bug, scientifically known as Leptoglossus gonagra, is a member of the Leaf-footed bug family. I was fortunate to find an adult with two nymphs at Dairy Farm Nature Park.

(Citron bug nymphs)

(Citron bug nymphs)

They would use their strawlike beak to suck a plant’s internal juices. They seem to like feasting on wild bitter gourds.

(Adult & nymph)

(Adult & nymph)

Other subjects spotted include a planthopper and a relatively rare Grass Demon.

(Planthopper & Grass Demon)

(Planthopper & Grass Demon)

And it was nice to see a praying mantis covered with morning dew.

(A dewy praying mantis)

(A dewy praying mantis)

But I was most excited to witness a busy scene involving a female crab spider having a bee as breakfast, 2 male spiders fighting for the right to mate with the female, while many busybody flies wanted to have a share of the breakfast. Certainly quite a behaviour shot that is hard to duplicate, my favourite image taken this month.

(A busy scene)

(A busy scene)

July 18 was my turn to lead macro photography outing for Nature Photography Society of Singapore and I chose my favourite macro site at Zhenghua Forest. A day before the outing, Allan, Sharon & I decided to meet earlier to do night macro. We invited those who signed for the day shoot to join us. Rajesh, Sia, Loh, Henry & Dion gamely took on the challenge. Eight of us met at the 24-hr Jin Shan (JSL) coffee shop at 3.30 am for some hot drinks before we commenced our night photography at 4.00 am.

(Photographers in action)

(Photographers in action)

With the aid of a good UV LED touch light, we found more than 20 Lesser brown Scorpions! Most of them were lying motionlessly on tree trunks or dried leaves. We were lucky to find a mother having many young babies on its back.

(Lesser Brown Scorpion with babies)

(Lesser Brown Scorpion with babies)

Another interesting subject that caught our attention was a rare House Centipede (Thereuopoda longicornis). They are usually found in the forest in Singapore. They have a pair of long antennae, 15 pairs of very long legs, and are the only group of centipedes with large compound eyes. Looking at the way it ran from one place to another, they must be very fast hunters. Not an easy subject to photograph and I could only manage this record shot.

(A skittish house centipede)

(A skittish house centipede)

All of us were so busy shooting that we forgot about our originally plan was to stop the night macro by 6.30 am. Like small children, we played until forgot to eat! Suddenly it rained at 6.35 am. I like the way Loh’s put it: “The guy in heaven decided to sprinkled some waters to chase us to take breakfast”. So here we were back at JSL for a well deserved breakfast before we got ready for Part II’s day shoot.

(Breakfast at Jin Shan Lin Coffee Shop)

(Breakfast at Jin Shan Lin Coffee Shop)

As we entered the green vegetation of Zhenghua Forest, we found a lovely pair of orange leaf beetles enjoying their most intimate moment. We discovered later that there were more than 5 pairs doing the same thing around the vicinity! July could be a mating season for these adorable little creatures.

(Mating Leaf Beetles)

(Mating Leaf Beetles)

Not too far away, a pair of grasshoppers were also having a good time!

(Mating grasshoppers)

(Mating grasshoppers)

A good number of Leaf-footed bugs were sighted in the early morning with their exoskeletons next to them. They must had moulted only a short while ago.

(An already moulted Leaf-footed bug)

(An already moulted Leaf-footed bug)

At about 9.30 am when the sun was getting too hot, we moved into the forested area where we spotted a giant black scorpion crossing the walking path. This should be a Asian Forest Scorpion (Heterometrus longimanus) measuring about 12 – 15 cm. It is uncommon in Singapore where it is restricted to the nature reserves. We were extremely lucky to see this one under the broad daylight!

(Asian Forest Scorpion)

(Asian Forest Scorpion)

There were a handful of wild mushrooms on the forest floor. Most were spotted on fallen logs but these 3 little ones were found on a dead leaf. A LED light was placed on top to give them a glowing effect.

(Wild mushrooms)

(Wild mushrooms)

These tiny ones are equally eye-catching.

(More wild mushrooms)

(Tiny wild mushrooms)

Here are some images showing our photographers in action to conclude this fruitful and fun outing!

(Photographers in action)

(Photographers in action)

Macro Photography Outings – January 2015

The raining season was finally over in early January which allowed me to visit the following macro sites during my off days:

(1) Thanggam Forest

It is located near Jalan Kayu. If you wish to visit this place, you could park your car at the public car park near the end of Jalan Kayu. You could also take bus no. 85, 86 or 103 and alight at Jalan Kayu Shop houses. Alternatively, take LRT and alight at Thanggam station.

(Map of Thanggam Forest)

(Map of Thanggam Forest)

There are greenery on both side at the start of the trail.

(Start of the trail)

(Start of the trail)

Common subjects that were spotted include red hopper, katydid nymph, hover fly, caterpillar, butterflies, dragonflies, spiders, etc.

thanggam images

However, as we moved further into the forest, subjects were fewer probably due to some construction works going on there. My best image for the outing is a katydid nymph having purple flowers as breakfast.

IMG_0829

(2) Clementi Woods

Clementi Woods is an interesting greenery area located somewhere between Clementi Ave 4 and Sunset Way. This site is actually part of the old Malayisa Railway Line (Jurong Line) but has been disused for more than 20 years. A small section of the railway track is still there.

(Map of Clementi Woods)

(Map of Clementi Woods)

(Clementi Woods macro site)

(Clementi Woods macro site)

There were quite a no. of wild flowers here attracting butterflies, hoppers, katydids, spiders, caterpillars, hoverfly, etc.

(Flowers attracting insects)

(Flowers attracting insects)

My favourite image from this outing is a backlit katydid posing on a nice perch with a colourful flower. The balance of lighting from the front and back helps to make this image stands out.

(Backlid Katydid)

(Backlid Katydid)

(3) Chestnut Nature Trail

A surprise find was a ladybird larvae which looks completely different from their more colour parents. Ladybird larvae are natural predators of aphids and are much more voracious than their parents.

(Ladybird larvae)

(Ladybird larvae)

The most common insects spotted were kaydid nymphs. Here were 3 of them in different poses.

(Katydid nymphs)

(Katydid nymphs)

(4) Dairy Farm Nature Park

Not much find on this late morning here except a few spiders and an unique translucent leaf-footed bug nymph.

dairy farm images

(5) Zhenghua Forest

My best photo for the month of January 2015 is a shot taken at Zhenghua forest where a young praying mantis came face-to-face with a leaf-footed bug nymph. They stared at each other for quite a while before the praying mantis leaped off from the wild flower.

(Confrontation between praying mantis and leaf-footed bug)

(Confrontation between praying mantis and leaf-footed bug)

There were many interesting subjects here such as a pair of mating Leaf Beetle, a young Green Crested Lizard, a newly moulted Leaf-footed Bug, Shield Bug babies, etc.

zhenghua forest

My 12 Favourite Nature Images of 2014

I have taken many nature shots since 2008 but it didn’t occur to me to do a round up of my favourite images for each year. I think it is good to do so and here are my 12 favourite shots chosen from thousands of images taken in 2014.

#1 – It Ain’t My Shadow, It’s My Brother!

I have always wanted to take leaf in back lighting showing clearly the line, texture and pattern of its veins. With two different species of leaf-footed bugs on it, this is more than I could possibly ask for. The shadow creates an sense of illusion ie. my shadow or my brother, and hence the caption of this image.

(Canon 7D, 180T, f16, 1/50s, ISO 400, fill flash)

Segar Nature Trail, 4 January 2014 (Canon 7D, 180T, f16, 1/50s, ISO 400, fill flash)

#2 – Triplets

Zhenghua forest is one of the best places in Singapore to find leaf-footed bugs as they were so many of them, both adults and nymphs. The nymphs are often seen staying close together sometimes as many as a dozen. On this occasion, I was fortunate to spot 4 of them on a single leaf. Three obedient bugs lined up nicely in a single file while the shy little one chose to hide behind the leaf which is a blessing in disguise as an odd number is always better. The vivid green and the leading line created by the blue bugs make this a likable image.

Zhenghua Forest, 25 January 2014 (Canon 5D2, 180T, f11, 1/13s, ISO 400, natural light)

Zhenghua Forest, 25 January 2014 (Canon 5D2, 180T, f11, 1/13s, ISO 400, natural light)

#3 – “A” Formation

This is just a simple shot of a pair of mating moths. I chose it because it formed an “A” shape, an interesting sighting of nature. “A” stands for A grade image but more importantly, “A” also stands for my name, Anthony!

Nanyang Trail, 16 February 2014 (Canon 5D2, 180T, f16, 1/20s, ISO 800, fill flash)

Nanyang Trail, 16 February 2014 (Canon 5D2, 180T, f16, 1/20s, ISO 800, fill flash)

#4 – Lotus Flower

As in previous years, this is one of the very few flower shots that I have in 2014. Instead of the usual top down view, I chose to compose the underside of a lotus bloom where it shows a different beauty. The bright green leaf background with its vein lines keeps the eye within the picture and lead us to the focus point of the vibrant magenta lotus flower. The colours of the leaf and flower complementary each other very well too. A friend told me that he uses this image as a screensaver and I am still using it now.

Ang Mo Kio Garden. 22 February 2014 (Canon 5D2, 180T, f16, 1/80s, ISO 400, fill flash)

Ang Mo Kio Town West Garden. 22 February 2014 (Canon 5D2, 180T, f16, 1/80s, ISO 400, fill flash)

#5 – Morning freshness

I like shooting every early in the morning and 2014 was no exception. This gave me ample opportunities to shoot insects with dew. Of the many interesting shots, this one stands out from the rest. I chose a wide crop as the negative space from the top and bottom does not support the composition. The presence of the 2 larger dew drops provided a balance to the left-footed bug and overall image. The reflections in it is a bonus.

Mandai Forest, 13 April 2014 (Canon 7D, 180T, f16, 1/20s, ISO 400, natural light)

Mandai Forest, 13 April 2014 (Canon 7D, 180T, f16, 1/20s, ISO 400, natural light)

#6 – Walking on Dew

Another insect with dew image which is eye-catching. This is a tiny long-horned hopper which appears to be walking on crystal clear dew drops of different sizes. The translucent green body of the nymph stands out very well from the dark background. It is a pity that I did not include the complete curve of its feeler.

Chua Chu Kang Ave 5, 7 June 2014 (Canon 7D, 180T, f16, 1/10s, ISO 400, fill flash)

Chua Chu Kang Ave 5, 7 June 2014 (Canon 7D, 180T, f16, 1/10s, ISO 400, fill flash)

#7 – Twins

This is the only shot which was photographed outside Singapore. Baby snakes are rarely seen in the wild, so we were really fortunate to find five painted bronzeback baby snakes, about 20 cm long, at a small tree near our chalet at Endau Rompin National Park. Although I have a few shots with 3 snakes in a single frame, I like this the best because these 2 baby snakes stayed so close together giving the impression that they were twins.

Endau Rompin National Park, 21 September 2014 (Canon 7D, 180T, f11, 1/100s, ISO 400, fill flash)

Endau Rompin National Park, 21 September 2014 (Canon 7D, 180T, f11, 1/100s, ISO 400, fill flash)

#8 – Balancing Act

Grasshoppers & Katydids spend most of their lives on the plants or grasses that they eat. They are neither friends nor enemies. It was nice to see both of them sharing the same perch in upside down position showing some kind of a balancing act. They were both busying consuming their breakfast and did not notice one another. The smaller katydid nymph later leaped off when it spotted the grasshopper.

Zhenghua Forest, 11 October 2014 (Canon 7D, 180T, f11, 1/40s, ISO 400, fill flash)

Zhenghua Forest, 11 October 2014 (Canon 7D, 180T, f11, 1/40s, ISO 400, fill flash)

#9 – Katydid Grooming

It is interesting to watch katydids cleaning their feet or curved feelers by licking them. They look so graceful such as this adult spotted at Segar Nature Trail. The translucency of the backlit pea pod under the morning sun makes it special. My friend commented that the pod looks a little like the katydid!

Segar Nature Trail, 18 October 2014 (Canon 7D, 180T, f11, 1/160s, ISO 400, fill flash)

Segar Nature Trail, 18 October 2014 (Canon 7D, 180T, f11, 1/160s, ISO 400, fill flash)

#10 – Adorable Jumping Spider

The wet weather has started since November and it has been raining almost everyday. As a result, mushrooms have sprouted up overnight all over Singapore. They are particularly abundant in forested areas and my last 3 favourite images are all about them. These two beautiful mushrooms were found at Rifle Range Nature Trail and it was a bonus that a little jumping spider was sandwiched nicely between them. I like the big round eyes staring straight at me as if to ask “Am I cute?”.

IMG_5321

Rifle Range Nature Trail, 19 November 2014 (Canon 5D2, 180T, f16, 1/25s, ISO 800, fill flash)

#11 – Backlit Wild Mushrooms

This is an ordinary image of a group of wild mushrooms (Mycenoporella sp.) but the lighting is the aspect that bring this simple and effective composition to life. The backlit against the dark background really helps to show the details, pattern of the gills and this makes it an appealing shot. However, some may find the white areas are just a touch over-bright.

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, 19 November 2014 (Canon 5D2, 180T, f16, 1/13s, ISO 400, backlighting)

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, 19 November 2014 (Canon 5D2, 180T, f16, 1/13s, ISO 400, backlighting)

#12 – Love Under The Shades

These pretty mushrooms really look like umbrellas. They were easily spotted on decomposing leaves and thin branches on the ground at Chestnut Avenue Nature Trail. While I was photographing them, a pair of stilt-legged came along. My guess is that they prefer to do their business under the comfort of the shades!

Chestnut Ave Nature Trail, 23 December 2014 (Canon 7D, 180T, f16, 1/25s, ISO 400, fill flash)

Chestnut Ave Nature Trail, 23 December 2014 (Canon 7D, 180T, f16, 1/25s, ISO 400, fill flash)

I am looking forward to another fruitful year of nature photography in 2015!