Figure 1
Fig. 1. A dead water boatman (Cenocorixa sp., Corixidae) photographed on a vehicle roof. This surface reflects highly polarized light. 9 March 2014. Iona Beach Regional Park, Richmond, British Columbia (49°13’6″ N, 123°12’49” W).

You might be wondering where Figure 1 was taken and what it has to do with polarized light. The picture shows an unfortunate water boatman that landed on the roof of my car and quickly succumbed to the high temperatures of the sun baked metal. Why would this aquatic insect be landing on a car in the first place? The answer has to do with polarized light. [click to continue…]

Academic Nightmare


I sit here now typing at my computer after a particularly plausible and terrifying nightmare. I thought rather than lie sleepless in bed I’d try to describe it before the details fled my brain in the morning light. [click to continue…]

Photo of the Week

Common Dandelion
Common Dandelion
Taraxacum officinale, Asteraceae
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
Olympus E-PM1, Customized 35mm Lens, Baader U-Filter
f/10, 1/40 sec, ISO 1600, No Flash
April 30, 2014

This week I have a UV photograph taken with our lab’s new camera that has been modified for greater sensitivity in the UV and infrared. We purchased our complete camera system from Dr. Klaus Schmitt, a truly accomplished UV photographer. I chose this Dandelion for the picture because like many flowers in the Asteraceae they show a pronounced ‘bulls-eye’ pattern with a UV-dark center.

I am really blown away with the UV sensitivity of this new camera system. It is sensitive enough in the UV to allow for handheld shots (like the one above) using only sunlight for illumination. This is a welcome change from previous UV camera systems I’ve used which required long exposures with a tripod or strong UV flashes. I’m still experimenting with color processing the images. You can see the image with the original colours by mousing over the image.

Photo of the Week

Cabbage Root Fly - ♀
Cabbage Root Fly – ♀
Delia radicum, Anthomyiidae
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
Nikon D5100, 105 mm f/2.8
February 8, 2014

I took some time between bioassays to take some photos of another of my study organisms the Cabbage Root Fly. This fly is an important pest of cultivated brassicaceous crops in both Europe and North America. Females oviposit around the base of the plant and the larva develop in the soil feeding on the roots causing significant damage to their host. The vision of the Cabbage Root Maggot has been studied by the likes of S. Finch and R. J. Prokopy leading to a good understanding of how visual cues affect their host plant selection.

Colorado Potato Beetle

<p><i>Leptinotarsa decemlineata</i>, Chrysomelidae<br />
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada<br />
Nikon D5100, 105 mm f/2.8<br />
August 30, 2013</p>

Colorado Potato Beetle

Leptinotarsa decemlineata, Chrysomelidae
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
Nikon D5100, 105 mm f/2.8
August 30, 2013

<p><i>Leptinotarsa decemlineata</i>, Chrysomelidae<br />
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada<br />
Nikon D5100, 105 mm f/2.8<br />
August 30, 2013</p>

Colorado Potato Beetle

Leptinotarsa decemlineata, Chrysomelidae
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
Nikon D5100, 105 mm f/2.8
August 30, 2013

<p><i>Leptinotarsa decemlineata</i>, Chrysomelidae<br />
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada<br />
Nikon D5100, 105 mm f/2.8<br />
August 31, 2013</p>

Mating Colorado Potato Beetles

Leptinotarsa decemlineata, Chrysomelidae
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
Nikon D5100, 105 mm f/2.8
August 31, 2013

<p><i>Leptinotarsa decemlineata</i>, Chrysomelidae<br />
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada<br />
Nikon D5100, 105 mm f/2.8<br />
August 31, 2013</p>

Colorado Potato Beetle

Leptinotarsa decemlineata, Chrysomelidae
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
Nikon D5100, 105 mm f/2.8
August 31, 2013

<p><i>Leptinotarsa decemlineata</i>, Chrysomelidae<br />
&amp; <i>Solanum tuberosum</i>, Solanaceae<br />
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada<br />
Nikon D5100, 105 mm f/2.8<br />
August 31, 2013</p>

Colorado Potato Beetle on a Potato Plant

Leptinotarsa decemlineata, Chrysomelidae
& Solanum tuberosum, Solanaceae
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
Nikon D5100, 105 mm f/2.8
August 31, 2013

A couple weeks ago I took some time between bioassays to take some photos of one of my study organisms. The Colorado Potato Beetle is an important pest of potato crops worldwide. Both the adult and larva of the beetle feed on potato leaves. Unlike many agricultural pests the potato beetle is native to North America, although it is invasive in Europe and Asia. The beetle was originally associated with Buffalo-bur but expanded its host range to include potato crops in the 1840s. The leaf feeding habits, the economic importance, and relatively well described vision all make the Colorado Potato Beetle a good candidate for my research with polarized light.


After five weeks of waiting my polarizing filter has finally arrived! The filter is 50 mm square making each square millimeter a bargain at a mere $0.76. Why might you ask is this tiny piece of glass so expensive? This polarizing filter is capable of filtering light from 200 nm to 4000 nm with a relatively flat transmission spectra across this wide swath of the electromagnetic spectrum spanning ultraviolet, visible and infrared light. Creating a filter that works across such a range of wavelengths requires specialized manufacturing techniques and has only a handful of applications. Unfortunately for me insects see well into the ultraviolet making the common and inexpensive visual light polarizers unsuitable for my research. [click to continue…]

Arachnids of the Annex

<p><i>Salticus scenicus</i>, Salticidae<br />
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada<br />
Nikon D5100, 105 mm f/2.8<br />
June 16, 2013</p>

Zebra Jumper Spiderling

Salticus scenicus, Salticidae
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
Nikon D5100, 105 mm f/2.8
June 16, 2013

<p><i>Salticus scenicus</i>, Salticidae<br />
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada<br />
Nikon D5100, 105 mm f/2.8<br />
June 16, 2013</p>

Zebra Jumper with a Root Maggot Fly

Salticus scenicus, Salticidae
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
Nikon D5100, 105 mm f/2.8
June 16, 2013

<p><i>Salticus scenicus</i>, Salticidae<br />
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada<br />
Nikon D5100, 105 mm f/2.8<br />
June 16, 2013</p>

Zebra Jumper

Salticus scenicus, Salticidae
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
Nikon D5100, 105 mm f/2.8
June 16, 2013

<p><i>Neriene digna</i>, Linyphiinae<br />
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada<br />
Nikon D5100, 105 mm f/2.8<br />
June 16, 2013</p>

Male Sheetweb Spider

Neriene digna, Linyphiinae
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
Nikon D5100, 105 mm f/2.8
June 16, 2013

It has been more than a month since I moved my insect colonies to the Science Research Annex. The research annex has the benefit of ample room for all of my bugs but it is isolated from the rest of campus. Being isolated it is surrounded by much more nature and as a consequence has a good variety of arthropods occupying the building in addition to my colonies. Along with Woodlice and Carpenter Ants I see a variety of spiders. I happened to have my macro lens with me one day and I snapped some pictures. [click to continue…]

CanoLAB 2013

CanoLAB 2013 Poster


The Canola Council of Canada was kind enough to fly me out to Edmonton this past week for CanoLAB 2013. This was the second year of this unique extension workshop that combines real plants and real insects demonstrating real problems faced by canola producers. I was involved with the preperations for the inaugural event last year and it was encouraging to see the event improve and expand this year. I was invited this year to present a poster (shown above) summarizing my previous work on Cabbage Seedpod Weevil (Ceutorhynchus obstrictus) as well as to assist with the more general entomology extension on Bertha Armyworm (Mamestra configurata), Diamondback Moth (Plutella xylostella) and Cutworms (Euxoa spp.). [click to continue…]