While I didn't have a chance to get out this past weekend, I did manage to get out one afternoon last week after work and head back to Huntley Meadows. Last Monday I posted about ants farming and milking aphids and I wanted to try again for pictures. The conditions were still really tough for macro photography with natural light. These particular aphids seemed to like the shady areas and the ants were very active, tough to freeze at high magnification and relatively slow shutter speeds. I did manage to get a few passable images, but I'm still not happy and will continue to look for more situations to photograph this fascinating behavior. There appeared to be two species of ants tending and milking the aphids, the ant pictured below, which I believe is a Formica species (any ant experts out there want to help me out) and some other ants that appeared to be a Crematogaster species (not pictured). The Formica ants seemed to be more opportunistic with a few individuals on each plant roaming widely looking for aphids with "honeydew", while the Crematogaster ants seemed to be more actively tending/protecting the aphids.
While I was searching for other plants with aphids and photographing the newly opening purple milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) flowers, I happened upon two of these tiny green gold sweat bees (Augochlorella aurata) trying desperately to get at the nectar of these newly opened (and probably still a bit immature) flowers. In the second image, the sweat bee actually lay completely on it's back with its legs up in the air in its attempts to get access to the flower.
The final image is a close-up of a cluster of newly opened purple milkweed flowers. For now, the conclusion to these stories about life around the milkweed patch.
This weekend I'm heading to Delaware to take in the peak of the shorebird migration spectacle and hopefully see some good aggregations of laying horseshoe crabs, but they started mating early in large numbers this year, so we'll see. Hope to have some great new material to post next Monday.