Archive for the ‘extension tubes’ Category

Macromia illinoiensis exuvia

March 15, 2017

Post update: Macromiidae exuvia

When this blog post was published on 19 April 2016, I was a novice at identifying odonate exuviae and I was just starting to get serious about studio macro photography. At the time, I was satisfied to be able to identify the dragonfly exuvia as a member of the Family Macromiidae (Cruisers).

What’s new?

I’ve learned a lot since then, including the identity of the specimen to the genus/species level. This is a Swift River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia illinoiensis) exuvia that was collected along the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The first annotated image shows several characters that were used to identify the exuvia to the family level, including a mask-like labium featuring spork-like crenulations and a horn between its pointy eyes.

Swift River Cruiser (Macromia illinoiensis) exuvia (face-head)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

The following dorsal view of the exuvia provides enough clues to identify the specimen to the genus/species level.

Swift River Cruiser (Macromia illinoiensis) exuvia (dorsal)

The lateral spines of abdominal segment nine (S9) do not reach the tips of the inferior appendages (paraprocts), and if you look closely at the full-size version of the preceding photo then you should see a small mid-dorsal hook on abdominal segment 10 (S10). These characters indicate the genus is Macromia.

Notice the lateral spines of abdominal segments eight and nine (S8-9) are “directed straight to rearward,” indicating the species is illinoiensis.

Where it all began.

The last photo shows a teneral male Swift River Cruiser dragonfly clinging to the exuvia from which it emerged — the same exuvia featured in this post! Matt Ryan collected the exuvia after the adult dragonfly flew away from its perch. When Matt gave the exuvia to me several years later, he was unable to remember where it was collected. As soon as I was able to identify the exuvia to the genus/species level, I remembered seeing the following photo posted in one of Matt’s spottings on Project Noah.

Photo used with permission from Matthew J. Ryan.

With a little detective work, I was able to solve the mystery of the specific identity of the exuvia as well as when and where it was collected. Like I said, I’ve learned a lot since I published the first blog post related to this specimen!

Related Resources:

Editor’s Notes: A funny thing happened on the way to the forum. I rediscovered the “Key to the Genera of the Family Macromiidae” (p. 27, shown above) while paging through the document Identification Keys to Northeastern Anisoptera Larvae in search of the “Key to the Genera of the Family Corduliidae” (page 28). One look at the line drawing at the bottom of p. 27 and I knew the specific identity of the cruiser exuvia.

I need to refresh this blog post with more annotated images of the Macromia illinoiensis exuvia, including one that clearly shows the mid-dorsal hook on S10, but I was so eager to update the old post that I couldn’t wait to shoot and post-process the new images.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

How to Identify Damselfly Exuviae to Family

March 11, 2017

There are five families of damselflies (Suborder Zygoptera) in the United States of America, although only three families occur in the mid-Atlantic region: Family Calopterygidae (Broad-winged Damselflies)Family Coenagrionidae (Narrow-winged Damselflies); and Family Lestidae (Spreadwings).

Pattern recognition can be used to tentatively identify damselfly larvae/exuviae to the family level: the shape of the prementum is characteristic for each of the three families; mnemonics can be used to remember each distinctive shape.

Family Calopterygidae (Broad-winged Damselflies)

Family Calopterygidae features a prementum with a shape that looks somewhat similar to Family Coenagrionidae. Look for an embedded raindrop shape, located toward the upper-center of the prementum.

An Ebony Jewelwing damselfly (Calopteryx maculata) exuvia was collected along a small stream located in eastern Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Family Calopterygidae (Broad-winged Damselflies) | prementum

Family Coenagrionidae (Narrow-winged Damselflies)

The shape of the prementum for Family Coenagrionidae reminds me of a keystone.

A Narrow-winged Damselfly exuvia — probably Argia sp. (it’s a work in progress) — was collected along the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female, as indicated by the rudimentary ovipositor located on the ventral side of her abdomen.

Family Coenagrionidae (Narrow-winged Damselflies) | ventral

The lamellae, also known as caudal lamellae, are external structures used by damselfly larvae for both respiration and locomotion. In contrast, the respiratory system for dragonfly larvae is internal. Characteristics of the caudal lamellae (including shape of/patterns on) are some of the clues that can be used to identify damselflies to the genus/species level.

Family Lestidae (Spreadwings)

The unique shape of the prementum for Family Lestidae reminds me of a rattle (musical instrument).

A damselfly exuvia from the Family Lestidae (Spreadwings) was collected from a small vernal pool located in eastern Fairfax County, Virginia USA. Although the genus/species is unknown (again, it’s a work in progress), both Slender Spreadwing (Lestes rectangularis) adults and Southern Spreadwing (Lestes australis) adults were observed at the vernal pool on the same day this specimen was collected.

Family Lestidae (Spreadwings) | prementum

Related Resources: The first step is the hardest, as the saying goes. In this case, it’s easier to identify damselfly larvae/exuviae to the family level than it is to identify specimens to the genus/species level. There are relatively few resources, especially online resources. The following links to two dichotomous keys and a pattern-matching guide for caudal lamellae should help you get started. Many of the same species of damselflies that are known to occur in Michigan, Florida, and the Carolinas can be found in the mid-Atlantic region.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Epitheca princeps exuvia

March 5, 2017

The following Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps) exuvia, on temporary loan from a friend, had been identified before I borrowed the specimen. A two-step process was used to verify the genus and species of the exuvia.

  1. Determine the family.
  2. Determine the genus and species.

Step 1. Family

First, determine the family of the specimen. For reference, watch the excellent Vimeo video, Identifying dragonfly larva to family (8:06). Here’s the decision tree used to identify the exuvia as a member of the Family Corduliidae (Emeralds).

  • The specimen has a mask-like labium that covers the face, characteristic of four families: Cordulegastridae (Spiketails); Corduliidae (Emeralds); Libellulidae (Skimmers); and Macromiidae (Cruisers).
  • There is no horn on top of the face-head, characteristic of Macromiidae, so it’s not a cruiser.
  • Cordulegastridae has jagged crenulations on its labium, so it’s not a spiketail. The crenulations for Corduliidae and Libellulidae look similar.
  • Look at the anal pyramid to differentiate Corduliidae and Libellulidae [See Photo No. 4.]: It’s probably Corduliidae if the cerci are at least half as long as the paraprocts. [Editor’s Note: It’s probably Libellulidae if the cerci are less than half the length of the paraprocts.]

In summary, the exuvia has a mask-like labium with relatively smooth crenulations, no horn on its face-head, and the cerci are more than half as long as the paraprocts, confirming that the specimen is a member of Family Corduliidae (Emeralds).

A Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps) exuvia collected from an unknown location. This specimen is on temporary loan from Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 1 | Prince Baskettail (Epitheca princeps) | exuvia (face-head)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Step 2. Genus and species

Characters from two dichotomous keys were used to identify the genus and species for the exuvia. Although palpal/mental setae were not examined, all other characters match Epitheca princeps.

dichotomous key: a key for the identification of organisms based on a series of choices between alternative characters. Source Credit: Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Dichotomous Key 1

Identification Keys to Northeastern Anisoptera Larvae, compiled by Ken Soltesz.

Key to the Families of Anisoptera, page 5.

Key to the Genera of the Family Corduliidae, page 28.

Dichotomous Key 2

Corduliidae Selys – EmeraldsOdonata Nymphs of Michigan, by Ethan Bright and Mark F. O’Brien, UMMZ-Insect Division.

Epitheca Burmeister, 1839 (Corduliidae) – Baskettails

  • 1a. Distal half of dorsal surface of prementum heavily setose; palpal setae usually 4, rarely 5(Fig. 2) – Subgenus Epicordulia, E. princeps

More annotated images

A Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps) exuvia collected from an unknown location. This specimen is on temporary loan from Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 2 | Prince Baskettail (Epitheca princeps) | exuvia (dorsal)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Mid-dorsal hooks present, well-developed on some abdominal segments.”

A Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps) exuvia collected from an unknown location. This specimen is on temporary loan from Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 3 | Prince Baskettail (Epitheca princeps) | exuvia (dorso-lateral)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

“With lateral spines on Ab8 [S8].” “Lateral spines on Ab9 [S9] at least 2.0x as long as those on Ab8 [S8], at least equal to mid-dorsal length of Ab9 [S9].” The cerci are at least half as long as the paraprocts.

A Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps) exuvia collected from an unknown location. This specimen is on temporary loan from Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 4 | Prince Baskettail (Epitheca princeps) | exuvia (anal pyramid)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Photo No. 5 shows a wider view of the ventral side of the specimen.

A Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps) exuvia collected from an unknown location. This specimen is on temporary loan from Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 5 | Prince Baskettail (Epitheca princeps) | exuvia (ventral)

Photo No. 6 shows a zoomed-in view of the prementum.

A Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps) exuvia collected from an unknown location. This specimen is on temporary loan from Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 6 | Prince Baskettail (Epitheca princeps) | exuvia (prementum)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Photo No. 7 shows another view of the prementum.

A Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps) exuvia collected from an unknown location. This specimen is on temporary loan from Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 7 | Prince Baskettail (Epitheca princeps) | exuvia (prementum)

Tech Tips:

The following equipment was used to shoot all of the preceding photographs: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens (set for manual focus) plus a Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tube and a Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter; Canon 580EX II external flash, off-camera, in manual mode; Canon 580EX external flash, off-camera, in manual mode; and a Yongnuo YN-622C-TX E-TTL II Wireless Flash Controller for Canon plus a two-pack of Yongnuo YN-622C II E-TTL Wireless Flash Transceivers for Canon.

A Canon Extender EF 1.4x II was used for more magnification in Photo No. 4, 6, 7 and 9. Adding the tele-extender results in a 1 f/stop loss of light; additional backlight was added to the scene using a Nissin i40 external flash unit (off-camera, in SF mode).

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to annotate selected images.

Photo No. 8 and 9 show early work to get a good shot of the face-head, before Photo No. 1 emerged as the clear winner. I prefer Photo No. 1 because it provides the best view of the face-head, has the best composition and exposure, plus I like the way the exuvia seems to be floating in mid-air.

A Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps) exuvia collected from an unknown location. This specimen is on temporary loan from Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 8 | Prince Baskettail (Epitheca princeps) | exuvia (face-head)

A Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps) exuvia collected from an unknown location. This specimen is on temporary loan from Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 9 | Prince Baskettail (Epitheca princeps) | exuvia (face-head)

Although I have never seen a perching adult Prince Baskettail dragonfly, I was fortunate to shoot the following photo of a male in flight, featured in the blog post Changing of the guard.

A Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, shown in flight.

No. 10 | 14 JUN 2016 | JMAWR | Prince Baskettail (male, in flight)

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Buddha

March 3, 2017

I found Buddha, in this case, the version known as “Happy Buddha.” (Notice the exuvia seems to be smiling.) I think I’ll rub Buddha’s belly to see whether it brings me good luck, prosperity and wealth.

A Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps) exuvia collected from an unknown location. This specimen is on temporary loan from Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps) exuvia (ventral)

But seriously folks, this is a photo of a Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps) exuvia on temporary loan. The date and location where the specimen was collected is unknown. More photos of this exuvia (including several annotated images) will be published in an upcoming post.

The following photo is the original. The preceding photo was cropped and rotated clockwise 90-degrees.

A Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps) exuvia collected from an unknown location. This specimen is on temporary loan from Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps) exuvia (ventral)

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

More power!

February 19, 2017

Like Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, I like more power. (Grunt, grunt.) Actually, I need more power for some of the macro photography that I do, especially when I’m shooting small specimens such as odonate exuviae.

For the past few months, I’ve experimented with several ways to get more “oomph” from my Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens. I’ve tested three types of photo gear used in combination with the macro lens including extension tubes, a close-up filter, and a tele-extender.

The first photograph shows the following equipment, from left-to-right: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera; Canon Extender EF 1.4x II (white); Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tube; Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens; 67-52mm step-down ring; 52-42mm step-down ring; Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter (covered by lens cap).

Canon EOS 5D Mark II macro photography kit.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II macro photography kit.

For most macro subjects, my “base kit” includes the 100mm macro lens plus a 20mm extension tube. Adding one or more extension tubes reduces the minimum focusing distance of the lens. Adding a close-up filter enables me to zoom in closer to the subject. The tele-extender effectively changes the focal length of the macro lens from 100mm to 140mm, resulting in a 1 f/stop loss of light. Some photographers contend that adding a tele-extender can result in a loss of sharpness. Your results may vary from mine, but I find the increased magnification that results from using a tele-extender is worth a small loss of sharpness.

The Canon Extender EF 1.4x II is incompatible with the Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens — it is impossible to connect the two devices directly. It’s worth noting that incompatible doesn’t mean they don’t work together — they do, as long as an extension tube is added in-line between the tele-extender and lens.

The last photograph shows the following equipment, couterclockwise from the upper-left: “snap-on universal adapter” for Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter; Raynox close-up filter mounted on a 52-43mm step-down ring; and a 67-52mm step-down ring.

Several mounting adapters for Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter.

Several mounting adapters for Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter.

The Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter comes with a “snap-on universal adapter” for mounting the filter on lenses with a filter size from 52-67mm. The adapter clips on the front of a lens the same as a lens cap. In my opinion, that’s OK for use in a home photo studio but less than ideal for use in the field.

I bought two inexpensive step-down rings that can be used to mount the close-up filter more securely: a 52-43mm step-down ring enables me to mount the Raynox DCR-250 on either the “Nifty 50” (a 50mm lens for my Canon DSLR) or Panasonic DMC-FZ150 superzoom bridge camera, my go-to kit for photowalking; a 67-52mm step-down ring enables me to connect the 52-43mm/Raynox close-up filter combo (shown above) with my Canon 100mm macro lens.

In case you’re wondering whether vignetting is a problem when using two step-down rings with the Canon 100mm macro lens, it isn’t. As it turns out, the front lens element is recessed quite a bit from the lens barrel so the step-down rings cover little if any glass.

Related Resources:

Afterthoughts

Two thoughts occurred to me after this post was published.

  1. As a result of limited testing, I concluded that it is possible to stack two or three extension tubes in order to achieve the same result as using a tele-extender without any loss of sharpness. Problem is, the minimum focusing distance is so small that the working distance between the lens and subject is too close for comfort. Adding the tele-converter provides more magnification at a slightly longer working distance.
  2. Caution: Connect the 52-43mm step-down ring to the 67-52mm step-down ring BEFORE connecting the combo to the 100mm macro lens. Otherwise there is some risk of scratching the front element of the macro lens.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Gomphurus vastus exuvia

February 17, 2017

10s, maybe 100s of adult Cobra Clubtail dragonflies (Gomphurus vastus) were spotted on 16 May 2016 during a photowalk along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. Cobra Clubtails were the only species of odonate observed in a period of several hours.

A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphurus vastus) spotted at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

No. 1 | 16 MAY 2016 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (adult male)

A single exuvia (shown below) from an unknown species of dragonfly was collected with permission from park staff. If adult Cobra Clubtail dragonflies were common, then the specimen is probably a Cobra Clubtail exuvia, right? Let’s test our hypothesis.

A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly exuvia (Gomphurus vastus) collected at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 2 | 16 MAY 2016 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (exuvia)

A two-step process was used to identify the genus and species of the exuvia.

  1. Determine the family.
  2. Determine the genus and species.

Step 1. Family

First, determine the family of the specimen. For reference, watch the excellent Vimeo video, Identifying dragonfly larva to family (8:06). Here’s the decision tree used to identify the exuvia as a member of the Family Gomphidae (Clubtails).

  • The specimen has a flat labium that doesn’t cover the face (not mask-like). [See Photo No. 3.]
  • Antennae are club-like (not thin and thread-like, as in Aeshnidae). [See Photo No. 3.]
  • Eyes not exceptionally large compared to the size of the head (not large, as in Aeshnidae). [See Photo No. 3.]
A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly exuvia (Gomphurus vastus) collected at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 3 | 16 MAY 2016 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (exuvia, face-head)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Step 2. Genus and species

Gomphidae is the second largest family of dragonflies, so it can be challenging to identify some specimens to the genus and species level.

Characters from two dichotomous keys were used to identify the exuvia, in part, due to confusion caused by the fact that the name for the genus to which Cobra Clubtail belongs was changed recently from Gomphus to Gomphurus. As a result, the workflow for identifying this specimen was a little “jumpier” than usual.

dichotomous key: a key for the identification of organisms based on a series of choices between alternative characters. Source Credit: Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Dichotomous Key 1

Identification Keys to Northeastern Anisoptera Larvae, compiled by Ken Soltesz. Cobra Clubtail (Gomphus vastus), p. 15, Key to the species of the genus Gomphurus.

  • 1a – Strongly hooked palpal lobes with few teeth (3-5). Gomphurus group I (2) [See Photo No. 8.]
  • 2a – Length 27-30 mm. (vastus) [See Photo No. 4, below.]
A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly exuvia (Gomphurus vastus) collected at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 4 | 16 MAY 2016 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (exuvia, dorsal)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Dichotomous Key 2

“Gomphus complex” (= Gomphini) – Clubtails, Odonata Nymphs of Michigan.

  • 1b. Middorsal length of Ab9 [S9] less than half its basal width (fig); length of Ab10 [S10] < 0.50x its width (fig) – 6 [See Photo No. 6.]
  • 6b. Lateral spines of Ab9 close to Ab10, markedly longer than those on Ab8 (fig) [S8]; abdomen appears dorsoventrally flattened (fig) – Gomphurus, 8 [See Photo No. 6.]
  • 8b. Apical margin of median lobe of prementum straight or slightly convex (fig) – 9 [See Photo No. 8.]
  • 9a.(8b). End hook of lateral lobe of labium strongly incurved, extending far past apex of the truncate, 3 to 4 lateral teeth next to it (fig) – Gomphurus vastus
A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly exuvia (Gomphurus vastus) collected at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 5 | 16 MAY 2016 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (exuvia, posterior)

The preceding photograph shows a wider view of the posterior end of the abdomen. A closer view of the anal pyramid helps to illustrate several of the morphological characters described in Dichotomous Key 2.

A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly exuvia (Gomphurus vastus) collected at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 6 | 16 MAY 2016 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (exuvia, anal pyramid)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

The basal width of abdominal segment nine (S9) was measured in a straight line from edge-to-edge across the abdomen. The same distance would be longer if it were measured along the joint between abdominal segments eight and nine (S8 and S9). Either way the basal width is measured, the middorsal length is less than half of the basal width.

Since the middorsal length of abdominal segment 10 (S10) is clearly less than its basal width, the character wasn’t illustrated in the preceding annotated image.

Looking carefully at the anal pyramid, notice the cerci (sing. cercus) are slightly shorter than the epiproct, and the epiproct is almost as long as the paraprocts.

A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly exuvia (Gomphurus vastus) collected at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 7 | 16 MAY 2016 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (exuvia, ventral)

Photo No. 7 shows a wider view of the ventral side of the specimen. Zooming in on the prementum helps to illustrate some of the morphological characters described in Dichotomous Key 2.

A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly exuvia (Gomphurus vastus) collected at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 8 | 16 MAY 2016 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (exuvia, prementum)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Tech Tips:

The following equipment was used to shoot all of the preceding photographs: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens (set for manual focus) plus a Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tube; Canon 580EX II external flash, off-camera, in manual mode; Canon 580EX external flash, off-camera, in manual mode; and a Yongnuo YN-622C-TX E-TTL II Wireless Flash Controller for Canon plus a two-pack of Yongnuo YN-622C II E-TTL Wireless Flash Transceivers for Canon.

Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter was used for Photo No. 3, 6, and 8. A Canon Extender EF 1.4x II was used for more magnification in Photo No. 8. Adding the tele-extender results in a 1 f/stop loss of light; additional backlight was added to the scene using a Nissin i40 external flash unit (off-camera, in SF mode).

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to annotate selected images.

The following photograph of another dragonfly exuvia was taken in-situ along the shoreline of the Potomac River using a Panasonic DMC-FZ150 superzoom bridge camera and Canon 580EX Speedlite, my go-to kit for photowalking. There were many exuviae clinging to the concrete retaining wall shown in the photo. Photo No. 1 was taken using the same camera-flash combo.

A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly exuvia (Gomphurus vastus) photographed in situ at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

9. | 16 MAY 2016 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (exuvia, in situ)

Related Resources:

Editor’s Note: Sincere thanks to Sue Gregoire for her kind mentorship. Sue patiently provides guidance regarding the scientific jargon that can make it either challenging (at best) or impossible to understand many dichotomous keys for the identification of odonate larvae/exuviae. Like every good teacher, Sue doesn’t “give me a fish” — she teaches me how to fish. Thanks again, Sue!

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Anax junius exuvia

January 14, 2017

A dragonfly exuvia from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners) was collected at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This specimen is an exuvia from a Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius).

A two-step process was used to identify the genus and species of the specimen.

  1. Determine the family.
  2. Determine the genus and species.

Step 1. Family

First, determine the family of the specimen. For reference, watch the excellent Vimeo video, Identifying dragonfly larva to family (8:06). Here’s the decision tree I used to identify the exuvia as a member of the Family Aeshnidae (Darners).

  • The specimen has a flat labium that doesn’t cover the face (not mask-like), as shown in Photo No. 1-4.
  • Antennae are thin and thread-like (not club-like, as in Gomphidae larvae), as shown in Photo No. 4.
  • Eyes are large relative to the size of the head, as shown in Photo No. 5.

Step 2. Genus and species

As shown in Photo No. 1, lateral spines along abdominal segments seven, eight, and nine (S7-9) indicate the genus is Anax.

A dragonfly exuvia from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), collected at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is Anax junius.

No. 1 | 21 JUN 2016 | MRA | Anax junius exuvia (dorsal-lateral)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

At this point, you know the species could be either anax (Common Green Darner dragonfly) or longipes (Comet Darner dragonfly). The species is determined by the shape of the palpal lobes (see Photo No. 3) and the length of the specimen (see Photo No. 2).

A dragonfly exuvia from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), collected at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is Anax junius.

No. 2 | 21 JUN 2016 | MRA | Anax junius exuvia (lateral)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

The labium, also known as the mentum, is a two-segment hinged “jaw” that is used to grab food: the prementum is the segment of the labium closer to the mouth; the postmentum is the segment closer to the base of the head.

The specimen is ~4.7 cm (~1.9 in) in length, not counting the bend in the body.

A dragonfly exuvia from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), collected at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is Anax junius.

No. 3 | 21 JUN 2016 | MRA | Anax junius exuvia (labium, ventral)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

The rounded shape of the palpal lobes (see Photo No. 3, above) plus the length of the specimen (see Photo No. 2) indicate the species is juniusAnax junius is one of the more common species of Aeshnidae found in Northern Virginia.

A dragonfly exuvia from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), collected at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is Anax junius.

No. 4 | 21 JUN 2016 | MRA | Anax junius exuvia (face-head)

Notice the antennae are thin and thread-like, as shown in the preceding photo. If you are an aquatic animal, this is a face you don’t want to see up-close and personally!

A dragonfly exuvia from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), collected at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is Anax junius.

No. 5 | 21 JUN 2016 | MRA | Anax junius exuvia (head, dorsal)

The eyes are large relative to the size of the head.

Tech Tips:

The following equipment was used to shoot all of the preceding photographs: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens (set for manual focus); Canon 580EX II external flash, off-camera, in manual mode; Canon 580EX external flash, off-camera, in manual mode; and a Yongnuo YN-622C-TX E-TTL II Wireless Flash Controller for Canon plus a two-pack of Yongnuo YN-622C II E-TTL Wireless Flash Transceivers for Canon. A Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter was used for Photo No. 3-5.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to annotate selected images.

The first test shot for this exuvia was photographed using my Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens plus a Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tube. As you can see in the following photo, the subject barely fit within the frame. Although the composition isn’t ideal, the resulting photo is dramatic nonetheless! The 20mm extension tube wasn’t used for the rest of the photo set.

A dragonfly exuvia from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), collected at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is Anax junius.

No. 6 | 21 JUN 2016 | MRA | Anax junius exuvia (lateral)

The following photograph of the exuvia was taken in-situ along the shoreline of Hidden Pond using a Panasonic DMC-FZ150 superzoom bridge camera and Canon 580EX Speedlite, my go-to kit for photowalking.

A dragonfly exuvia spotted at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is probably a member of Family Aeshnidae.

No. 7 | 21 JUN 2016 | MRA | Anax junius exuvia (in-situ)

Related Resources:

dichotomous key: a key for the identification of organisms based on a series of choices between alternative characters. Source Credit: Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

In long form, the decision tree is as follows (assuming the convention of labeling the two branches of each dichotomy as “a” and “b”, e.g. 1a, 1b, etc.):

p. 21, Key to the genera of the Family Aeshnidae
1b – Hind angles of head rounded … . (5)
5a – Lateral spines on abdominal segments 7 to 9 only. (6)
6b – Antenna about half as long as this distance [from the base of the antennae to the rear of head]. (Anax)

p. 22, Key to the species of the genus Anax
1a – Lateral lobes of labium tapering to a hooked point; total length about 40 mm. (junius) [Note: The total length of longipes is about 55 mm.]

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Stylurus spiniceps exuvia

January 6, 2017

I’ve never seen an adult Arrow Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus spiniceps). That’s not surprising, since many experienced odonate hunters classify them as uncommon to rare.

But I know a place along the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia USA where I am certain Arrow Clubtail dragonflies live. How do I know? Because I collected a Stylurus spiniceps exuvia from that location. In a nutshell, this is one of many reasons I’m learning to identify odonate exuviae.

An Arrow Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus spiniceps) exuvia collected at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 1 | 04 AUG 2016 | Potomac River | Arrow Clubtail (exuvia)

A two-step process was used to identify the genus and species of the specimen.

Family

First, determine the family of the specimen. For reference, watch the excellent Vimeo video, Identifying dragonfly larva to family (8:06). Here’s the decision tree I used to identify the exuvia as a member of the Family Gomphidae (Clubtails).

  • The specimen has a flat labium that doesn’t cover the face (not mask-like), as shown in photo No. 2 and 3.
  • Antennae are club-like (not thin and thread-like, as in Aeshnidae).
  • Eyes not exceptionally large compared to the size of the head (not large, as in Aeshnidae).
An Arrow Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus spiniceps) exuvia collected at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 2 | 04 AUG 2016 | Potomac River | Arrow Clubtail (exuvia, face-head)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Genus and species

Gomphidae is the second largest family of dragonflies, so it can be challenging to identify some specimens to the genus and species level. As it turns out, Arrow Clubtail exuviae are easy to identify because their abdominal segment nine (S9) is unique among Gomphidae: S9 is more than twice as long as it is wide at its base, as shown in the following annotated image.

The length of the exuvia is approximately 4.2 cm (~1.7 in).

An Arrow Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus spiniceps) exuvia collected at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 3 | 04 AUG 2016 | Potomac River | Arrow Clubtail (exuvia, ventral)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

More photos of the exuvia are shown below.

An Arrow Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus spiniceps) exuvia collected at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 4 | 04 AUG 2016 | Potomac River | Arrow Clubtail (exuvia, dorsal)

An Arrow Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus spiniceps) exuvia collected at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 5 | 04 AUG 2016 | Potomac River | Arrow Clubtail (exuvia, dorso-lateral)

Tech Tips:

The following equipment was used to shoot all of the preceding photographs: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens (set for manual focus) plus a Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tube; Canon 580EX II external flash, off-camera, in manual mode (Master); Canon 580EX external flash, off-camera, in manual mode (Slave); and a coiled six-foot Vello Off-Camera TTL Flash Cord for Canon Cameras. A Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter was used for Photo No. 2.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to annotate selected images.

Related Resources:

dichotomous key: a key for the identification of organisms based on a series of choices between alternative characters. Source Credit: Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

In long form, the decision tree is as follows (assuming the convention of labeling the two branches of each dichotomy as “a” and “b”, e.g. 1a, 1b, etc.):

p. 17, Key to the species of the genus Stylurus
1a – Abdominal segment 9 twice as long as wide at base. (spiniceps)

Editor’s Note: This is the 1,000th post on my photoblog. That’s a major milestone, and quite candidly, one I never expected to reach. Who knew I have so much to show-and-tell?

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Top 10 Photos of 2016

December 30, 2016

The following gallery shows 33 finalists for my “Top 10 Photos of 2016.” The photos are presented in reverse-chronological order beginning in December 2016 and ending in May 2016.

The Top 10 photos will be selected using reader feedback. Please enter a comment at the end of this post listing the number for each of your 10 favorite photos. If listing 10 photos is asking too much, then please list at least five photos, e.g., No. 5, 8, 14, 17, 21, etc. Thanks for sharing your selections, and thanks for following my photoblog!

No. 1

The following specimen was collected on 16 May 2016 (with permission from park staff) along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. (This studio photograph, taken on 25 December 2016, hasn’t been published in a post.)

No. 2

The next specimen was collected on 07 July 2016 along the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. (This studio photograph was taken on 02 December 2016.)

An Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) exuvia collected from the Potomac River, Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

07 JUL 2016 | Potomac River | Eastern Amberwing (exuvia, head-on)

No. 3

No. 4

A Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female heteromorph.

14 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Shadow Darner (female heteromorph)

No. 5

No. 6

No. 7

No. 8

No. 9

No. 10

No. 11

No. 12

No. 13

No. 14

No. 15

No. 16

No. 17

No. 18

No. 19

No. 20

No. 21

No. 22

No. 23

No. 24

No. 25

No. 26

No. 27

A mating pair of Slender Spreadwing damselflies (Lestes rectangularis) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in heart."

24 JUN 2016 | HMP | Slender Spreadwing (mating pair, “in heart“)

No. 28

No. 29

No. 30

No. 31

No. 32

No. 33

Editor’s Note: The following location codes are used in some photo captions, shown above.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Tramea carolina exuvia

December 12, 2016

An exuvia from an unknown species of dragonfly was collected at Mason Neck West Park (MNWP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. A two-step process was used to identify the genus and species of the specimen.

Family

First, determine the family of the specimen. For reference, watch the excellent Vimeo video, Identifying dragonfly larva to family (8:06).

The exuviae has a mask-like labium (not flat) with evenly-toothed crenulations, indicating this individual is a member of Family Libellulidae (Skimmers).

Genus and species

A dichotomous key was used to tentatively identify the exuvia as Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea carolina), as indicated by the following morphological characteristics.

  • No dorsal hooks on any abdominal segments.
  • Lateral spines of abdominal segment nine (S9) are much longer than its mid-dorsal length. Lateral spines on segment eight (S8) are nearly as long as on segment nine (S9).
  • Superior abdominal appendage (epiproct) is shorter than inferior abdominal appendages (paraprocts).

Sincere thanks to Sue Gregoire, Kestrel Haven Migration Observatory, for verifying my preliminary observations and tentative identification!

No. 1

The specimen is approximately 2.4 cm (~0.9″) in length. Notice there are no dorsal hooks on any abdominal segments.

A dragonfly exuvia (Tramea carolina) collected at Mason Neck West Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

04 OCT 2016 | MNWP | Carolina Saddlebags (exuvia, dorsal-lateral view)

The white filaments that extend from the split in the thorax (as shown in Photo No. 1-2, 4-6) are breathing tubes, artifacts of the unique respiratory system of dragonfly nymphs.

No. 2

The eyes are rounded and widely separated. Notice the mask-like labium (sometimes referred to as “spoon-shaped”) with evenly-toothed crenulations along the margins between two lateral lobes.

A dragonfly exuvia (Tramea carolina) collected at Mason Neck West Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

04 OCT 2016 | MNWP | Carolina Saddlebags (exuvia, head-on view)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

No. 3

A vertical white line marks the mid-dorsal length of abdominal segment nine (S9), as shown in the following annotated image; the vertical black line labeled “mid-dorsal length” is the same length as the white line. Notice the lateral spines of abdominal segment nine (S9) are much longer than its mid-dorsal length.

A dragonfly exuvia (Tramea carolina) collected at Mason Neck West Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

04 OCT 2016 | MNWP | Carolina Saddlebags (exuvia, anal pyramid view)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

One of the keys to identifying skimmer dragonflies to the species level is to carefully examine the anal pyramid (S10), including the cerci (sing. cercus), epiproct, and paraprocts. Notice the epiproct is shorter than the paraprocts.

There is a lot of “seaweed” (aquatic vegetation) clinging to the exuvia, especially noticeable at the posterior end. Some collectors like to clean their specimens; I prefer to photograph them “as is.”

More photos of the exuvia are shown below.

No. 4

A dragonfly exuvia (Tramea carolina) collected at Mason Neck West Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

04 OCT 2016 | MNWP | Carolina Saddlebags (exuvia)

No. 5

A dragonfly exuvia (Tramea carolina) collected at Mason Neck West Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

04 OCT 2016 | MNWP | Carolina Saddlebags (exuvia)

No. 6

A dragonfly exuvia (Tramea carolina) collected at Mason Neck West Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

04 OCT 2016 | MNWP | Carolina Saddlebags (exuvia)

Tech Tips:

The following equipment was used to shoot the preceding photographs:

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to annotate selected images.

Related Resources:

dichotomous key: a key for the identification of organisms based on a series of choices between alternative characters. Source Credit: Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Assuming the convention of labeling the two branches of each dichotomy as “a” and “b”, e.g. 1a, 1b, etc., a list of branches in the decision tree that I used to identify the genus of the dragonfly exuviae is as follows: 1b; 4b; 5b; 10a; 11b; 12b Tramea. A supplemental key featuring one dichotomy was used to identify the species: 1a carolina BINGO!

In long form, the decision tree is as follows:

p. 36, Key to the Genera of the Family Libellulidae
1b – Eyes lower, more broadly rounded and more lateral in position; abdomen usually ending more bluntly. [Go to] 4
4b – These appendages [inferior abdominal appendages (paraprocts)] straight or nearly so. [Go to] 5
5b – No dorsal hooks on any abdominal segments. [Go to] 10
10a – Lateral spines of segment 9 much longer than its mid dorsal length. [Go to] 11
11b – Lateral spines on 8 nearly as long as on 9. [Go to] 12
12b – Superior abdominal appendage (epiproct) shorter than inferiors [inferior abdominal appendages (paraprocts)]. Tramea BINGO!

p. 41, Key to the species of the genus Tramea
1a – Lateral spines of segment 8 directed straight to rearward; paraprocts longer than epiproct; two rows of spinules on upper surface of epiproct. carolina BINGO!

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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