Friday, December 10, 2010

Africa's Terrible Hairy Fly:

Scientists have rediscovered a bizarre flightless species of fly, Mormotomyia hirsuta. The 1 cm-long insect had been collected only twice before in 1933 and 1948. It's only known habitat is a bat-filled cleft on an isolated rock formation in Kenya's Ukazi Hills where it breeds in bat feces.

More photos and reading from the BBC News Science article may be found here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Rosalia alpina (Linnaeus, 1758)

Rosalia alpina (Linnaeus, 1758)
Family: Cerambycidae
Subfamily: Cerambycinae
Tribe: Rosalini.
Distribution: Europe - extirpated in parts, listed as endangered or protected in others.

Original illustration approximately 6X8-inches. Winsor & Newton watercolors and Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils in an A3 watercolor Moleskine Folio.

This is part of a watercolor illustration that I posted here.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Eye Candy:
Jewel Beetles and Photonic Crystals

Some Coleoptera are referred to as "Jewel Beetles" because of the diverse array of iridescent colors they display. One method in which this is accomplished is the use of photonic crystals (Wikipedia: "optical nanostructures that are designed to affect the motion of photons." uh-huh, yea, okay ...) particularly by some weevils of the genus Pachyrhynchus.

These tropical beetles produce a three-dimensional photonic crystalline structure that are arranged hexagonally - similar to how crystals are arranged in the gemstone Opal. It is suggested that the metallic patterns probably evolved to make the beetles recognizable to other members of it's species in the diminished light under the forest canopy (sorry, doesn't quite sound right to me. Dare I bring up polarized light again?).

Under scanning electron microscopy, the refractive visible layer (surface layer) of the structure appears as a thin plate of chitin perforated by a series of circular holes arranged along a two-dimensional triangular lattice (Welch, et al., 2007).

Males of Hoplia coerulea Drury are known for their spectacular bluish-violet iridescence. This blue coloration is caused by it's squamal (scales) photonic structure that creates a refractive index from utilizing a mix of air and chitin.

The use of photonic crystals in nature for coloration may be found in many other invertebrates, birds, and fish. The subject is more complex than the brief comments I have offered here.

Literature cited and internet sources

Welch, V., et al. 2007. Orange reflection from a three-dimensional photonic crystal in the scales of the weevil Pachyrrhynchus congestus pavonius (Curculionidae). Physical Review E. 75, 041919.

Available at:

Pachyrhynchus images courtesy of Estan Cabigas. Hoplia image courtesy of Association Roussillonnaise D' Entomologie.

Monday, June 28, 2010

... For Frank ....

The late Frank Hovore, friend and colleague, collecting Titanus giganteus in Ecuador and for whom I posthumously named a new species of Rain Beetle ~Pleocoma hovorei La Rue, 2007.

~ Watercolor Beetles ~

Here is an update of my progress on the beetle composition that I have posted elements of. I feel, for the most part, it is nearing completion but still lacks a few more beetles and other details. You may notice that the red longhorn beetle (Rosalia formosa) lacks the right antenna. I have temporarily omitted it until the remaining beetles are in place.

As a reminder, this is done in an A3 (16.5 X 12-inch, 297 X 420mm) watercolor Moleskine Folio using W&N Cotman WCs and Faber-Castell Polychromos CPs.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

1. Postcards from the right side of the brain ...

Cochise Stronghold, Dragoon Mountains, AZ, was once the refuge of the great Apache Chief, Cochise, and his people ...

** I recommend clicking on an image for a larger view**