The importance of post-processing

One of the most frustrating realizations I had when I began photographing insects was the fact that photographs didn’t come out of the camera “ready-to-go”—i.e., they still needed to be processed to some degree to make them look good. Even worse, this required processing is to large degree subjective based on the taste of the individual photographer, and as such a “quick manual” describing the exact process in a way that beginners can understand doesn’t exist. Essentially, I didn’t know that when I decided to become an insect photographer, that I would also have to become proficient at photo processing. This frustrates me a lot less now because I’ve finally worked out a process for doing this that works for me and that I am comfortable with, and having done so I also realize that every photographer has to go through this process for themselves to make their photographs look the way they want them to look. That said, I wish I’d had access to some easy tutorials when I was trying to figure out the process that could have saved me some stumbling time before arriving at a process I liked. With that in mind, I thought I would share a quick overview of how I deal with post-processing in the hopes that somebody else mind find a useful tip or two here as they try to figure out their own process. This is not meant to be an exhaustive description of all the post-processing tools that I might use, but rather the typical adjustments that are needed for almost all of the photographs that I take. To illustrate the process, I use a rather basic shot of a cricket that I photographed last week in northeastern Missouri. You can click on each photo to access a larger and better see the issues discussed and resulting enhancements.

Straight from the camera (JPG converted from original RAW file).

The photo above is basically how the shot came out of the camera. These days I shoot only in RAW format, as this allows the maximum amount of data to be retained regardless of how many times the file is accessed. The image above is a JPG converted directly from the unaltered RAW file, and you can see that it looks rather flat and could benefit from levels and color adjustments as well as sharpening and some general “cleaning up” of sensor dust artifacts and debris on the subject. Since I use a Canon body, I have the Digital Photo Professional software that came with the camera, and I also have Photoshop Elements. For my purposes, I’ve found it most convenient to do certain enhancements directly to the RAW file in DPP, generate a TIFF format version of the file from the edited RAW file, and then do the final enhancements to the TIFF file. Since TIFF is also a “loss-less” format, I can then use the enhanced TIFF to generate JPGs of whatever size and resolution on an as-needed basis without worrying about data loss in the full-sized, fully enhanced version of the photo. I think this is preferable to shooting JPGs directly or generating them directly from the RAW file because JPGs are not loss-less files, and as a result every time a JPG is accessed or modified there is a loss of data. Sure, you can go back to the original RAW file and generate a new JPG, but any enhancements made after the first conversion will have to be repeated. Another advantage to making adjustments in DPP is that they are reversable—the original, unaltered RAW file can always be recovered without the need to create multiple backups representing different stages of enhancement.

After initial processing (JPG converted from edited RAW file).

So, what enhancements do I do in DPP? First I open the tool palette and adjust the white balance—in this case it was a full flash photo, so I select “Flash” from the drop-down menu. Then I select the RGB tab and adjust the upper and lower levels on the histogram. The general approach is to cut off data-lacking areas at either extreme, but there is also a lot of subjectivity in deciding what “looks right”. I then open the Stamp Tool (I find cloning adjustments easier and more effective in DPP than in PS) and clone out dust marks in the background (I know, I need to clean my sensor) and debris on the subject. On that last point, there are purists who will argue that this is an “unnatural” alteration. I take a much less conservative position on such alterations, since in my opinion the entire photograph itself is the result of interpretation—not just of the photographer, but of the equipment used and settings chosen. If debris on the subject is an important aspect of the subject’s natural history, then it should remain. However, in most cases, dirt flecks on the subject are not an important part of the story and provide an unnecessary detraction from the aesthetic appearance of the photo. If any cropping is necessary I prefer to do this also in DPP since this is reversible should I change my mind at some point in the future. The second photo above shows what the image looks like after this initial round of post-processing in DPP. At this point, the RAW file is ready to be converted to TIFF format for final post-processing in PS.

After additional processing in Photoshop (jpg converted from edited TIFF).

After additional processing in Photoshop (jpg converted from edited TIFF).

Because I’ve done much of the levels adjustment and cloned out any flaws in DPP, the original TIFF needs only minor adjustments. I generally like to start with “Autocorrect” and see what it does, as this function usually does a good job of toning down highlights and shadows and especially giving a more natural color to blue sky backgrounds such as in this photo. If I don’t like the result from Autocorrect, I hit Ctrl+Z and adjust levels and color manually until I like the result. I find that most photos still benefit from a little bit of brightening and increased contrast (usually ~10% each), and this often also serves to add a little color saturation that is generally sufficient but can sometimes be too much. If the latter occurs, it’s an easy matter to adjust the saturation back down a little bit. After the levels and color are fully adjusted the only thing left to do is apply unsharp mask to sharpen up the photo and bring out the detail—remember to zoom the image to 100% to get the best view of how the settings affect the appearance of the photo, as the settings that you will need depend greatly on the size of the image. Once these adjustments are made, I save a new version of the file (I like to append the file name with “_enh”). The third photo above represents the final enhanced version, and it is this file that I will use to generate JPGs of whatever size I need on an as-needed basis. The original TIFF can be retained if desired, but since an identical version can always be generated anew from the enhanced RAW file this is not essential.

The head slightly narrower than the pronotum and early spring occurrence of this large nymph make me think this is the northern woods cricket (Gryllus vernalis).

The head slightly narrower than the pronotum and early spring occurrence of this large nymph in northeastern Missouri make me think this is the northern wood cricket (Gryllus vernalis).

I hope you’ve found one or tips of use in this little tutorial, which I end with the above frontal portrait of the subject shown in the previous photos. Based on its all black color, the head slight narrower than the pronotum, and its early spring occurrence as a late-instar nymph in northern Missouri, I take this to be a northern wood cricket, Gryllus vernalis, but of course I am open to being corrected by somebody more knowledgeable about crickets than I.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2014

Not all soybean caterpillars are ‘ugly’!

Although photographs of beetles dominate this site (they are my true love, after all), I am nevertheless an agricultural entomologist by day and, as such, find occasion to post photos of the insects I encounter in my area of expertise—soybean. I think by and large those soybean insects—especially the caterpillars—don’t generate as much interest as the beetles that I feature. I guess this is understandable—caterpillars of the agricultural pest variety seem generally unable to compete with the visual and behavioral charisma exhibited by jewel beetles, tiger beetles, tortoise beetles, etc. Here, however, is an example of a soybean caterpillar that is as beautiful as any beetle you will find—the larva of the silver-spotted skipper, Epargyreus clarus (Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae). Not only are the colors to die for, but that comically big head makes for a truly laughable frontal portrait!

Epargyreus clarus (silver-spotted skipper) late-instar larva on soybean | Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Epargyreus clarus (silver-spotted skipper) late-instar larva on soybean | Baton Rouge, Louisiana

This particular individual was found last September in a soybean field near Baton Rouge, Louisiana (amazingly, this is the first insect I have featured from Louisiana). Silver-spotted skippers feed on a wide variety of plants in the family Fabaceae (of which soybean is a member), but their occurrence on soybean rarely reaches levels that cause any economic impact. Normally the caterpillars hide during the day in a silken nest constructed by folding over a leaflet or tying adjacent leaflets together, emerging only at night to feed.

What a pretty face!

What a pretty face!

I suppose the orange spots on the head are intended to serve as false eye spots—for some reason the larger the eyes the more a potential predator seems to take pause before deciding to eat something. The actual eyes can be seen along the outer edge of the orange spot as a row of simple ocelli—incapable of forming sharp images and serving as little more than light and motion detectors. I can’t even begin to speculate on the function of the curious asperate/rugose texture of the head!

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2014

Seminar on Oklahoma’s Glass Mountains

Earlier this week I gave a seminar to the Entomology Group of the Webster Groves Nature Study Society. Founded in 1920 and known locally as “WGNSS”, the organization seeks “to stimulate interest in nature study on the part of adults and children, to cooperate with other organizations in nature study, and to encourage amateur research in the natural science.” I’ve been an active member in the society’s Entomology Group since the early 1980s, and for almost five years now I have also served as editor for the society’s newsletter, Nature Notes (see this archive of recent issues). Occasionally they invite me to talk—sometimes to just the Entomology Group and other times to the Society as a whole—about my entomological exploits. This time I chose to focus on my several visits to the Glass Mountains in northwestern Oklahoma over the past few years, which readers of this blog may remember has been the source of an inordinate number of new state records and other significant finds for the beetles I study. The presentation provided an overview of the insects I’ve encountered during these visits, and for those who might be interested a PDF version of the presentation is posted here. 

Natural History of Oklahoma’s Glass Mountains…

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2014

Tortoise beetles on the job

Back in late February and early March I did my annual tour through the soybean growing regions of central and northern Argentina to look at insect efficacy trials (pretty amazing to me still when I think about it—I actually get paid to spend time in Argentina looking for insects!). Normally on such trips there is no shortage of soybean insects to occupy my attentions—of all the large-acre row crops, soybean probably has the greatest diversity of insect associates, and in South America it is rare for any soybean field to not experience pressure from at least one of them. Soybeans, however, are not the only plants that occur in soybean fields—there are also weeds, many of which also have their own suite of insect associates. Sometimes these weed-associated insects can be even more interesting than the soybean insects I’m look for.

Botanochara angulata?

Botanochara angulata? mating pair | Córdoba Prov., Argentina

On this particular day, as I walked through a soybean field in central Córdoba Province I noticed distinctive red and black tortoise beetles (family Chrysomelidae, subfamily Cassidinae) on some of the plants. I thought it odd that tortoise beetles would be on soybean, as I’m not aware of any soybean associates in the group. A closer look, however, quickly revealed that the beetles were not on the soybean plants themselves, but rather on vines that were weaving their way through the plants. The plant was akin to bindweed and obviously a member of the same plant family (Convolvulaceae), but none of my field mates knew which of the many weedy species of the family that occur in Argentina that this particular plant represented. Species of Convolvulaceae are, of course, fed upon by a great diversity of tortoise beetles—always a treat for this coleopterist to see, and it was all I could do to concentrate on the task at hand and finish doing what I needed to do so I could turn my attention to finding and photographing some of these beetles. Once I began photographing them I found them surprisingly uncooperative (not my normal experience with tortoise beetles), but I soon found a mating pair that was a little more cooperative (probably because they were mating), with the above photo being my favorite of the bunch.

Paraselenis tersa?

Paraselenis tersa? female guarding her eggs | Córdoba Prov., Argentina

As I was searching for beetles to photograph, I encountered some yellow tortoise beetles associated with the same plant but that I had not noticed earlier. Unlike the conspicuously red and black colored species (which seems to best match Botanochara angulata according to Cassidinae of the World), the yellow species (which I presume represents Paraselenis tersa, also ID’d using the same site) seemed almost cryptically colored. When I finished taking photographs of B. angulata, I began searching for a P. tersa to photograph and encountered the female in the above photograph guarding her eggs—score!

Undetermined cassidine larvae.

A single tortoise beetle larva was encountered.

Tortoise beetle larvae are always a delight to see as well—their dinosaurian armature and fecal adornments, both obviously designed to dissuade potential predators, form one of the most ironic defensive combinations one can find. If additional tactics become necessary, they are among the few insects that are known to actually “circle the wagons” (the technical term for this being “cycloalexy“). While I only found a single larvae (of which species I don’t know), its presence seems to further suggest that at least one of the species represented an actively developing population and that the adults I found were not just hangers-on putzing around until winter (such as it is in central Argentina) forced them to shut down for the season.

Undetermined cassidine larva.

Spiky spines and a pile of poop make formidable defenses.

My impression is that tortoise beetles are by-and-large noxious to predators, thus explaining why so many species in the group exhibit aposematic coloration. However, the apparent cryptic coloration of Paraselenis makes me wonder if this is not universally true. It seems especially odd for two species to feed on the exact same species of plant but only one of the species to be noxious, which leads me to even more questions about how two species feeding on the same plant at the same time avoid direct competition with each other. I wondered if perhaps one species was on the wax while the other was on the wane (late February is well along into the latter part of the season in central Argentina), but the fact that both species were involved in reproductive activities (mating in Botanochara and egg guarding in Paraselenis) suggests this was not the case.

Ted MacRae photographing tortoise beetles.

A candid photo of me photographing tortoise beetles (and revealing my technique for getting “blue sky” background photographs).

© Ted C. MacRae 2014

A Crossidius hirtipes subspecies blend zone…

…or, “There’s something fishy going on here!”

After a day in the vicinity of Yearington, Nevada  looking for (and eventually finding) a population of Crossidius hirtipes longhorned beetles assignable to subspecies “rubrescens“, field mate Jeff Huether and I dropped a little further south to look for two additional subspecies—C. h. immaculipennis and C. h. macswaini. Like C. h. rubrescens, populations assignable to these two subspecies are also restricted to a small area in west-central Nevada. Chemsak & Linsley (1959) described C. h. immaculipennis from specimens collected 10 miles north of Smith (Lyon Co.) and two years later (Linsley & Chemsak 1961) described C. h. macswaini from 19 miles SE of Wellington (Douglas Co.). We were still under the smoke plum from the now 9-day old Rim Fire in the nearby Sierra Nevada, which came and went during much of the day (top photo) and eventually settled in to create some amazing sunset landscapes (bottom photo).

19 mi S of Wellington, Toiyabe National Forest, Nevada.

Rim Fire smoke moves in and out of the area | 19 mi S of Wellington, Toiyabe National Forest, Nevada.

As had happened the day before with C. h. rubrescens, success did not come quickly or easily. We first searched for the type locality of C. h. immaculipennis, but many parts of the area have been converted to agriculture, and in the precise area 10 miles north of Smith we found only vast fields of dark green, irrigated alfalfa and not the rabbitbrush chaparral habitat required by these beetles. We did a little searching in surrounding areas and eventually found one rather nice-looking patch of ground with healthy stands of Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus in full bloom. Mindful of the previous day’s experience with finding the beetles often ensconced down within the inflorescences—especially as cooler temperatures set in, we took care to carefully inspect the blossoms in case the cool morning temperatures were inhibiting the beetles from coming back up for the day. Alas, we saw no beetles despite spending a considerable amount of time searching.

Crossidius hirtipes immaculipennis (male) | 6.3 mi W of Wellington, Nevada.

Crossidius hirtipes immaculipennis (male) | 6.3 mi W of Wellington, Nevada.

Rather than beat a dead horse, we decided to drive a short distance south and west to the town of Wellington, where a fellow cerambycid collector had found the subspecies a few years earlier. He had provided us with some detailed notes on the specific localities where he found the beetles, and these proved to be of great help as we passed through endless, seemingly acceptable chaparral habitat trying to decide exactly where we should stop and invest more time to look for the beetle. We stopped at one of the sites indicated in the notes and immediately found a beetle on one of the first plants we checked, and eventually after a gap in finding any more we found an area where good numbers of the plants were supporting decent numbers of the beetles. Chemsak & Linsley (1959) distinguished C. h. immaculipennis by its reddish legs, pale color, and complete lack of elytral markings in the male, exemplified by the male shown in the photo above.

Crossidius hirtipes macswainei? (female) | 6.3 mi W of Wellington, Nevada.

Crossidius hirtipes macswainei? (female) | 6.3 mi W of Wellington, Nevada.

As we searched the plants and found more and more individuals, I noticed an occasional adult that seemed to be a little more yellowish than reddish and with distinct sutural maculae. I didn’t think much about it then, chalking it up to individual variability, but after returning home and having a chance to look at the specimens more closely I was surprised to determine that these few beetles actually are a better fit for the second subspecies we planned to search for that day—C. h. macswainei. We had found both subspecies at the same site and didn’t even realize it. Okay, I know what you’re thinking… subspecies must exhibit allopatric geographic distributions (cannot occur together at the same place and time). It is, thus, tempting to declare that the two “subspecies” are actually not distinct, but rather represent distinctive extremes of individual variation in a single interbreeding population. However, one must also consider the possibility that the two subspecies represent reproductively isolated populations and, thus, qualify as distinct species. I’m not qualified to make that judgement, but I will note that most of the individuals encountered were assignable to C. h. immaculipennis  and the rest to C. h. macswainei, but that no “intergrades” were found.

Crossidius hirtipes macswainei (male) | 19 mi S of Wellington, Nevada.

Crossidius hirtipes rhodopus? (male) | 19 mi S of Wellington, Nevada.

After collecting adequate series from W of Wellington, we traveled further south of town to the type locality of C. h. macswainei (not knowing we already had it!). The holotype and most of the paratypes were collected 19 miles S of Wellington (Linsley & Chemsak 1961), but a number of paratypes had also been collected 14 miles south of town, so we stopped there first in an unsuccessful bid to find the subspecies before moving on to the type locality a few miles further south. Within a few minutes of arriving, I found the individual shown in the photo immediately above, presumed that I had found the subspecies we were looking for, and popped it into a vial alive as a photo backup if we did not find any other individuals with which I could attempt field photographs. Ironically, that is exactly what happened—despite Jeff and I scouring every plant we could find in about a 1-mile stretch along each side of the road, we never found another beetle. Later that evening I took the above individual out of its vial for photographs, but it never really “perked up” to look fully natural, resulting in “bum” antennae that give away the staged nature of the photograph. Again, it was not until I got back home and could look at the specimen closely before I realized that it did not at all fit the description of C. h. macswainei, but instead seemed to be a good match for the subspecies C. h. rhodopus, known from only a short distance further south but—until now, at least—apparently restricted to the Mono Basin in east-central California (see this post for more details about this subspecies). Jeff has since reported to me that some of the beetles he collected at the “C. h. rubrescens” locality (see this post) also are a match for C. h. macswainei, adding yet another wrinkle to those that resulted from this day’s collecting. Such inconsistencies with the published literature may tempt some to scrap all of Linsley & Chemsak’s subspecies, but considering that those two authors examined more than 12,000 specimens during the course of their studies such a reaction would be both premature and presumptuous. What is needed is more study—more specimens from more localities, hopefully augmented with DNA sequence analysis. For the latter goal we did our part, dropping a specimen or two from every locality in which we found beetles into ethanol for just such purpose. Until such studies are done, I prefer to withhold judgement about whether C. hirtipes is comprised of one highly polytopic population, several subspecifically distinct populations, or perhaps even multiple distinct species.

14 mi SE of Wellington, Toiyabe National Forest, Nevada.

Evening haze creates a spectacular sunset | 14 mi SE of Wellington, Toiyabe National Forest, Nevada.

Even though we found only a single beetle at the second locality, our persistence in searching until the day ran out was rewarded by a most spectacular sunset caused by thick haze from the nearby Rim Fire in California. It would also be our last day in Nevada before dropping south into California and spending the next several days in successful bids for C. coralinus monoensisC. c. caeruleipennisC. h. nubilus, and C. h. rhodopus.


Chemsak, J. A. & E. G. Linsley. 1959. Some new species and subspecies of Crossidius from western North America. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 32(4):176–183.

Linsley, E. G. & J. A. Chemsak. 1961. A distributional and taxonomic study of the genus Crossidius (Coleoptera, Cerambycidae). Miscellaneous Publications of the Entomological Society of America 3(2):25–64 + 3 color plates.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2014

Introducing Acmaeodera chuckbellamyi

Acmaeodera chuckbellamyi MacRae, 2014 | Atascosa Mountains, Arizona

Acmaeodera chuckbellamyi MacRae, 2014 | Holotype female (scale bar = 1 mm) (MacRae 2014: Fig. 1).

Of the many entomology journals I subscribe to, there are few that I await with as much anticipation as The Coleopterists Bulletin. Focusing exclusively on the largest order of life on earth, it’s a quarterly dose of elytral ecstasy that no beetle enthusiast should be without. I awaited the March 2014 issue, however, with special anticipation, as this was the issue that would honor my late friend and colleague, Chuck Bellamy. Last week, the issue arrived in my mailbox, and it did not disappoint!

The issue begins with an In Memorium, spearheaded by fellow buprestophile Rick Westcott and containing contributions and photos from many of Chuck’s contemporaries (including me) (Westcott et al. 2014). This is followed by an especially touching remembrance of Chuck by his longtime friend Art Evans (with whom Chuck co-authored An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles), after which come 11 scientific papers with descriptions of new beetle taxa named in Chuck’s honor. These include nine new species of jewel beetles (family Buprestidae) from Mexico, Central America, China, Kenya, Europe, Peru, and Arizona, a new seed beetle (family Bruchidae) from Mexico, and two new checkered beetles (family Cleridae) from Mexico. For my part, I described one of the jewel beetles, a member of the genus Acmaeodera known from but a single specimen¹ collected in southeastern Arizona which I dedicated to Chuck with the name “Acmaeodera chuckbellamyi MacRae, 2014″. Last but not least, the Fall family provides some remembrances of Chuck and his association with BioQuip Products, Inc.

¹ It is generally not advisable to describe a new species based on a single specimen. However, in this case multiple attempts to recollect the species were unsuccessful, and eventually the type locality was significantly altered in 2009 by the Murphy Fire. It is possible (and indeed likely) that the species still exists in similar nearby habitats (especially further south in Mexico), but the circumstances mentioned above make it unlikely that additional material will become available for the foreseeable future. In such cases, it is, in my opinion, better to name the species so that it can be made available to the broader scientific community.

In all, 12 new beetle taxa are named in Chuck’s honor, bringing the total number of patronyms honoring him to six genus-group names and 31 species-group names—a fitting legacy and testament to the breadth of his impact in the taxonomic community. The issue can be found online at BioOne—abstracts are freely available, but membership in The Coleopterists Society is required to access full-text and pdfs. For those who are not society members, I offer below pdf versions of the two papers that I authored or co-authored.


Westcott, R. L., S. Bílý, A. R. Cline, S. D. Gaimari, H. Hespenheide, T. C. MacRae, M. G. Volkovitsh, S. G. Wellso & G. Williams. 2014. In Memoriam: Charles Lawrence Bellamy (1951–2013). The Coleopterists Bulletin 68(1):1–13 [pdf].

MacRae, T. C. 2014. Acmaeodera chuckbellamyi MacRae (Coleoptera: Buprestidae: Acmaeoderini), a new species from Arizona, USA. The Coleopterists Bulletin 68(1):50–52 [pdf].

© Ted C. MacRae 2014

Tiger beetles in Argentina’s Chaco forest

The day after I photographed Brasiella argentata on the mud/san banks of the Rio Paraná in Corrientes, Argentina, I decided to drive westward into the heart of Chaco Province. The destination: Chaco National Park, where some of the best remaining examples of the original “Gran Chaco” remain. Once covering nearly a million square kilometers in northern Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia, this distinctive ecoregion has been largely converted to a vast, hot sea of cotton fields and mesquite fence-rows. A unique plant community in the Gran Chaco is the quebracho forest that takes its name from quebracho colorado chaqueño (Schinopsis balansae)—a tall, massively-trunked tree (related to, of all things, poison ivy!) with beautiful red wood that has been logged relentlessly wherever it occurs. Chaco National Forest is unique for the largely intact example of this forest it preserves and the mature quebracho trees that it contains.

Odontocheila chrysis | Chaco National Park, Argentina

Odontocheila chrysis (Fabricius, 1801) | Chaco National Park, Argentina

Insect life was not abundant as I walked the dark forest path. The lateness of the season (early April) and long-enduring drought occurring in the region had taken their toll, and I was content to see just about anything. At one point, a flash of movement caught my eye, and as I scanned the forest floor in the area where I had seen it, the familiar silhouette of a Golden Forest Tiger Beetle—Odontocheila chrysis (Fabricius, 1801)—became visible. I was already familiar with this species, having seen fairly good numbers of them at another location further east during my first visit to the area 12 years earlier. Long-legged and fast-flying, this tiger beetle occurs throughout much of South America, where it lives in more shaded areas of forest clear-cuts, secondary forests, savannas, and open scrublands (Erwin & Pearson 2008). The ground-dwelling adults are known to congregate along paths and at large openings on the forest floor, and indeed I had seen them in their greatest numbers on a shaded dirt road around the margins of a temporary mud puddle. When disturbed, the wary adults fly up from the forest floor to land in adjacent bare area of substrate or on the leaves of understory plants.

Superposition eyes are adapted to the dark forest environment in which this species lives.

Superposition eyes are an adaptation to the dark forest environment where this species lives.

I faced a bit of a quandary when I saw this individual—do I collect it as a voucher and studio photograph backup, or do I go ahead and try to get the much more desirable in situ photograph of an unconfined adult in its native habitat. Considering that I had already collected a sufficient number during my earlier trip, I opted for the latter. I am fortunate that I got these two quite acceptable photographs before the adult flashed away in the blink of an eye right after I took the second shot, because I never saw another one the rest of the day or even the trip.  

An interesting feature of O. chrysis is its superposition eyes. In such eyes, each rhabdom (light sensitive unit) in the compound eye receives light through many ommatidial facets. This is in contrast to apposition compound eyes, where each rhabdom receives light from only a single facet. Superposition eyes are designed to increase photon capture, which is an advantage in the dark forest habitats where this beetle prefers to live (Brännström 1999).

Brasiella argentata | Chaco National Park, Argentina

Brasiella argentata (Fabricius, 1801) | Chaco National Park, Argentina

Shortly after photographing O. chrysis, I came upon a small opening where the path was a little wider and sunnier and the soil a little sandier and drier. Immediately I saw the small, zippy flits of the same tiger beetle species I had photographed the previous day on the banks of the Rio Paraná—Brasiella argentata. I could not find in the literature whether this species has superposition or apposition compound eyes, but considering that the species occur in great numbers on sunny river banks and that the few individuals I saw in the forest were in a sunny opening, I’m betting it’s the latter.

I couldn’t help but make another attempt to photograph this species, considering the difficulty I’d had the previous day (and that I wasn’t completely satisfied with any of the photos that I had obtained). More good fortune, despite there being only a few individuals to work with, as I managed to get the above photograph, which I consider far better than any that I already had. These beetles, too, quickly disappeared, and I never saw them again, but knowing I had the photos that I wanted made that okay.

Habitat for Odontocheila chrysis and Brasiella argentata

Quebracho forest habitat for Odontocheila chrysis and Brasiella argentata.


Brännström, P. A. 1999. Visual ecology of insect superposition eyes. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, Lund University, 142 pp. [abstract].

Erwin, T. L. & D. L. Pearson. 2008. A Treatise on the Western Hemisphere Caraboidea (Coleoptera). Their classification, distributions, and ways of life. Volume II (Carabidae-Nebriiformes 2-Cicindelitae). Pensoft Series Faunistica 84. Pensoft Publishers, Sofia, 400 pp. [Amazon descriptionbook review].

© Ted C. MacRae 2014