Ladybirds Flying

Coccinella septempunctata

This weekend's project: to shoot a beetle in flight.  I chose ladybirds not because they are pretty, but because they are the slowiest, clumsiest beetles I could find in any number.   An easy target.

I had a cast of several beetles from two species, the seven-spotted ladybird Coccinella septempunctata and the multi-colored ladybird Harmonia axyridis.  I placed the beetles inside a whitebox with a backdrop of leaves, along with my Canon 550 speedlite flash, and tried to capture the beetles as they launched themselves into the air.  The timing was tricky, as it only takes a beetle a fraction of a second to deploy its wings and push off, but with a little practice I learned to anticipate the unfurling of the wings.  Most shots missed, of course, but here are some of the successes.

Harmonia axyridis

Harmonia axyridis

Harmonia axyridis

Harmonia axyridis

Harmonia axyridis

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It's amazing that they can fly without those clumsy-looking wing covers getting in the way.

I once tried to photograph a flying carpenter bee and a dermestid beetle taking off. The pictures of the bee weren't too bad and one picture of the carpet beetle was good enough considering that it was taken with a desk lamp as the light source and the beetle was much smaller than a lady bug.

That reminds me of the time that I tried for hours to get a hummingbird hovering in profile at a feeder with its tongue stuck all the way out and into the feeder. Finally succeeded! (Now if I can just find that negative!)

Those are wonderful shots! Do they jump to launch?

If you ever find a copy of Ronan Loaec's Macro Photography: Learning from a Master, take a look at the hyper-complex insect flight rig on pg 265 and 269 - 6 flashes, 2 IR trigger systems... Personally I like your method much better, especially in the age of digital.

Wow! Nice shots! Just curious, but approximately how many beetles were in the white box?

By calevphoto (not verified) on 07 Oct 2008 #permalink

Really nice!

Curious... Did Coccinella septempunctata also curl its abdomen forward when landing like Harmonia axyridis does in the above shots?