Far too close!

‘Far too close!’ ™ are photograph-rich explorations of natural phenomena that take a range of perspectives from a view with a familiar context, through portraits that emphasize the subject, increasing close-ups to reveal details, to a microscopic perspective. Each level reveals new intricacies and complexities in Biology.

These first six images are of the nest of the American eastern yellowjacket or hornet – Vespula maculifrons. The series begins with the complete nest made of a layered papery surface and a single entry hole. Such a nest is formed to protect the growing larvae and comes towards the end of the life cycle of the swarm. When the nest is cut open (second image), the comb is seen to lie within a shell of thin separated papery sheets. The layering of the casing allows air flow and may reduce the likelihood of overheating. The third image is of the hexagonal cells that make up the cone. Now deserted, each cell previously held one egg that was deposited by the queen, and the larva grew to adulthood being tended by the workers. The material that makes the cells is fibrous. The same is true of the layers that make the shell (image 4). Details show the material to be like cardboard. It is made from chewed (masticated) pieces of plant material, the individual fragments of plant tissue being evident in the magnified view (image 6). The color and texture of the ‘paper’ changes depending on which plants are being used to provide the cell wall fibers that make the paper.

Six images, from a boulder with lichen overlooking Lake Crowley in in the Eastern Sierras of California, with four close up shots of the lichen and two microscopic images that show the fungal threads and algae that make up the lichen.

Far too close!