When you see a firefly, it’s only for a moment. The bright light blinks and vanishes until it magically appears a few feet away.
But photographer Kei Nomiyama freezes the dance with long exposures that make hundreds of fireflies appear suspended in mid-air.
Nomiyama is an environmental science professor, but loves to spend his free time photographing the world he studies. “I became a scientist to protect nature, and I have an interest in photography to record nature,” he says.
The fireflies thrive in the forests of Shikoku Island where Nomiyama lives, and he’s spent the last eight years documenting their mating ritual with his camera.
The fireflies are most abundant during Japan’s rainy season between May and June, where they live a brief but beautiful two-week adult life.
During that period, Nomiyama makes frequent into the forests around central Shikoku Island, seeking the perfect patch of trees or river for his shoot.
Once he finds a location, Nomiyama makes long exposures up to 30 minutes with his Canon EOS 5D Mark III and Sony Alpha a7R II.
Later, he digitally composites multiple frames together.
The final images are overflowing with hundreds of tiny lights. In the early 20th century, firefly hunters captured thousands of the insects to illuminate hotels and private gardens in Tokyo.
Researchers have long been fascinated with ant rafts. These floating mats form during rain storms and floods and are composed of thousands of individual insects.
Scientists have found that the living rafts possess their own unique material properties, displaying buoyancy and behaving, alternately, like a solid and like a liquid.
How the ants manage to create such engineering masterpieces, however, has remained largely unknown.
Now, researchers have discovered one architectural secret behind the ant rafts. The ants, it turns out, cling to one another using all six of their legs—a single ant can have up to 20 of its comrades’ legs grabbing its body.
The Georgia Institute of Technology researchers found that 99 percent of ant legs are gripping another ant, meaning “there’s no free loaders” when it comes to hitching a ride on the rafts, they said in a statement.
Scientists didn’t discover this trick earlier because it’s exceedingly difficult to look inside those dense balls of insects.
To get around this problem, the team first created a number of ant rafts by swirling 110 insects in a beaker full of water. After the rafts formed, the researchers froze them with liquid nitrogen and used super glue to ensure the ants stayed in place.
CT scans allowed the researchers to examine how the rafts’ individual components were related.
Ed Yong elaborates on the findings for National Geographic:
They don’t just stick their pads to the nearest thing they can find; they typically attach to their neighbours legs and feet, rather than their bodies.
These connections allow the ants to change the shape of their structures by bending or stretching their legs. That explains why the structures are so elastic, and why they can absorb incoming forces more effectively.
The foot-to-foot connections also suggest that the ants actively control the nature of their balls. The team found other such clues. For example, a ball of living ants is less densely packed than a ball of dead ones, implying that they are actively pushing their neighbours away.
This presumably helps to create the air pockets that keep the rafts afloat.
While constructing the rafts does not involve intelligence, the team told Yong, the nature of those balls does turn out to be much more complex than scientists expected.
A dragonfly perches on a pine branch at the ‘Library of Trees’ public park.
Transforming the grey city, began with the planting of seeds in September and by trees and plants in November 2017. There will be 450 trees from 19 species, 90,000 plants including hedges, shrubs and climbers.
The “Library of Trees” will be a 3,500m2 green space in the heart of Milan that is increasingly returning to nature.
The so called – vertical forest, aims to reduce pollution and to increase the biodiversity. The vertical forests concept has proven so popular that similar projects have been commissioned for Switzerland, Netherlands, and China.
Runner up, Ecology and Environmental Science category
Invincible ants by Thomas Endlein.
Pitcher plants are carnivorous, drawing nutrients from trapped and digested insects.
The species shown here (Nepenthes bicalcarata) secretes sweet nectar on the rim and fang-like structures, which are very slippery for most insects except for one specialised ant (Camponotus schmitzii).
The ants live in the curled hollow tendrils of the plant and manage to climb in and out of the pitcher without any difficulties to steal a bit of nectar, as shown here