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
The viceroy butterfly appears similar in colour and pattern, but is markedly smaller and has an extra black stripe across the hind wing.
The eastern North American monarch population is notable for its annual southward late-summer/autumn migration from the United States and southern Canada to Mexico.
During the fall migration, it covers thousands of miles, with a corresponding multi-generational return North.
The western North American population of monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains most often migrate to sites in California but have been found in overwintering Mexico sites Monarchs were transported to the International Space Station and were bred there.
Cicadas are the loudest insect. Only the males sing and they do so to call for a female.
Two species, the green grocer and yellow monday, produce noise in excess of 120dB and can be heard from 2.4 kilometres away.
Each type has a different song so they don’t attract females of a different species.
Cicadas are different to all other insects in that they have a musical drums in their abdomen called tymbals. Contracting the internal muscles causes them to buckle inwards and produce a pulse of sound.
The hollow abdomen then amplifies the sound. Grouping together when calling reduces cicadas’ chances of being eaten by birds because the sound bounces around making it difficult to locate individual cicadas.
In addition to the calling or mating song, many species also possess a distress song, usually a broken and erratic noise emitted when an individual is captured.
A number of species also have a courtship song, which is usually a quiet call produced only after a female has been attracted nearby using the calling song.
Cicadas are the most efficient and loudest sound-producing insects in existence.
Mycterophallus duboulayi is a chafer beetle and like all of its kind loves flowers and hot sunny weather. Photo credit: Stanley and Kaisa Breeden
Photographers Stanley and Kaisa Breeden have focused their lenses on some very small forms of life.
The pair are masters of ‘focal stacking’ photography, in which they merge images to create an otherwise unachievable depth-of-field.
Here, they’ve used their skills to bring out some of nature’s smallest details, from the amazingly delicate textures of moth wings to the curled-up form of a sleeping
In this defence posture, the caterpillar of the fruit-piercing moth (Eudocima fullonia) has stretched segments of its body to enlarge the ‘eyes’ on its skin – a ploy to discourage predators. The moth is as striking as the caterpillar. Photo credit: Stanley and Kaisa Breeden
All these images can be found in their book, Small Wonders: A close look at nature’s miniatures.
Stag beetles like this splendid Mueller’s stag beetle (Phalacrognathus muelleri) are not endowed with antlers but with enlarged and reinforced mandibles. The ‘antlers’ are really its jaws. Photo credit: Stanley and Kaisa Breeden
Mayflies swarm above the Rába at night. Photograph by Imre Potyó
Photography is often all about patience. A photographer might wait hours or even days to get a shot.
Even by that measure, Imre Potyó is a man of exceptional perseverance. He spent 12 days waiting to make this amazing photo of mayflies over the Rába river in Hungary.
The tiny insects, called Ephoron virgo, are but a few months old when they take to the air at the end of July or start of August. Great swarms appear over the rivers of central Europe at sunset to mate by the millions, only to die by dawn.
Imre Potyó first photographed a swarm in 2013. “I was impressed by the wonderful dance of the mayflies,” he says.
Last year, he decided to try shooting the mayflies against a starlit sky. Because no one can ever say just when the flies will appear, Potyó returned to the banks of the Rába night after night.
Finally, the creatures appeared in a whirlwind. “I was standing on the river, so me and my equipment were totally covered by the huge masses of buzzing mayflies,” he says. “They were all around me.”
Potyó took over 200 photos in about two hours with his Nikon D90, but the final image is a composite of two shots. First, he used a fast shutter speed to capture the mayflies’ erratic movements, illuminating them with a flash and a flashlight.
Then he made a 30-second exposure focused on the stars above.