Two large blood-thirsty ticks on a Bufo toad in Guatemala
Click here to enlarge image.
Photo by Juan Pablo, Canon EOS Rebel T6, f/6.3 speed 1/130 sec,
ISO 160, lens Canon-EF75-300mm-f4-5.6.
As a child growing up in the Missouri Ozarks, me and my brothers and sister had fun finding all the giant engorged ticks on the family dog. We would put the ticks on the floor and stamp down hard with our shoe to see which of us could squirt blood the furthest.
Thus it was great, 70 years later (I am 74 years old now), to find the same large blood-filled ticks, this time on a Bufo species (a toad with venomous sacs).
Juan Pablo took these photos since I was in another part of Peten that day.
Fortunately no tick has survived on my legs or arms long enough to get very large. But frankly I did not know that ticks would focus on a toad: I thought they would prefer monkeys or jaguars. So today I have learned another fact about biodiversity in the Neotropical seasonally dry rain forests of Guatemala, Central America.
There are at least two species of genus Bufo in Peten: Bufo valliceps and Bufo marinus. I estimate this is Bufo valliceps.
Another species of arboreal ant nests near Yaxha, Peten, Guatemala
Posted Feb. 25, 2019
Yes, several species of ants of the Mayan areas of Guatemala make their nests in trees. Of course endless Mesoamerican area species also make nests underground. But we have found two kinds of arboreal ant nests at Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo:
- Light-colored, using leaves to hold nest onto the branches
- Dark brown, almost black, ant nests hanging from limbs
In both cases you often get a “colony”: we have found three to six leaf-pendant arboreal ant nests within a few meters of each other (on different trees). Last week at Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo we found over 40 dark nests on about four different trees which were near each other. These dark nests were often more than 6 per individual tree. I have seen even more along the Rio Polochic, Izabal, Guatemala: dozens or even scores of nests in adjacent trees, high above the ground.
We also occasionally find nests of both species within 3 to 4 meters of the ground when the limbs are leaning over the shore of Lake Yaxha.
As soon as funding is available we will publish all the high-resolution photos of each and every nest, but now we at least want to get this NEWS item posted.
Birdwatching locations: Lake Yaxha is a good place for birders Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo, Peten, Guatemala
Posted February 11, 2019
After 3 months of posting close-up photos of the diversity of wasp, bee, and arboreal ant nest structures at Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo, we will now return to waterbirds.
Waterbirds are photogenic, and important for Maya archaeologists and epigraphers because waterbirds are often pictured on polychrome plates, vases, and bowls, and as lid-handles on earlier basal flange bowls or tetrapods. Waterbirds are also pictured on Maya carved stone stelae, murals, codices, Mayan hieroglyphs, etc.
Today we show a unique photograph of three different waterbird species all flying at the same time.
Snowy Egret is very easy to find around Lake Yaxha: every month so far: August, September, October, November, December, and January (yes, we have made six field trips here since there are so many birds worth photographing). We are preparing bird lists for the PNYNN and for all the local guides. But every month there are additional birds, so we still have six more monthsto return each month to take notes.
Little Blue Heron, Egretta caerulea is present many months of the year, but not as easy to spot. Same for Egretta tricolor, Tricolored Heron: tough to find unless you are patient. To see three Egretta species flying in unison is rare. To capture at least two of the birds nicely focused, and all NICELY ILLUMINATED with natural light is even less seen. Thus our compliments to Mariale Gutierrez (FLAAR Mesoamerica).
Bird identification is by Elena Siekavizza. It really helps to be able to see the different color of the feet of the two “dark blue birds.”
Come back to visit our www.Maya-ethnozoology.org every week since we will be showing a lot more waterbird and shorebird (wading bird) species.
Another species of stingless bee at Yaxha park, Peten, Guatemala
Posted Feb. 7, 2019
I have been photographing wasp, ant, termite, and bee nests in Guatemala for decades. During recent months we have been focused on finding and photographing all insect nests in Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo, Peten, Guaemala. This is a joint project with the park administrators IDAEH and CONAP.
Photo taken by a NIKON D810 Camera, lens Nikon AF-S Micro 60mm F2.8 G; settings: f/13, speed 1/250, ISO 20,000, by Nicholas Hellmuth.
Most of the nests we find are arboreal, including ant nests. But the nest pictured here is above the ground. I estimate that the mass of material in which the nest is located fell from the tree above. This is directly in front of the kitchen of the IDAEH portion of the park camp. It is coincidentally directly underneath an arboreal ant nest which has a tube sticking out for stingless bees that live inside the ant nest (the two insects do not bother each other whatsoever; we have found dual-occupation nests in many places in the park).
Most of the stingless bee species construct an entrance tunnel of about 1 cm in diameter and between 3 cm up to considerable lengths (sticking out of the tree cavity or sticking out from a crack in the ground). What was different about this entrance was its irregular shape and its wide diameter (estimated 4 to 5 cm; we did not want to disturb the busy bees by trying to measure it with a ruler). We estimate these are Trigona nigerrima; their local name is Cushusho.
The bees only attacked when they saw me in front of the nest (taking photos). When I photographed from behind a tree and photographing the side, they did not notice me. But the best photos would be with a macro lens and from the front! However they attack en masse, and burrow into your hair, down the neck and sleeves of your shirt, etc.
Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo, Peten, Guaemala is a great place to do research on bees, wasps, ants, termites, and thousands of other insects. We will be back at the park in a week, looking for more insect nests, waterbirds, aquatic orchids, palm trees, and interesting eco-systems to photograph. You can see more photos on our www.Maya-ethnobotany.org and www.digital-photography.org.
Photogenic wasp nest architecture & engineering seen from restaurant of hotel Ecolodge El Sombrero, Yaxha
Posted Jan. 30, 2019
Since we come to Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo to learn about insects, waterbirds, mammals, lichens, moss, mushrooms, and all the palm trees, I recommend staying at hotel Ecolodge El Sombrero (turn to left just before the entrance to the park).
Here are photos of one of my favorite sizes and shapes of wasp nest. Since I studied architectural sciences as an undergraduate student, and as most of the Hellmuth family are architects, I like architecture and engineering of wasp nests, bee hives, ant nests, and termite nests (and of course nests of orioles and oropendolas).
While photographing the bright red fruit of a palm tree and a red inflorescence of a large arboreal bromeliad (in front of the dining room of the restaurant), one of the team pointed out a wasp nest on a far away tree. So with a prime telephoto lens (which is sharper than a zoom lens), I took photos.
Fortunately the sun was at a perfect angle.
Lots to see in this remarkable national park: Yaxha Nakum Naranjo (and of course Topoxte Island). Our www.maya-ethnobotany.org web site shows you the gorgeous tropical flowers of this park. Our www.digital-photography.org web site. Visit www.maya-archaeology.org to see edible plants and other aspects of the flora and fauna which the Classic Maya had available over a thousand years ago.
Click to enlarge
Lighting is natural sunlight at 9:51 in the morning.
Photogenic yellow-wasp “paper” nest
Posted January 2, 2019
Bees are occasionally shown in Mayan art; wasps very rarely. My interest in looking for wasp nests is to find HONEY Wasps. Yes, wasps that make edible honey. These exist in Mexico, Guatemala, and elsewhere. But honey wasps are only one of scores of wasp species, so it will take time to find honey wasps at Yaxha. But in the meantime, here are photos of a wasp nest that has beautiful “bee hive” octagonal structure. Although I am not an entomologist, I believe these busy insects are not busy bees but rather are busy wasps.
We do not yet have an identification for the beautiful wasps here, but they are small and there are literally THOUSANDS of them busily working on their nest structure. This is a healthy-sized mature nest.
Since I seek and then photograph wasp nests all around Guatemala I am stung so often that to me this is simply part of normal discomfort. Most wasps do not sting unless you accidently bump into their nest. Or, if they see a camera with micro lens only a few inches away from their nest!
Archaeologist Jose Leonel Ziesse Altán, one of the administrators of Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum, kindly told me where to find this nest when I indicated that one of our goals for the December field trip was to find bee nests, wasp nests, and arboreal ant nests.
Arboreal ant nests at Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo
Posted December 27, 2018
During our November field trip to Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo (Peten, Guatemala) the park ranger who assists the FLAAR Mesoamerica team showed us three ant nests up in the two adjacent (but different species) of trees along Blom Sacbe (halfway to Grupo Maler). Since these nests looked like wasp nests my first estimate was that perhaps the ants had invaded and driven out the wasps?
Since these ant nests are up in trees it was not possible in November to get the camera high enough to photograph the nest straight-on. So I bought a new much taller Gitzo tripod (over 3 meters tall) and we bought a tall ladder to Yaxha for our late December field trip.
While at Yaxha this week before Christmas the park ranger (Teco) found several more nests: all had ants and I now believe these are original ant nests and not taken over from wasps. In about 50% of these ant nests stingless bees have built their hives inside the ant nest. There seems to be no overt animosity between these two insects in the nests, so we need to learn whether this is a symbiotic relationship, or some other phenomenon of nature.
The two arboreal ant nests at the left were found by Teco (Moises Daniel Perez Diaz), park ranger. Nicholas Hellmuth found the one in the Spanish Moss (in front of the IDAEH camp kitchen).
I took about 30 to 80 photographs of each ant nest. Maria Alejandra Gutierrez did macro-photos of several of the nests as well. We will publish all these photos in a FLAAR report on arboreal ant nests at Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo.
We also found independent bee hives and several very active and very fierce-stinging wasp nests this week. So lots to learn about at Yaxha.