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The Amazing Camouflaged Looper

My Favorite Insect Gets Even Better Story and photos by Chris Helzer It’s hard to pick a favorite insect, but I have anyway. It’s the camouflaged looper, which is an inchworm that turns into the wavy-lined emerald moth. The moth is pretty enough and I’m sure is fascinating in its own right, but it’s the caterpillar I love. The camouflaged looper feeds on flowers of many kinds. What makes it incredible, though, is that it also selects pieces of the …

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Why You Should Love Wasps!

Story and Photos by Chris Helzer Wasps are amazing. No, seriously, they’re startlingly cool. To begin with, there are more than 100,000 wasp species that have been cataloged by science and many more that haven’t. Among all those species, there is incredible variation in size, shape, lifestyle and aggression toward humans. Spoiler alert: Only a tiny percentage of wasps pose any threat to us at all. Categorizing all wasps as aggressive, winged canisters of pain is like categorizing all Husker …

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Gumweed Bonanza!

Story and photos by Chris Helzer, Nature Conservancy As a short-lived plant, gumweed lives the life of a scrappy and unfairly maligned opportunist. When grasses are heavily grazed, a streambank erodes, or repeated travel creates a trail of bare ground, curlycup gumweed jumps up and says, “Hold my beer!” It can’t fight toe-to-toe with perennial grasses, but if those grasses are temporarily sidelined, gumweed can ably fill the space until the regulars can return. As a reward for its service, …

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A Winter Hike

A Great Time to Observe Nature Anyone can hike on a warm day, surrounded by birdsong and verdant meadows of wildflowers. The world is full of sights and sounds. But in the winter? That sounds ridiculous. It’s cold outside, the plants are all brown and animals are either hibernating or vacationing in warmer places. What are you supposed to do, tromp through the snow, bundled up like that one kid in that one movie? Well, yes. Whether you explore the …

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The Dewy Bug Guy Is Back

All the photos in this article were photographed on the morning of Sept. 15, 2019, at Lincoln Creek Prairie in Aurora. When I first started working with Nebraskaland as a college student in the mid-1990s, my nickname among at least some of the magazine staff was “the dewy bug guy.” It was completely fair. A large part of my portfolio, such as it was, consisted of insects covered in tiny water droplets. At the time, my parents had recently helped …

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Your Camera Doesn’t See Like You Do

Part 3 of 3 Have you ever been frustrated because some parts of a photo are way too bright while others are so dark you can’t see any details? Why does the image on the screen of your phone or camera look so much less vibrant and impressive than the gorgeous sunset in front of you? Simply put, your camera doesn’t see the world the way you do. The first two parts of this series covered the more mechanical aspects …

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Your Camera Doesn’t See Like You

Park 2 of 3 Have you ever wondered why the photos you take at dusk turn out grainy or blurry? Why is it that only the left ear of your deer photo is sharp and the rest of the scene is out of focus? Simply put, your camera doesn’t see the world like you do. The first installment of this series, released in the May 2021 edition, covered mainly field of view and focus, but also mentioned depth of field. …

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Your Camera Doesn’t See Like You Do

Part 1 of 3 Have you ever taken a picture of a bird or other animal, only to have it show up as a mere pinprick on the resulting photo? Why do some photos have large portions that look blurry and only a few bits that are in focus? Simply put, your camera doesn’t see the world the way you do. The lenses on your camera are constructed very differently than the lenses in your eyes (though the basics of …

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Ice Bubbles

As a photographer drawn mostly to small subjects like bugs and flowers, it can be hard to find much to photograph after the end of the growing season. Most invertebrates die, migrate or go dormant. Plants wither and turn brown. It’s fun to seek out interesting texture and patterns after a fresh snow or on a frosty morning, but those opportunities are relatively uncommon during most winters. When I start to feel especially stir crazy, one of my go-to remedies …

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Large Milkweed Bugs

If you pay attention to milkweed plants during the summer, you’ll notice a wide variety of insect species feeding on the nectar produced by milkweed flowers. That nectar is sweet, nutritious and free of the toxic latex found throughout most of the rest of the plant. A much smaller group of insects can be found feeding on the leaves, stems or seeds of those milkweed plants, both dealing with and taking advantage of the toxicity. Those insects include monarch caterpillars, …

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