-By Neil Losin, Colorado, USA: Costa Rica covers just over 50,000 square kilometers. For comparison, that means the entire country is less than half the size of my home state of Virginia. But within this tiny country lies a wealth of geological, meteorological, and topographic diversity… and of course, the biodiversity that comes with it.
I’m not the first Meet Your Neighbours contributor to work in Costa Rica – Twan Leenders and Sean Graesser have been doing some really lovely work there, and my latest contributions are best described as “dabblings” by comparison. I was in Costa Rica earlier this month to teach a filmmaking workshop for early-career scientists through the Organization for Tropical Studies. My wife Liz came down with me before the workshop began to get away from the “polar vortex” and celebrate the New Year in the tropics. I didn’t spend much time taking photos during my vacation, but I couldn’t resist grabbing a few of the large insects that were attracted to the lights at our lodge on the central Pacific coast.
When I say “large” insects, I mean it. The grasshopper in the above photograph, Tropidacris cristata, was the biggest insect I had ever seen – almost as long as my hand. The green katydid, Steirodon stalii, was over 3 inches long. My only macro lens, a Sigma 180mm f/3.5, proved to be too long for these magnificent critters, so I resorted to my trusty Canon 24-105mm f/4 zoom. A couple of chairs from our room at the lodge provided sturdy support for my white plexi backdrop, and I used two flashes – a Canon 580EX behind the backdrop, and a Canon 430EX with a small softbox in front, both triggered wirelessly with the ST-E2 – for illumination. Liz helped me manage the insects and flashes!
The masterful leaf-mimic Choeradodis rhombicollis was my favorite find. Even the venation in its wings recalled the intricate vasculature of a leaf. Like every mantis I’ve ever photographed, it watched my every move, keenly aware of my presence. It stood out against the white Meet Your Neighbours background, of course, but when I released it back into the forest, it virtually disappeared as soon as it landed in the foliage. What a lovely creature!
Special thanks to Piotr Naskrecki for his help with some of the IDs.