Wakefield’s Winterwatch Contributor

Wakefield’s Winterwatch Contributor
A Tomocerus springtail with iridescent scales

BBC Winterwatch was recently enriched by member Tim Jonas’ contribution to the programme. Tim is an enthusiastic and innovative macro photographer, who specializes in insects no bigger than a pinhead.

Tim says, ‘You’d be forgiven for thinking that the winter months should be a quiet period for a macro photographer, but this is one my favourite times of year. Butterflies and bees are but a distant memory, flowers have wilted, and the leaves have long since fallen from the trees. But look closely and you’ll find that not everything in nature is sleeping. Collembola are tiny, six-legged soil animals no larger than a pin head. From Autumn through Winter, they emerge from the soil to feed on decaying matter, such as fallen leaves, performing a vital role as decomposers that help maintain healthy soil and prevent spreading of disease.’

A globular springtail, Dyctrmina saundersi.

‘Although they have six legs, Collembola aren’t insects. They have internal mouthparts, and no wings so can’t fly. They can, however, spring themselves high into the air using a specially adapted forked tail that curves under the body, giving them their common name ‘Springtails’. Springtails are incredibly abundant. In fact, take an average square meter of soil from grassland or woodland and you’re likely to find as many as 200,000 springtails! They’re also abundant around the garden and I encourage them in ours by leaving fallen leaves in situ and placing old logs around the borders.’

‘In early January, whilst looking on one of the old logs from the garden, I spotted amongst a cluster of springtails several very tiny glistening globules on stalks. These globules are springtail spermatophores, little packets of sperm left by males for females to collect. Microscopically small, these delicate structures make fascinating subjects and even attracted the interest of the BBC Winterwatch team. It was brilliant to see some of my images on the big screen. The enthusiasm shown by Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan for my photography documenting these little creatures was an incredible experience, the former exclaiming ‘This is what you pay your licence fee for!’.’

A pair of springtail spermatophores on an old log

Members can read read more about Tim’s amazing photography in a forthcoming newsletter. Meanwhile, why not hop over to Tim’s superb website and discover more about this ‘Explorer of Tiny Worlds’ and his excellent images which have become of great interest to the scientific world. Find it here;- https://jonasweb.co.uk/