Macro Highlights – The Best of 2020

31 December 2020

2020 is not a normal year by any measure. With varying degrees of lockdowns happening across the globe due to COVID-19, way fewer field trips were made and we saw photographers spending more time exploring their gardens and the microfauna around their homes. Were there fewer finds? Yes, but the thing unique about macro photography is that revisiting the same spot over time can yield very different finds and photos.

Here are over 50 of my most memorable photos from 2020, mostly from within Singapore. Hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed taking them.

New Website

In 2020, I’ve migrated this blog to a self-hosted server and changed the entire layout. Most of the posts in 2020 were also of photo checklists which I hope will be useful to macro enthusiasts.

Macro Equipment

Most of the photos featured here were photographed with my usual Nikon setup.

My wide angle fisheye photos were taken with the following relay system.

While doing the review of Laowa’s 50mm 2:1 macro lens, I used the following Micro Four Thirds setup.

Finally, I had recently purchased the entry level Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mk4 for high magnification field work and aquarium shrimp photography.

2020 Macro Highlights

    Jumping spider (Philates chelifer) - DSC_0336
  1. Jumping spider (Philates chelifer)

    A very distinct jumping spider that appears to mimic a pseudoscorpion. The swollen forelegs reminds us of Popeye!

  2. Tortoise beetle (Laccoptera nepalensis) - DSC_5063
  3. Tortoise beetle (Laccoptera nepalensis)

    Pretty sure that I had seen this tortoise beetle before, but had never gotten down to getting a decent photo. Interestingly, I found a few species of tortoise beetles in front of my home after a 2-month lock-down when the bushes were left to grow. New addition to my Cassidinae Checklist: Tortoise Beetles!

  4. Treehopper (Coccosterphus sp.) - P7040203
  5. Treehopper (Coccosterphus sp.)

    Not my first time photographing this treehopper, but it has such beautiful venation on its wings that it had to have a place in this list. For more membracids, check out the Membracidae Checklist: Treehoppers.

  6. Ladybird spider (Paraplectana sp.) - P7040069
  7. Ladybird spider (Paraplectana sp.)

    2020 saw the most number of sightings of this ladybird spider. Previously, we would only have spotted an average of 1 in about 3 years. This year alone, there were spottings of all the known variants within a few months. For more on ladybird mimicry, check out How Birds are Fooled by Ladybird Mimicry and Why Spiders are Amazing.

  8. Ladybird mimic spider (Paraplectana sp.) - P8152518
  9. Ladybird spider (Paraplectana sp.)

    Not a different species, but probably a juvenile. Nevertheless, a super cute specimen! Also added to my Araneidae Checklist: Orb Weaver Spiders.

  10. Tailless whip scorpion (Charon sp.) - P7110175
  11. Tailless whip scorpion (Charon sp.)

    Simple portrait of a tailless whip scorpion. Taken while I was reviewing the new Laowa 50mm 2:1 macro lens for Micro Four Thirds.

  12. Plant louse (Psyllidae) - P7261229
  13. Plant louse (Psyllidae)

    Super small specimen, but displaying an array of brilliant colours.

  14. Scorpion-tailed spider (Arachnura sp.) - P7250976
  15. Scorpion-tailed spider (Arachnura sp.)

    Not an uncommon species, but a lesser-seen angle.

  16. Longhorn beetle (Olenecamptus bilobus) - DSC_6463
  17. Longhorn beetle (Olenecamptus bilobu)

    I actually had a number of cerambycid lifers in 2020! Documented them in my Cerambycidae Checklist: Longhorn Beetles.

  18. Jumping spider (Pseudicius sp.) - DSC_5499
  19. Jumping spider (Pseudicius sp.)

    Brought the kids to the beach and this jumping spider followed me home. Usually found in coastal areas, recognised by the lateral row of tubercles below the eyes. Could be merged with Afraflacilla in the future.

  20. Marine jumping spider (Diplocanthopoda marina) - DSC_5848b
  21. Marine jumping spider (Diplocanthopoda marina)

    These jumping spiders hide within submerged barnacles and weave a waterproof sheet of silk to keep themselves dry. When the tide recedes, they would then venture out to hunt.

  22. Intertidal spider (Desis martensi) - DSC_5810b
  23. Intertidal spider (Desis martensi)

    Intertidal spiders hide within tiny little air pockets in barnacles during high tide, and emerge to hunt during low tide when the barnacles are exposed. Lucky to get a decent photo of a mature male during a trip before sunrise. The gigantic jaws are capable of capturing shrimp and small fishes.

  24. Leaf insect (Phyllium chrisangi) - P8011452
  25. Leaf insect (Phyllium chrisangi)

    Not every day that we get to photograph an insect together with the man that it was named after. Meet Chris Ang and Phyllium chrisangi! This was shot with a cctv relay system that I mounted onto the Laowa 50mm 2:1 lens.

  26. Orb weaver spider (Araneidae) - P8011618
  27. Orb weaver spider (Araneidae)

    This orb weaver has pseudo-eyes on the posterior end of its abdomen! Some saw an elephant’s face. Can you see it?

  28. Heavy jumper (Hyllus diardi) - P8031818b
  29. Heavy jumper (Hyllus diardi)

    One of the largest jumping spiders in Singapore, giving me the opportunity for an extreme close up.

  30. Tiger beetle larva - P8081870
  31. Tiger beetle larva (Cicindelinae)

    We’ve seen many tiger beetles in the area before, but this is the first time noticing the larvae waiting at the entrance of its burrow for unsuspecting prey. Added to Cicindelinae Checklist: Tiger Beetles.

  32. Jumping spider (Piranthus kohi) - DSC_4686
  33. Jumping spider (Piranthus kohi)

    Named after one of pioneers of Southeast Asia spider research Joseph Koh, the description of this new species was only very recently published in December 2020. Added to the Salticidae Checklist: Jumping Spiders!

  34. Mesh weaver spider (Sudesna sp.) - P8092241
  35. Mesh weaver spider (Sudesna sp.)

    Commonly overlooked dictynid species in the mangroves. Only gotten to photograph them this year!

  36. Long-jawed orb weaver (Tetragnatha sp.) - P8082076
  37. Long-jawed orb weaver (Tetragnatha sp.)

    One of my favorite shots of this long-jawed orb weaver for its clarity and contrast with a smooth background! One of the main photos made during my review of the Laowa 50mm 2x Ultra Macro APO for Micro Four Thirds.

  38. Lynx spider (Hamataliwa sp.) - P8092188b
  39. Lynx spider (Hamataliwa sp.)

    We called this the monkey-faced spider due to its semblance to the monkey god illustrations.

  40. Ant-mimic plant bug (cf. Nicostratus sp.) - P8092205
  41. Ant-mimic plant bug (cf. Nicostratus sp.)

    Very unique looking bug that mimics an ant.

  42. Crane fly (Tipulidae) with mites - P8152362
  43. Crane fly (Tipulidae)

    Excess baggage. This crane fly was lined with mites, but it still managed to fly away after some shots!

  44. Scorpion-tailed spider (cf. Arachnura sp.) - P8152304
  45. Scorpion-tailed spider (Arachnura sp.)

    First time seeing the juvenile Arachnura. Looks quite different from the adult but it still has 3 cute little posterior terminal endings.

  46. Ogre-face spider (cf. Asianopis sp.) - P8152485
  47. Ogre-face spider (Asianopis sp.)

    Had no idea that juvenile ogre-face spiders would look so cute! The colours were so different from that of the adults.

  48. Ground beetle (Drypta sp.) - P8152590
  49. Ground beetle (Drypta sp.)

    Close up of a carabid. New addition to the Carabidae Checklist: Ground Beetles.

  50. Jumping spider (Carrhotus sp.) - DSC_3385
  51. Jumping spider (Carrhotus sp.)

    The only trip outside of Singapore before COVID-19 hit. Found some absolute stunners during this trip and added to the Salticidae Checklist: Jumping Spiders.

  52. Ribbon worm (Nemertea) preying on ant-mimic jumping spider (Toxeus sp.) - DSC_9098
  53. Ribbon worm (Nemertea)

    Saw an odd shape inside the nest of a Toxeus and found that this ribbon worm had already infiltrated the nest and wrapped itself around the host.

  54. Jumping spider (Gelotia zhengi) - DSC_3618
  55. Jumping spider (Gelotia zhengi)

    The metallic green setae on the chelicerae really added to the character of this salticid.

  56. Leafhopper (Dusuna sp.) - DSC_3767
  57. Leafhopper (Dusuna sp.)

    One of the most bizarre leafhoppers in my collection. Looks like a little pile of poop. Do check out the Cicadellidae Checklist: Leafhoppers.

  58. Trilobite beetle (Platerodrilus sp.) - DSC_3825
  59. Trilobite beetle (Platerodrilus sp.)

    Trying out different perspectives on this perennially unusual beetle. More documented specimens posted in Trilobite Beetles: Prehistoric Creatures of the Forest.

  60. Treehopper nymph (Centrotypus sp.) - DSC_4093
  61. Treehopper nymphs (Centrotypus sp.)

    Distinct patterns on these little treehopper nymphs, similar to the ones that I’ve seen in Borneo.

  62. Samurai darkling beetle (cf. Byrsax sp.) - DSC_4062
  63. Samurai darkling beetle (Byrsax sp.)

    Always found on bracket fungi. Had to highlight the “samurai head”!

  64. Ant-snatching assassin bug nymph (cf. Inara sp.) - DSC_3750
  65. Ant-snatching assassin bug nymph (cf. Inara sp.)

    Common sighting but rarely had the chance to photograph it in the day. This is commonly misidentified as Acanthaspis petax but it is not recorded in Asia. Based on local records, it is more likely to be Inara flavopicta but they can only be accurately identified after rearing them to adults.

  66. Wolf spider (Lycosa vittata) - DSC_6026
  67. Wolf spider (Lycosa vittata)

    Wide angle attempt on a common grass-dwelling wolf spider. One of the larger lycosids in Singapore, but no where near those that I’ve photographed in Africa! Click here to see how this shot was made.

  68. Mud wasp (Delta esuriens) - DSC_6115
  69. Mud wasp (Delta esuriens)

    This mud wasp was very patient with me, allowing me to make many attempts at a working distance of 1cm for a wide angle shot.

  70. Tube "trapdoor" spider (Damarchus workmani) - DSC_6573
  71. Tube trapdoor spider (Damarchus workmani)

    Used my cctv relay system to get this exaggerated perspective.

  72. Tube
  73. Tube trapdoor spider (Damarchus workmani)

    I also did an animation to show how the scene would look like through the viewfinder when I was trying to get the subject in focus. Only difference was that I usually shoot without looking through the viewfinder nor live view. It was much easier to compose while looking at the lens and spider from the side.

  74. Mangrove pit viper (Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus) - DSC_7192
  75. Mangrove pit viper (Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus)

    Not my first time seeing this aggressive viper, but incredibly, my first time getting some decent shots!

  76. Jumping spider (Carrhotus viduus) - DSC_7781
  77. Jumping spider (Carrhotus viduus)

    This species was supposed to be very common, but somehow very few local macro photographers had pictures of it.

  78. Planthopper nymph (Fulgoroidea) - DSC_7471
  79. Planthopper nymph (Fulgoroidea)

    Atomic buttplosion.

  80. Planthopper nymph (Dictyopharidae) - DSC_7340
  81. Planthopper nymph (Dictyopharidae)

    Odd-shaped planthopper nymph that we found in the leaf litter.

  82. Leaf-mining beetle (Oncocephala sp.) - DSC_7681
  83. Leaf-mining beetle (Oncocephala sp.)

    Found this little beetle behind a food mall. How cool is that! Do check out the Chrysomelidae Checklist: Leaf Beetles.

  84. Spittlebug (Taihorina batangana) - DSC_7645
  85. Spittlebug (Taihorina batangana)

    Saw a few specimens of this adorable spittlebug next to a playground. Updated this to Cercopoidea Checklist: Froghoppers.

  86. Flat-bellied spider (Hitobia sp.) - DSC_8291
  87. Flat-bellied spider (Hitobia sp.)

    Thought that this gnaphosid looked odd, and realised that a fresh salticid carcass was being carried around!

  88. Two-tailed spider (Hersilia sp.) - DSC_8712
  89. Two-tailed spider (Hersilia sp.)

    Large hersiliid preying on a huge katydid. Great subject for a wide angle perspective!

  90. Tailless whipscorpion (Sarax sp.) - DSC_6298
  91. Tailless whipscorpion (Sarax sp.)

    For the longest time, we had been wanting to see an amblypygid with babies so this was a real treat. Tiny little noodles!

  92. Pill scarab beetle (Madrasostes variolosum) - DSC_0843
  93. Pill scarab beetle (Madrasostes variolosum)

    Found this pill scarab beetle all curled up. Unfortunately we’ve not seen it open up before. Check out Gil Wizen’s blog to see examples of these little transformers!

  94. Darkling beetle (Tenebrionidae) - DSC_0824
  95. Darkling beetle (Tenebrionidae)

    Many of these tenebrionids display a dazzling array of colours when lighted up nicely. Because of that, we like to call this the oil spill beetle.

  96. Scale insect (Coccoidea) - DSC_0523
  97. Scale insect (Coccoidea)

    Two female soft scale insects that happened to anchor next to each other.

  98. Periscope orb weaver (Araneidae) - DSC_0505
  99. Periscope orb weaver (Araneidae)

    We’ve yet to positively identify this periscope orb weaver. Close to Poltys but not quite! Glad to have found a healthy population again.

  100. Candy corn leafhopper nymph (Coelidiinae) - DSC_0814
  101. Candy corn leafhopper nymph (Coelidiinae)

    Halloween was over, but we still found some candy corn in the forest!

  102. Scorpion (Liocheles sp.) - DSC_0691
  103. Scorpion (Liocheles sp.)

    I am no longer carrying my tripod on field trips, so I’d hardly have any UV shots this year. But scorpions have such bright fluorescence (or reflectance) that a decent shot was still possible when taken hand-held. For more photos on UV fluorescence, check out Alien Transformations Under Ultraviolet.

  104. Armored spider (Tetrablemma sp.) - DSC_1066
  105. Armored spider (Tetrablemma sp.)

    Super small male tetrablemmid found under tree bark. This was found next to a residential area.

  106. Weevil (cf. Osphilia sp.) - DSC_0154
  107. Weevil (cf. Osphilia sp.)

    Simple single shot of a weevil, but somehow this photo attracted a lot of attention with many others calling this little fella “Grover”.

  108. Jumping spider (Cytaea cf. dispalans) - DSC_0252
  109. Jumping Spider (Cytaea cf. dispalans)

    Did a quick field survey of Pangsua woodland and found this beautiful female Cytaea resting in the foliage.

  110. Red Line Shrimp (Caridina striata) - PC180616
  111. Red Line Sulawesi Shrimp (Caridina striata)

    With much fewer field trips, I spent quite a bit of time photographing freshwater shrimps at home. This was photographed with Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mk4 and Laowa 50mm f/2.8 2X Ultra Macro APO Lens for Micro Four Thirds. I’ve also compiled a checklist of Sulawesi Shrimps from Lake Poso and the Malili Lake System.

  112. Borneo Spiders: A Photographic Field Guide

    Finally a video that is grossly overdue. This was put together in 2019 for the book launch at the Heart of Borneo 2019 conference, but only recently uploaded to Youtube. The book can be purchased via National History Publications Borneo.

  113. Borneo Spiders Launch - borneo-spiders-launch-20190321_174241
  114. Borneo Spiders: A Photographic Field Guide

    At the book launch, my daughter found the upsized version of the book and decided to give it a big kiss. Should’ve brought that book home.

Bye Bye 2020!

Despite the long periods of hiatus this year, there were still many lifers that we found in Singapore. Nevertheless, many of us probably can’t wait to say goodbye to 2020 and look forward to a better year.




Hi my name is Nicky Bay. I am a macro photographer, instructor and book author, travelling the world to document the vast micro biodiversity that nature has to offer. Follow my updates and discover with me the incredible beauty and science behind our planet's micro creatures!

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