By Brad Harbison

PCT announced James Beck, a pest control inspector, naturalist and field biologist with the New Orleans Mosquito, Termite, and Rodent Control Board (NOMTRCB), as the winner our 17th annual Best Pest Photo Contest. Beck wins $500 from PCT for his winning photo of the beetle Strategus aloeus, which he captured after he was done conducting a bird survey in extreme northern Louisiana.

“What I like the most about the picture is that it is of a wild specimen, not one taken in captivity,” he said.

James Beck

After his bird work was done, Beck, an insect enthusiast, would look for other subjects to photograph. “Each night, I would run mercury vapor and high-intensity black lights to attract insects. Among many other interesting species that came into my lights, this aloeus was one of the best specimens. It hung around until the next morning, so I was able to get a day shot with natural light.”

Beck captured this photo using a Nikon D90 with a Nikon micro 40-millimeter macro lens. No special effects were used, but Beck said, “a large aperture was obtained at shooting with a small f-stop setting, thus the clean foreground and blurred backdrop.”

These details were noted by one of PCT’s judges, who wrote, “Wonderful image. It’s as if the front of the insect is in focus and the rest of the insect is less in focus; great colors and very sharp.” A similar comment from a different judge stated, “Love how shiny the pest is. Really great framing of the pest.” A third judge wrote, “From the angle it was taken, the front of the beetle reminded me of a Triceratops dinosaur.”

Beck has been employed at NOMTRCB since October 2017 and has been involved in field biology in one form or another for more than 25 years.

Beck said the Strategus aloeus is one of the largest beetle species in Louisiana. “Larvae feed on root systems and adults feed on fruit and flowers. Decaying fruit is one good way to attract numerous species of scarab beetles, including this one. Some damage from the larvae is occasionally a pest issue, if they feed on the root systems of ornamental garden plants or lawns, but this is not a widespread problem for the most part.”

PCT received dozens of entries in this year’s competition. In addition to Beck’s winning photo, the 10 finalist photos are included in the photo review that appears below.

Finalist Photo: A giant robber fly that is taking advantage of a dampwood termite swarm. Photographer: Jack Scarbrough, service manager, Pest Tech, Florence, Ore.
Finalist Photo: Honey bees (Apis mellifera) on a honeycomb. Photographer: Courtney Powell, marketing director, Gregory Pest Solutions, Greenville, S.C.
Finalist Photo: A praying mantis photographed at Turner Pest Control’s Jacksonville, Fla., office. Photographer: Wade Wilson, CPC branch manager, Turner Pest Control
Photo: Green lynx spider with egg sac. Photographer: Mark VanderWerp, manager of education and training, Rose Pest Solutions, Troy, Mich.
Finalist Photo: Two Camponotus ants tending a tree hopper (Membracidae) on a leaf. Photographer: Ed Freytag, New Orleans Mosquito, Termite, and Rodent Control Board
Photo: Blow fly beautifully displayed on a milkweed flower at the University of Missouri Extension Center in St. Peters, Mo. Photographer: Bob Richardson, McCarthy Pest and Termite Control, St. Charles, Mo.
Finalist Photo: Leaf-footed bug (aka, assassin bug) photographed in The Republic of Panama. Photographer: Blake Spurlin, service coordinator, Truly Nolen, Jacksonville, Fla.
Finalist Photo: Spiketail Dragonfly (Cordulegastridae) Photographer: Ben Harl, Cardinal Professional Products
Finalist Photo: A mosquito with no common name but the species name is Sabethes cyaneus. It is part of colony at the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District Laboratories. Photographer: Stephen Doggett, director of the Department of Medical Entomology at Westmead Hospital in Sydney, Australia
Finalist Photo: Garden orb spider eating a cicada in the photographer’s backyard. Photographer: Amber Carr, Mares Exterminating, Poquoson, Va.