Werner Eigelsreiter installs and fixes your computers. He gets the bugs out — that’s his job. But for fun, he searches for different bugs – he hikes the Okanagan hills and valleys, photographing insects. The South Okanagan boasts one of the most varied insect faunas in Canada, and Werner is one of its superb explorers. See Werner’s wonderful photographs of insects, birds, plants and all sorts of other living things at:
Werner and I first crossed paths while I was studying a rare robber fly that I discovered at Vaseux Lake. Robber flies are voracious predators of other insects and are especially abundant in grasslands and arid habitats. I was writing the paper describing the fly and its special nature (it is now officially considered “Endangered” in Canada) when I found photos of it on BugGuide, a website where naturalists and scientists post insect photos for identification by experts. I was astonished by the beauty of the pictures and was delighted to see that they were taken near Oliver by a local resident. I immediately contacted Werner to discuss his find. On my next Okanagan field trip, Werner and I hiked into the fly’s habitat near Fairview and I was able to better document the species and see Werner in photographic action. He generously allowed me to use the photos in my publication on the fly, which I named Efferia okanagana (Okanagan Hammertail). Werner’s fine images also grace a book chapter that I produced on the robber flies of Canadian grasslands.
The Dark Saltflat Tiger Beetle (Cicindela parowana) is a beautifully marked tiger beetle, federally designated “Endangered”, like Efferia okanagana. In Canada it’s been recorded only from the Okanagan Valley, but in the last sixty years has only been found twice, both times at Oliver. One of these records is a photograph by Werner; it’s the only one of this beetle taken in Canada. Werner has a knack for finding rare insects, which must be a result of his energy, diligence, and constant searching while afield, his eyes often focussed on the small things around us.
Recently I wrote a small, laminated, fold-out field guide (Harbour Publishing), designed as an introduction to the diversity of insects in British Columbia and the adjacent United States. Such publications are nothing without excellent pictures, and Werner was happy to let me use many of his. Any success this little guide might have will be the result of Werner’s participation.
Werner’s wife, Suzanne, plays a critical role in the success of their website and the usefulness of Werner’s photographs. Insect species can be frustratingly tricky to identify, even by experts. Suzanne posts photos of unfamiliar species on BugGuide, often getting authoritative identifications for them. Sometimes she can identify them by comparing Werner’s photos to ones already named on the site. Sometimes the insects just can’t be identified, because photographs can’t show all the necessary features of the insect. Identification can be a long and tedious business, but one that is vital to the usefulness and scientific importance of the photographs. And it’s always satisfying to know what you’re looking at, what you’ve discovered, out there in the Okanagan hills.
Curator Emeritus of Entomology
Royal BC Museum, Victoria, BC
Editor’s Note: Werner lives in Oliver and he fixes my computers.
Rob is a brother to Dick Cannings