NEWS
15/05/2012 07:26 BST | Updated 15/05/2012 07:38 BST

Insects In Battle Captured By Igor Siwanowicz (PICTURES)

A Polish photographer has spent hours capturing head-to-head insect battles.

Igor Siwanowicz's shots of all-male battling insect include stag beetles, nymphs, caterpillars, a predatory stink bug and a pair of chameleons, all showing exactly what they're made of.

Although the beetles are between four and seven centimetres long, and the mantids less than six centimetres, Igor uses macro photography to capture them in all their glory.

"The mantids are suspicious of each other and display their wings to appear much larger, but the stag beetles really go at each other," said Igor.

"They never fight to the death, but in the wild, the loser is tossed down from the tree trunk where the fight has taken place and the victor gets to mate with the female."

Scroll down for a gallery of shots of bugs doing battle

Chameleon show down: Lizards lash out

Igor, 35, a research specialist at Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Maryland, America, took many of the shots in his former home studio in Munich, Germany.

"I do keep some of my 'models' as pets," said Igor, who recently moved to the US.

"At the moment I keep around fifteen animals, including three African and one local species of praying mantis.

"Back in Munich, at the peak of my interest in keeping exotic animals, I owned three chameleons, two tree frogs, and 20-some species of praying mantids. The total time devoted to looking after my critters approached an hour a day."

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Igor insists that all the insects are alive during the shooting.

"I’m often asked if the animals are dead, or if I freeze or stun them in any way. That is never the case. The work requires a lot of patience," said Igor.

"The animals cannot be trained into displaying more complex behaviour, but you may learn how to trigger a certain response, such as a threatening display.

Here's looking at you: A praying mantis readies himself for war

"How to make them pose for you? Well, you can’t. They do what they please.

"It is very important to show only healthy, happy animals. Killing an animal for the sake of taking a photo would be immoral. A key to success in macro photography is the respect for your 'model'."

Even though he deals with some poisonous creatures, Igor claims he has never been bitten.

"I’ve never felt threatened when taking photos, even when dealing with an angry hornet or a short-tempered tarantula."

"The most discomfort I’ve ever experienced as a result of photo session came from a New World Tarantula.

"It's venom has no medical significance, but it kicks off the hairs on its abdomen when it gets annoyed and they spread around like a cloud of itching powder - not a nice sensation."

Igor bought his first camera nine years ago, but he has always had a fascination with bugs.

"My parents are biologists and I grew up surrounded by biology textbooks," he said.

"I enjoyed browsing through the illustrations and photographs before I learned how to read.

"In nature form follows function and I am fascinated by the beauty and functionality of natural forms."

He hopes to change misconceptions that insects should be feared.

"I often hear that my photos make animals that people would normally step on or run away from look strangely adorable."

"The highest prize a macro photographer can hope for is positive feedback from someone with a phobic fear of creepy crawlies.

"Some people have even turned my photography into art. I’ve seen it transformed into an oil painting, water colours, and there are six people I know of walking around with my photos tattooed onto their skin. How weird is that?"