A parasitic wasp in elegant electrograph

For a change of pace, some scanning electron micrographs from the braconid wasp project I’ve been working on:

Heterospilus wasp (Costa Rica). Click to enlarge- they're impressive at full resolution!
Close-up of the compound eye.

I’ve had to re-calibrate my sense of imaging to make these pictures. Electron beams do not work like photons, and electron microscopy has a different set of quirks than standard light microscopy and macrophotography. These images are sharp as a tack, at once both more and less real than optical images.

11 thoughts on “A parasitic wasp in elegant electrograph”

  1. It is great to see some fantastic EM images. Given that one of you recurrent topics is “thrifty” imaging, perhaps you could explain some of the costs involved in generating these images. For instance, what sort of sputter coating are you using. 🙂 I’m sure many people would be interested.

        1. Also, in an hour you should be able to get 2-3 dozen images. At $50 and hour (and even $5 for sputter coating), I wonder if that is very different in current dollars for what buying and developing a role of colour film would have been 10 years ago?

  2. Interesting that there are so few bristles on the eye. In honey bees, you get one between each ommatidium (as Jan Swammerdam noted with his 1mm-diameter single lens microscope back in the 1670s…). Alex, do you think that this is real, or is it something to do with the preparation? What’s the function of having lots or few bristles?

    1. I wonder if a better question is why the honey bee is so hairy-eyed compared to many of the other insects. I’ve looked at a lot of hymenoptera eyes, and most of the non-bees are more similar to the braconid here.

      1. The honeybee is one efficient pollen collector. Why waste the surface area of the compound eyes? Might as well have hairs there to collect more pollen grains. IMHO.

  3. I have no theory on hairy eyes, but having keyed many syrphids, I know it is taxonomically useful. If someone does have a theory, then they may be able to use hoverflies to test it.

    1. I remember hearing somewhere- but can’t find it now- that the hairs on bee eyes function to gauge airspeed. Sounds plausible. Does anyone have a reference to this idea?

  4. Nice pictures. I love the kind of images that an ESEM can get. Yours are really good: no charging spots or anything.

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