Monday Night Mystery: A Molecular Beach Ball?

While exploring a wasp’s finer details under extreme magnification I stumbled across some rather mysterious structures:

What are they?

To earn points in tonight’s challenge, be the first person to pick:

  1. The name of the objects (5 points).
  2. The type of insect usually associated with these (2 pts; hint: not a wasp!).
  3. The physiological function (3 points).

The cumulative points winner for the month of February will take home their choice of 1) any 8×10-sized print from my photo galleries, or 2) a guest post here on Myrmecos.

Good luck!

18 thoughts on “Monday Night Mystery: A Molecular Beach Ball?”

  1. These look like poolen grains, usually found on bees (and other pollinators), and their physiological function would be pollination.

    1. Your people are super quick, Alex!

      As an aside, forensic palynology sounds really cool. I’m still amazed that tiny insects and pollen can be used to solve murders or even provide evidence to convict war criminals.

  2. Funny, I was just talking about these earlier today. They are brochosomes from a leafhopper. Judging from SEMs, one would believe they contaminate every surface in the entire world.

    1. Thank you for this, I can now say I’ve learned something today and it’s only 9:45am. What an amazing little product–a molecule we have been fascinated with for decades and can only produce using vaccuum electrolysis and chromatography is being produced in huge quantities by the Cicadellidae. Neato.

  3. It’s a bit small to be pollen, isn’t it? My best bet is that they’re secretion glands, especially with the stuff oozing out. So maybe it’s signalling protein for mating? I’m not sure what other organisms are particularly known for this so I’m going to make a guess and say ant. Perhaps the ants without wings need to secrete pheromones because they aren’t as mobile as insects that do have wings (although there are wasps that are also wingless, I think)….

    It’s a shot in the dark.

  4. Looks like somebody answered on facebook. Last week, that’s what I did too. It’s not clear whether the answer should be posted here or there! I’m just glad to find out what that somebody had the answer! Fascinating structures!

  5. Now MrILTA, how does one sneeze on a lens made of a magnetic field?
    Humor to assuage the pain of always getting in late to these contests?
    I thought pollen, but now I have to go learn somethimng about brochosomes.

  6. Pingback: Belated Answer to the Monday Night Mystery – MYRMECOS - Insect Photography - Insect Pictures

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