Wednesday, 21 July 2010


Once again, this blog entry comes with a warning to Malcolm - Don't look Malcolm!
I have just bought a USB microscope (a new toy - I'm so excited), to be able to see, in even closer detail, some of the finer points of our natural world.  The microscope was cheap, from Aldi, but is proving to be well worth the price.
What a revelation it has already been. For instance, this is a Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris) which strayed into our kitchen yesterday (sadly for the wasp, it didn't stray out again). At 60 times magnification, the face of this wasp shows it's strong mandibles, with which it chews wood, mixed with it's saliva to make the papery structure of the nest. You can also see the 'anchor' shaped mark on it's face which identifies it as a Common Wasp.
Of course, the most infamous part of the wasp, has to be it's sting. Indeed, this particular insect still managed to get it's revenge on me long after it was dead, by stinging me as I accidentally put my hand on it while focusing the microscope. Dangerous even in death! An image of the sting tip (magnified 200 times) reveals just how nasty it is. The pain of the wasp sting is caused by a toxic fluid containing a complex protein, which is injected through the needle-like sting as it penetrates the victim - me, in this case!
The wings of this insect are rather beautiful under the microscope. There are four of them, with the hind wings being considerably smaller than the fore-wings and seem to be attached along their length. Here seen x60.
Seen even closer, x200, you can see that the surface of their wings is covered with minute hairs - a fact which was news to me!
I will be boring the nation with more close-up pictures of various things in the future. You have been warned!
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