Insects and other arthropods

How to study them with the microscope

click to enlarge

Insect and their next of kin are very nice subjects for a closer examination under the microscope. But because of their size it is not possible to observe a life insect under the normal microscope. A low power stereo microscope (disecting microscope) is better suited for that purpose. With such a microscope you get a stereoscopic (3D) image of the insect. The compound eyes and delicate wing structure can be seen like you've never seen it before.

If you like to study insects and their relatives in closer detail you have to dissect them and make a prepared slide. The reason for this is that you need a very flat specimen to be able to see any detail under the microscope. With such strong magnification the depth of field becomes very shallow. When you flatten the specimen all details come in focus. Another reason for making a prepared slide is that the specimen has to be translucent since you work with incident light.
The external (:exo)skeleton of Insects can be made soft and translucent by using chemicals. But it is recommended not to start and kill insects at once. Many interesting features can be seen in living animals. Habits as well as anatomical features. Catch an insect, observe it in a little glass container or petri dish with a 8X hand lens or stereo microscope and release it afterwards. Prepared slides can be obtained easily. You can buy beautiful slides of body parts or whole insects.

A prepared slide of an insect wing, leg or mouth part will reveal the smallest structures. This photograph of a fly foot shows the two claws and the lobes full of tiny hairs. With these it has grip on almost every surface.
When you want to start microscopy as a hobby it is recommended to buy a stereo microscope first. It is easier in use and you will always need it to prepare your microscopic slides and samples.
 

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The following links will lead you to a variety of insects and other Arthropods.

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These links are a selection from the Micscape Article Library

Microscopy UK Front Page
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text and images © Wim van Egmond 1999

 


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