Winter is leering over the corner of the calendar like a teenage boy at the window of an underwear store. Halloween is upon us and my duties to the bees this week were simply to lift a corner of the hives and see if they took the hint and stored the sugar I’ve been feeding them rather than just going nuts and partying on down.
I’ve had a work experience student in the lab, last weeks samples were all A) Dull, B) Potentially lethal, or C) Dull and lethal.
As sending students home in body bags is frowned upon these days I needed some proxy samples for the microscopes – a great excuse to generate some lovely hymenoptera related images for my loyal readers ( all three of them ).
Firstly a disclaimer – I work in a shadowy realm where colour has no meaning. In all the images you are about to see, the colours are false and mostly added by hand tinting, which takes hours but is worth the effort.
We’ll start with pollen. Under a basic light microscope it looks like this – useful if you want to identify species but hardly impressive.
Pollen is great for showing off the wonderful shadowing and depth of field you can get off an SEM.
I also put some pollen on the confocal microscope which scans a laser across a sample and records the fluorescent light coming back. It doesn’t just make cool pictures, it collects 3d data too so I can nifty things like this.
That little video took three lunch times by the way, I know how to enjoy myself….
An SEM needs a target that’s dry and conductive, frustratingly bees don’t come ready prepared so in keeping with the mood of the season I have taken a sacrifice. Yes that’s a real bee, I found her drowing in a puddle, soaked her in alcohol for a couple of days and sealed her in a chamber of gold vapour.
At this time of year what blog would be complete without a blood sucking parasite?I bring you a terrifying monster that will strike fear into the very soul of a bee keeper ( or at least mild distaste ). The Varroa mite, it may be small to us but to a bee it’s like having a tick the size of a dinner plate draining your blood.
Try to picture this mouth, its fangs digging into your skin and draining your body of lymph.
I hope you enjoy your meal. Do sleep well tonight.