Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A close look at a true bug

Back outside looking for insects, I came across this hemipteran, or true bug, on a Vitex tree on campus.  Hemiptera means "half wing" - even though hemipterans have two pairs of wings, when they are folded together on top of the body, the are half covered - a pretty easy way to identify the order.

By the way, this is the only order of insects that can be accurately be called "bugs".

In the picture below the compound eyes are obvious.  This insect also has a pair of simple eyes or ocelli - interestingly, on this bug they happen to be red.

This bug is eats the sap of plants using its piercing mouth parts.  If you look carefully at the image below you can see the long, piercing stylets tucked in along the midline of the body.

Now on to the scanning electron microscope. 
Below a look at the compound eye (95x).

A closer look.  (901x)  Each unit of the compound eye is called an ommatidium. For size refer to the scale at the bottom of the image.  On this image the distance between the white marks is 5 microns.

One of the simple eyes (174x). 
Scanning electron micrographs do not show colors - unfortunate in this case.

The piercing stylets of the mouth.  OUCH!

The business end of the mouthpart  (60x). 
This image also shows the connection of the second pair of legs to the thorax of the insect.

It turns out I have an obsession with the weird world of tarsal claws on insects. 
The next three images are of increasing magnifications of the tarsal claws on the first pair of legs. 


A close up of the "pad" on the far right of the image above.


These tubelike structures are just visible in the first tarsal claw image. 


This tarsal claw belongs to one of the hindmost legs.

A closer look at 190x. 
Notice the series of plates at the top of the claw and the two padlike structures - each is shown at high magnification in the images to follow.

Plates (500x)
[Talk about stranger than science fiction.]

Right side pad (700x)

Left pad (700x)

Awesomely strange, and lots of fun to discover.  If you are a student or teacher and would like to get involved with scanning electron microscopy the Scanning Electron Microscope Lab at Eastfield College is ready to collaborate.

Murry Gans
Scanning Electron Microscope Lab Coordinator
Eastfield College
Mesquite, TX

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