Foldscope Day 2: Moth Wings and Fungal Sex Edition

In day 2 of foldscoping, I looked around the house for stuff I could put under the microscope.

Scales of Moth Wings

Here’s what a moth wing looks like under the foldscope 140X lens.


And here’s what you’d see with your naked eye.

moth wing slide

The wing in question belonged to this moth. RIP. (Can anyone id the species?)


I also took a few images using the high magnification lens (480X), to get an even closer look. I love that you can see individual scales. I also found a few filament-like strands near the edge of the wing, through which the light shimmers in interesting ways.

moth wing high mag

Here’s a video where I explore the wing under the 140X lens. This is neat because you can see how the parts all fit together in context. There are these (hollow?) tubes that serve as a structural frame for the wing, supporting it and giving it its rigidity (at least that’s my guess about their function).

Foldscoping Fungus

Next up, I found some kind of a fungus in some mud in the backyard.


Here’s a closer look where you can see the individual stalks. I think this is probably a rhizopus fungus.

fungus zoom

I took a paper slide with a piece of tape on it and gently pressed the fungus to the tape to collect some of it. Here’s what it looks like under the foldscope.

fungus spores foldscope

What’s cool is that you can actually see the heads of the fungus (the sporangium) packed with spores.. those are the products of fungal sex. These spores would be carried away by the wind, allowing the fungus to spread. I guess this is also the reason why mold seems to spontaneously generate in rotting food, fungal spores are flying around pretty much everywhere.

Here’s a video of me exploring this fungus under the foldscope (sorry, forgot to tilt the video before uploading).

Manu suggested on this thread that I might be able to improve the image quality by using a piece of paper or tape to diffuse the light, so I’ll try that out next.

Let me know what you think, and if this spurs any questions.

Foldscope Everything

It’s just been a few days of playing with the foldscope, but I’m already enjoying the shift in perspective that it helps create. You start to look at everything around you as something that you can zoom into, and you wonder what everyday things would look like on a microscopic level. I’m also enjoying the helpful community of microcosm explorers, enthusiasts, and curious foldscopers who are sharing their images, mods and tips, knowledge and ideas. Keep it coming!

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Manu Prakash says:

    Wonderful – if you have a front view of the moth; it might be easier to ID. I am very intrigued by the shimmer on those filaments. I have imaged a lot of scales – never seen one that shines like that. Did it have a macroscopic shimmer as well..

    The fungal spores are beautiful. Did you image them wet or dry. It’s always fun to share the context where you collect the samples – please do share some surrounding images. Are you in the open or this is your back yard:)


  2. laksiyer says:

    This is great. I love the stability and image quality. Are those pieces of wood on which the fungus iis growing? This sporangium that you see is actually the asexual cycle. To observe the sexual cycle, look for two threads fusing together and a zygospore formed at the junction.. I think if you put a piece of wet bread next to it, you can observe a few more cycles of the fungus. Some of the best mycologists in the world are in India. C.V. Subramanian for example.

  3. Manu Prakash says:

    @Laks: thanks for the pointer/correction Laks and for the CV. I read the same (I did not know about CVS before); and loved this sentence “there is only one science and that says it all ‘from smaller than the smallest to larger than the largest’.” – a true sentiment of science.


  4. laksiyer says:

    My lepidopteran expert thinks it is common banded awl, a butterfly. Perhaps an upper wing shot might help to clarify. Coming to think of it, it would be interesting to study butterfly vs moth scales. Perhaps one can systematize how easy it is for the scales to come off using a setup that Eisner popularized. Will look up and describe.

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