I was searching for an idea for my second Foldscope post, and one fell right into my cup of tea: a small insect that had evidently drowned in the little pool of water left overnight in the cup. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I planned to examine its body parts to see if it was possible to arrive at an identification.
After fishing the insect out of my cup, I placed it on a glass slide using tweezers and detached a couple body parts – two antennae and a few legs – and plated two of them by pipeting a couple drops of water onto the slide and placing a glass coverslip on top. Due to the small size of the insect, I wasn’t actually sure if the second body part I had plated was a leg or an antenna! The only way to find out was to take a look with the Foldscope.
Looking at the first body part (antenna), I saw clear segmentation, with each brown segment coated with many small bristles. Also, there was a strange, dark casing surrounding the entire antenna, which I couldn’t seem to find on any photos I saw online. Could this possibly be the edge of the droplet of water being repelled from the surface of the antenna?
The segments didn’t seem to get much smaller towards either end of the antenna, but did get a bit lengthier and ended with a different-colored segment, possibly what the insect uses for sensing. In my opinion, this antenna looks most like the moniliform antenna found in some beetles and termites, but I could very well be wrong: https://thedragonflywoman.com/2011/04/15/insect-antennae-part-1/. Are there any entomologists who could perhaps weigh in?
Looking at the other body part, I saw that it looked nearly identical to the first antennae, so I guessed that it was one also. Again, there was the mysterious casing, which I thought to be a result of the repulsion between the water and the antenna.
In the end, I dropped the bug on the floor (oops) and couldn’t find it again, so I didn’t get a chance to look at its head, its legs, or its wings to give more hints towards its identity. What I learned from this observation was the astounding variety of insect antennae types, each corresponding to a different lineage of insects, and that insect ID is much more difficult than I had expected.