Microscope magic

Ha! There’s something alive down there!” I fairly cackled with glee.  I love the stereoscope.

Looking through the magic oculars had revealed a hidden world.  A critter crawled past and I tried to count its legs.  I could only see 6, but it had the plump body and quick gait of a mite.  And those clear plump mounds with the beautifully and precisely placed white speckles, those must be its eggs.

Look in the centre of the photo for the translucent precisely speckled egg.

I picked up a leaf off my desk and peered at it again.  Nothing.  I could see nothing.  As a kid I had always prided myself in having good up close vision, even if at distance I struggled, but this time I saw precisely nothing.  I got out the 10x lens and squinted through it—now I could make out little white flecks that could be plant hairs.  I popped it under the scope, and suddenly there was something.  Lots of somethings, in fact.  I chuckled again and bounced in my seat.  Wow, they were tiny!

But what kind of mite could it be?  I tried googling and got a list of invasive-pests-to-be-aware-of…..I sure hoped we weren’t the first to find an invasive pest.  That would be complicated.  But an image search was reassuring—those mites from Chile were red, not clear like the ones I was seeing.

Then I remembered that cyclamen mites and broad mites are microscopic, so tried an image searching for broad mite eggs.  There they were, those perfect speckled domes!  “Ah-ha!” I exclaimed out loud, hoping somebody else in the office would share my enthusiasm.  No one noticed.

I started an email to the commercial crop manager.  I guessed that he wasn’t going to share my thrill of discovery, but I had to tell SOMEBODY.  I clamped the phone holder onto the ocular and focused on a particularly tantalizing egg, then snapped a photo of a microscopic herd of mites hiding in the nook between two plant veins, and was immensely gratified to find that the photos were decent quality.   I tacked them to the email.

The operations manager walked past to the desk.  “Hey, want to see something cool?”  He humoured me, and glanced at the photo.

“Nice.  How are you going to kill them?” he queried, right to the point as per usual.

“Oh, probably try Avid, it’s the only miticide we’ve tested on this crop.  Multiple applications….there are a lot of mites and Avid doesn’t kill eggs…..but aren’t they cool?”  He nodded and moved on.

Just then the grower in charge of the plants walked into the office.  “Hey, want to see something cool?”  I pointed to the picture on the screen.

“Wow, what are those?” he asked.  He has wonderfully expansive facial expressions, and shared my excitement.

“Broad mites!  You know those twisted bronzy leaves we thought were from high EC?  They’re full of mites!  And look at this!” I held a leaf under his nose.  “Can you see anything?”  He shook his head.  “No!” I chortled, “but here, look through the lens!”

A whole mass of mites fits in the crotch of a tiny leaf vein, nestled in among a few plant hairs.

He peered, mezmerized, at the leaf that was teeming with microscopic life.  “That’s a good a discovery!” he said.  “We would be waiting for those shoots to grow out after we water the pots, and we would be saying why these shoots not better, because the problem is really mites.”

Yes!  He understood the picture, and the gravity of the situation we almost found ourselves in.  I giggled.

Later that night I continued to talk Jeremiah’s ear off about the mites.  “Here, just LOOK at these beautiful eggs,” I adjured him.  “They’re gorgeous!  And tiny! and….Oh, and how was your day? ….signed a contract sounds good…..in Kaikoura….hey, I wonder if those mites can carry disease?!  Oh look, it says here the females are quiescent and the males carry them around on their backs until they’re ready to mate.  I actually saw that!  I SAW one carrying another when I LOOKED DOWN THE SCOPE!”  He nodded and smiled.  He was trying to share my excitement.

I can’t quite put my finger on it myself.  For some reason I find that miniscule world that is chocker full of life, and precision, and beauty to be terribly alluring.  And the thrill of discovery at a successful yet unexpected diagnosis never gets old.

It’s so good to love one’s work.

1 thought on “Microscope magic

  1. Ah, yes! This reminds me of a problem I solved recently at the job, and tried to explain it to various longsuffering family members. I think Becky might have captured the enthusiasm of my success. I’m glad you have the same ability to love a job!

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