Photo micrography of pollen and honey bees

Looking at pollen and bee anatomy under the microscope can be very revealing.

Taking photos means that we can share these microscopic images with others.

An issue with the glass slide used for examining objects under the microscope is that if the object that we are looking at is in any way three dimensional then the focus must be adjusted in order to be able to see the dimensions of it.

By taking a series of photos at points of focus that change slightly each time from top to bottom of the object we can combine them using special software to create the three dimensional image.

The following photos were created using Heliconsoft for rendering a group of photos to increase the depth of field and create a more realistic three dimensional image.

Pollen extracted from some honey was magnified 400 times under a compound microscope and a series of 28 photos taken each at slightly differing focus points from each other. The first three photos are taken from the group of 28 at different focus points (Click on them to take a closer look):

IMG_7725 IMG_7720 IMG_7738

After combining or rendering the 28 photos the outcome is the following photo:

2015-03-02_11-48-13 M=C

In this photo there is one large pollen grain and several smaller grains. The wonderful thing about this photo is that all of the pollen grains are in focus which makes for a beautiful photo but also means that we can look at the individual grains and try to identify them together.

The large pollen grain with spikes is from Hollyhock and has a diameter of about 120um (0.12mm) and is one of the largest pollen grains from UK plants.

There are various other types of pollen grain, but one in particular in the position to the top right of the Hollyhock grain almost attached to it is of most interest as this is a Heather pollen grain.

This group of pollen grains has been taken from heather honey. The interesting thing is that bees collect pollen and nectar from many plants and even though this honey is predominantly heather there are other pollen grains present. In this particular sample this was the only hollyhock grain.

This method of rendering photos together can greatly assist with honey analysis by reducing the time needed looking down the microscope lens allowing the melissopalynologist to do analysis from a single photo. (Or series of photos as over 200 pollen grains must be analysed)

Another example is of the antenna cleaner on the front leg of the honeybee at 200 times actual size. In this example 17 photos were taken at different points of focus:

2015-03-03_10-23-55 M=C

This creates a three dimensional photo that shows the ‘notch’ in the front leg used for cleaning the antenna and also the detail of the hairs on the leg. This is very helpful when explaining the various aspects of bee biology.

Heliconsoft has a choice of three algorithms for rendering. The above two photos were rendered using the ‘pyramid’ algorithm. The other two are; ‘depth map and ‘weighted average’. For these photos of pollen and bee parts I found that the best resolution was created by the pyramid method, however, for more artistic combinations the following photos are of some Hyacinth pollen grains magnified 400 times that have been attracted to a droplet of water. Each of these rendered photos has its own beauty:

This one has been created by rendering 9 photos using the pyramid algorithm giving the water droplet three dimensional depth:

2015-03-02_14-27-56 M=C

The following two photos were rendered using the weighted average and depth map algorithms:

2015-03-02_14-29-01 M=A R=8 S=4 2015-03-02_14-28-30 M=B R=8 S=4

Click on a photo to enlarge it.

Heliconsoft is very easy to use; simply select the group of photos to be rendered together and drop them onto the window, or use the open option to select them. This video tutorial explains how to do it in a few minutes

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