I've been a bit quiet this week, sorry! I've been learning to identify different subfamilies of braconid wasps. When I started, they all looked the same and I thought I'd never ever be able to recognise the different types! But I'm getting there... and I thought I'd share a couple of the characters taxonomists use to tell what kind of wasp they've found.
The pictures above is the face of a wasp that is in the group called the 'cyclostome wasps'. They all have this weird dent or hole in their faces, where the red arrow in the picture is pointing. 'Cyclostome' comes from the Greek 'round mouth' so the name makes sense! Below this concave section of their mouthparts is the mandibles. The microgastrine wasps, that I'm studying for my PhD, don't have this concave section - their face is much flatter.
Another character I've learnt about is the wing venation. Insect wings have veins inside them, which are either tubular (tiny hollow tubes) that often have pigment in them (are coloured) or otherwise the veins are almost invisible seams in the wings. Some braconid wasps, like the picture on the left, have coloured, tubular veins that run all the way to the edge of the wing. The microgastrine wasps only have coloured tubular veins close to their body - on the outer edges the veins are almost invisible.
The pictures above were taken on the microscope automontage camera in our lab. It takes pictures at different depths of focus and then the computer program stitches all the different photos together. Mustard and I will show you how the process works next week!
PhD student and her trusty dinosaur explore the world of science. Check out our Citizen Science Project, The Caterpillar Conundrum!