Microscopic Terrors

 Shelf fungus on a tree trunk.
Last night my kids wanted to play with the microscope. My nice microbiology grade microscope. So I pulled it down and they went around the yard picking things to smash between two glass slides.

At one point I suggested looking at some tree poop (those long, dangly pollen filled oak things that show up every spring). They were reluctant, as they were in a flower petal and leaf mood, but eventually agreed. I situated the strand on the slide and focused it on the microscope.

What on earth was THAT? Did that speck just wiggle?!?!?

Sure enough, there were dozens of tiny mites scrawling around on the surface, invisible to the naked eye.

The kids were ecstatic!

“Mommy! That looks JUST like an alien!!!!” (Because they have seen so many aliens in real life…)

I want my own electron microscope. Wouldn’t it be so cool to show the kids the depth of beauty living under the surface of what we can’t see?!??!?!

This morning, as I was sitting out on the porch barefoot, eating breakfast with the kids (Mommy thinks crumbs are much more fun outside), I kept feeling itchy, crawling sensations on my feet. Who knows if there really were mites crawling on my toes from that tree poop but my mind and my toes sure were convinced.

Sometimes, perhaps, there are things it is just better not knowing…


85 thoughts on “Microscopic Terrors

  1. Ahhh, the beauty of the microscopic world. I had my first lab quality microscope at about 12 years old (it was used but in good condition). I spent hours at a time just marveling at the structure and detail of the small world. You’re right Victo there is a whole world of critters that is too small for the naked eye. The one that bugs me when i think about it are the mites that eat our dead skin cells and that are everywhere we are – especially in our beds.Makes me shiver just writing it. But they are there for our benefit and do an important job. If you want an SEM, you can buy a good quality used machine for home on eBay for between $10,000 and $20,000 http://www.ebay.com/bhp/scanning-electron-microscope. Ha!

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  2. One of my fondest dreams is owning my own electron microscope, and the other is owning my own brain scanner. I would spend all day just watching what parts of my brain showed activity when I wiggled my toes, or thought about travelling to Mars, or, well, you get it. Thanks for the post that triggered the dream yet again. It’s part of why I drop by here so often.


  3. This was fun. I had a good chuckle at the “aliens” bit.

    I use the scope quite often when examining my mineral specimens. The smaller crystals tend to be the best in terms of condition and “text book” quality. Two or three times I’ve been taken by surprise when a critter revealed itself marching about the matrix of the piece. Like he owned the place, or something.

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  4. Who’d eat curds and cheeses if we had microscopic vision? I used to bring in flowers and petals and look at them on the slit-lamp at high mag. Less power than a microscope but I’d often come across some tiny little insect nestled between the petals and my fingers would get that creepy crawly sensation immediately even though I could see it wasn’t on me. Not that I’d feel a thing even if a thousand of them clambered all up on me. 😀

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  5. Hey, Babe, There just ain’t no thing it ain’t worth looking at. Looking at poop is cool. Looking in your heart is cool. Looking at the dude next door is cool. Tell that little Valiant and that little Bug that they are all cool. You are not so bad yourself.

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    • I cannot wait until they are old enough for the X-files! You brought forth a memory, though, about the microscope. I remember having trouble with it at first, too. Took a while to figure out how to place my eyes and look through it right when I first started using one…. I had forgotten about that.

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  6. After takin an invertebrate zoology course, I could hardly walk barefoot in sand. It still takes a lot of effort for me to go deeper than thigh deep in sea/lake water. There are so many microscopic, creepy, spirally organisms that have no place under my toenails or in… You know where…

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  7. Microscopes really are great ways to discover how detailed the world we live in is, and how much of it is deeply disturbing. I just fended off a friend who hoped to give us a microscope. I can only imagine what our pet rabbit would look like really close up.

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  8. Finally getting some time to catch up on some reading. What a great idea to do with your kiddos! Mine are on a caterpillar and butterfly kick right now…I don’t see smooshing either of those two items between slides 🙂 and I agree with you…crumbs are best left outside …

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  9. Pingback: My Article Read (5-24-2015) | My Daily Musing

  10. Ever since I learned that my dog and cat dander allergies were actually more likely allergies to the feces of the mites that eat dog and kitty dander, I have had an intense antipathy to those dastardly creatures. Let them eat what and where they will, but they should clean up after themselves.

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