Danny brought in this beauty, last week and we took the opportunity to snap a few images under various microscopes. It looks intimidating, but is harmless in spite of the females having a large stinger. It is an Eastern Cicada Killer wasp, which exists to cull some of the annual cicada population. The female uses her stinger to paralyze a cicada prior to flying it back to her nest which is an amazing sight since the cicada is typically significantly larger than the wasp itself. As a result, she hauls it up a tree and then launches herself off towards her burrow, often repeating this laborious process several times in order to get there. Each male egg gets one cicada and each female at least two cicadas. Unsurprisingly, the female wasps are larger than the males.
You can always identify cicada killer wasps not only due to their size (up to two inches), but due to their burrows which always have a mound of earth outside along with a characteristic trench running through it to the hole. And there will be lots of them, too…….thousands at our last house!
As you can see, up close under a microscope, they are beautiful. The spines on their legs serve to help the females dig their burrows. They use their powerful jaws to loosen the soil and then excavate the soil using their legs. Hence the mound outside although they also use excavated earth to seal their egg chambers.
We used a Dino-Lite AM4113T to view this one as well as one of our new Explorer Pro digital microscopes that we will be launching soon.
Recently, we donated an Omano OM88 compound microscope to New Frontiers Health Force for their Ngoswani clinic in Kenya. To our delight, we have just received a heart-warming thank you letter from no less than Naomi, the new Lab technician hired to use the microscope, an email from one of the volunteers who traveled to Ngoswani this May and a newsletter thank you from the director, Dr Tonya Hawthorne. It makes such a difference to hear back from the recipients and it makes our day to realize that such a simple gift has such a profound impact.
New Frontier HF had successfully built the clinic over many years, but to our surprise this was their first microscope! Previously, the only access to blood tests was an university hospital in Narok about 1 1/2 hours away and at some expense. 1 1/2 hours may not seem far but unless you have experienced the bone-jarring “corrugations” of rural Kenyan roads, it is hard to understand the delight in not having to endure this on a regular basis! Now the clinic can do blood work on site and they have already diagnosed multiple cases of malaria. To put it in perspective, once the microscope was unpacked and ready to go, such was the excitement that the entire clinic stopped working in order to enjoy the moment.