details in Agricultural Research.
Mites--New Technology Aids Identification By
October 5, 2000
The 200-year-old study of mites--the science called acarology--is
Service experts on mites are using state-of-the-art technology to study
these microscopic insects. Recently, ARS scientists from the
Systematic Entomology Laboratory,
working with colleagues at the
Laboratory--both at the Henry A.
Wallace Beltsville (Md.) Agricultural Research Center--applied newly
developed technology, called low- temperature-scanning electron microscopy
(LT-SEM), to study mites.
Because of their small size--some no bigger than the point of a
needle--mites are difficult to study biologically. They have many sensory
organs, mouth parts and other body parts so complex that systematists have
difficulty comparing those of closely related species.
Unlike conventional microscopes, LT-SEM images of a specimen are
formed and magnified by electrons passing through a magnetic field that
functions as a lens. The images can be displayed, and thus recorded, on a
cathode ray tube similar to a TV screen.
The LT-SEM was used to obtain, for the first time, clear,
three-dimensional images magnified more than 50,000 times. These reveal
delicate structural forms and intricate details of intact mites and how they
interact with and attack plant and insect hosts. Such information helps
scientists to better understand mites behavior and how different parts of
their body structure actually function. It is also used to name and classify
Often, a lack of detailed information about mites correct
identity, biology and ecology causes serious consequences to U.S. agriculture.
More than 6,000 mite species infest nearly every agronomic and horticultural
plant important to agriculture. They cause annual economic losses estimated in
the billions of dollars from decreased food, fiber and ornamental production.
For more details, see the October issue of Agricultural Research.
ARS is the chief research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Scientific contact: Ronald Ochoa, ARS
Systematic Entomology Laboratory, Beltsville, Md., phone (301) 504-7890, fax
(301) 504-6482, email@example.com.