Are my Microscope images sufficient?

Just to add, as I’m going through this myself… Wasps (my focus, but probably many other insects too) can be incredibly difficult to distinguish down to species/genus even using keys. I was very disappointed early on that I couldn’t just review a (in laymans terms…) key quickly and pinpoint any wasp species I found in my yard and I’m still constantly finding that the photos miss the specific points of differentiation in the keys…

@tiothebeetle don’t be disheartened if you find it difficult to ID things well even with lots of photos. Wasps (for example) can depend on things like placement of little holes (spiracles) on the abdomen (tergites), little grooves and edges on bodyparts and mouthpart arrangement that just aren’t easy to see without super-closeups all over. Find out what the main (larger) ID markers are and work down from there (i.e. top/side/front view → face (capturing moutparts), wings (venation), limbs → thorax areas, abdomen areas, etc.

Go for clarity over zoom, better to have a clear shot of as much detail as possible instead of a blurry close-up of a small area, particularly while you’re still learning what it important for ID.

My main advice is to enjoy finding and studying what material you can, follow those on iNat that observe similar things to what you like and capture as much as you can!

You’ll start to build a library of critters where some you will ID readily from remembering the appearance and others you’ll start to understand what anatomical areas are important to capture. It’s a long but rewarding journey :)

There are useful tools around, but it’ll take some searching to find what works for you. Here’s one site (Australian) I’ve found useful because it’s dynamic and visual:

Click on the desired group, then >>Identify ‘group’ and select what you’re looking for.


Yup, that’s why using keys is so needed too, you can never guess what kind of thing is needed, often there’s just no right person to look at your stuff and help you learn, so switching groups can be needed too, there’re definitely easier ones than Hymenoptera and most of Diptera.


Do you have a dissecting scope or compound microscope? If compound, you can definitely get IDs for aquatic photosynthesizers over at cyanoScope and microscopic microbes.

Even with a dissecting scope, you could get to genera for many species of algae.

It’d be a huge benefit, since I see these taxa are hugely underrepresented on iNaturalist, probably because not everyone has a microscope!

Apparently there’s some interesting hacks/apps (foldscope, USB microscopes) that I haven’t tried, but which sound super promising for anyone interested in the microbial world who doesn’t have access to a microscope!

Two kinds of answers to your question. Are the photos good enough? Yes, they are! Do they include the right traits for species identification? That varies from genus to genus. How do you find out what you need? Try to ID them and see what works. Use field guides to your local insects (or whatever). Discuss with identifiers on iNaturalist. (Most of us don’t leave explanations often, but nearly all of us will be happy to discuss if asked.) Move on to technical keys as you get experience.

Have patience with iNaturalist observations because getting identifications can take a lot longer than we wish, even if the needed details are there. Don’t worry about your lack of science background. You can dig into the topics that interest you and find out. Even experts in various groups of organisms come from diverse backgrounds.


definitely seconding (thirding?) what @marina_gorbunova and @headsoup are saying. for some insects you will have to literally dissect their genitals to get the information you need. so it really depends. the more you observe, and engage, and learn about the organisms, the more you learn about what is needed to make a proper ID. good luck! :)


I am but a simple commoner haha pardons I need very basic terminology.
Yes I am beyond ELATED I can aid the sciences even as a lowly person with no formal education. (Digital artist background) It’s entirely fueled by curiosity and enjoyment for the subject. The idea I can help scientists just makes me starstruck.

I am using a handheld scope my partner purchased from amazon, at a glance it seems to be the STPCTOU Wireless Digital Microscope from your list. Along with this I have a backlight device meant for seeing between frames in hand drawn animation I can double with this tool. I admit I am entirely clueless but will gladly attempt to record whatever is in the area.

Algae in Austria?
I live right beside a river, however wouldn’t know where to start but I’d absolutely be willing to give it a shot! “Teach me oh masters” haha

My major interest is entemology and jumping spiders but I’ll gladly try any field of study that needs aid!

@marina_gorbunova I see what you mean now pardons.

Tried again at my night shift place of work I hope those are a bit better, one image of the entire specimen and close-ups of parts I feel might aid ID.


Your microscope photos look similar to mine, maybe we use a similar microscope. Those are at least decent to good, and some can get species IDs. Certain taxa like minute parasitic wasps may be unlikely to get species IDs in general. Pinning can help, for specimens that are big enough. I use the smallest size (000). Some insects are still too small. Those can be glued to “points” attached to pins, or glued to pins directly. In some cases it’s okay to photograph without any pins, which I also did for some minute specimens. I recommend ensuring good lighting and taking many (maybe more) photo angles, if your goal is species IDs. Finally you can also try to ID them and get the ID process started that way, and may ID some of them that way.

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First off, welcome to the Forum. It is a good place to find information. Yes, your images are good enough. Perhaps a bit more light as @marina_gorbunova suggested. I don’t know what a mobile microscope is, but in essence it looks like images from a dissecting scope, where light reflects off the object. A compound scope uses light sent through a slide. It’s generally used to look at single celled or very small multicellular objects. I won’t talk about Electron microscopes!
Learning about what features to look at for ‘lower’ taxa depends, as has been suggested. For moths, usually wing pattern is enough, though some need dissection to confirm a species. For flies, bristle patterns are often used. So it depends! There are online resources for most taxa - they can be hard to find. A good source for most arthropods is Borror and DeLong. A pdf can be downloaded or browsed here - (PDF) Borror & Delong 2005. Study of Insects | Thiago Augustho Dolacio - Other folks could probably suggest other resources. My advice is to just make a start someplace and learn by doing.

Another thing - a couple of folks have commented that they are not smart or not good at science etc. Don’t put yourselves down! There is no magic involved with all this. A willingness to learn, ask questions, make contacts is all that is really necessary. All of us are in the same boat!


Ah that’s what a dissecting scope means! Yes the light goes on the object, not behind. It is a handheld dissecting scope then.
Adding more light is a little difficult given the shape of my tool but I have been trying to improve the lighting.
By the time since my last reply I’ve read most of fly morphology, have a better grasp and am trying my best!

A significant portion of my insect images are from a lure setup I have at my home for the direct purpose of adding to iNaturalist. It gives me a good amount of practice for photo ops around town. To say there is interest is an understatement haha

Thankyou so much for the PDF as well! Genuinely am going to read this in my spare time!

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Just a short note:
Some time ago I came across this paper published in PLOS One and based on this template made a lightdome for my dissection scope.

I often take pictures with my cell phone through the scope and the results are now way better than before.

The illumination plate does not look too professional, but it does its job, and I am planning to improve the construction in the future


Ah interesting, my method originally was using a form of a animation tracing plate as a base but it seemed to kill lighting more than enhance.

“Doesn’t look professional” Haha if this is unprofessional than I dont want to know what some of my setups would be called haha. it looks great.
I’m actually going to have my friends who are more tech minded than myself have a look at the paper you gave, I’ll see if can make it work with my setups.


well, the paper itself also gives you something to print out, cut and glue together - not sure if this is what you would consider ‘tech minded’ :wink:

Well yes, had a look through with them already. Just always naturally go to them first out of habit.
More fun with friends.:beers:

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