Zoom in on these stunning images and see if you can recognise these specimens. Scroll down to reveal their identities.
Scanning electron microscopes (SEM) scan the surface of a sample using a beam of electrons. When the electrons hit atoms they interact, which produces information about the surface of the sample.
SEMs have a large depth of field, which means the images produced have a 3D appearance, like the examples above. These powerful microscopes can magnify a sample anywhere from 25x, about the same as a good magnifying glass, to 250,000x, which is about 250 times better than a light microscope.
SEMs are one of the most flexible and useful tools of the Museum's science facilities. Their resolving power can reveal tiny details, invisible to light microscopes, which can help scientists distinguish between species. Scientists can also track the effects of climate change by comparing recent samples with those from the Museum's historical collections.
The microscopes can also be used to find out the chemical composition of rocks, minerals and meteorites, the latter of which can even reveal information about the early history of the solar system.
Image of the comb on a bumble bee's leg, a species of Bombus. The bumblebee can pull its antenna through the curved notch, and any pollen or debris is caught on the comb fringing.
Image showing the head and compound eye of a blackfly, Simulium damnosum. This fly is a vector of a parasite that causes River Blindness.
This image shows the scales on a butterfly wing. Microscopic ridges on the scales reflect the light and give the wing its colour.
Image of the head of a common wasp, Vespula vulgari. Their mouthparts are well-developed for eating insects, with a tongue for sucking nectar or fruit.
This image shows a vertical section through an unripe fruiting head of a dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, in the yellow flower stage.
Image showing a diatom, a species of Amphitetras, with its ornate silica shell.
This is an image of a human head louse, Pediculus humanus. These external parasites use their hook-like claws to grip the hair.
Did you guess this one? It's the head of a house fly, Musca domestica, showing the compound eye.
This is an image of a moss spore capsule, Ceratodon purpureus.
This is a red grape, a species of Vitis.
This is the head of a small tortoiseshell butterfly, Aglais urticae.
This is an image of a strawberry, a species of Fragaria.
Discover how natural history art and imaging techniques have developed since the 17th century and explore selected artworks from the Museum’s world-class art collections.
What happens behind the scenes in the Museum's Life Sciences Department? Curator Erica McAlister has about 30,000 species of fly to look after, and fieldwork trips at home and abroad. Her life is never dull!Follow the blog