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Microscope Use

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3:35 am
September 13, 2015


Paul

British Columbia

Member

posts 31

Hello all. Just wondering if anyone had an idea of what power microscope I would need to observe the level of microbial activity in worm tea and worm compost.  I was curious as to what the activity levels would be after storage for the winter. Also, if you happen to know, would the cheap ones on ebay be suitable? I know they won't be the best quality, but would they suffice?

12:22 am
September 15, 2015


Philip Rock

Member

posts 84

To see bacteria you'll need at least a scope with 400X magnification – that is, a microscope with a 10X ocular lens and a 40X objective lens.  Ideally 1000X is better but that requires an oil-immersion lens generally found on more expensive instruments.  I just checked on ebay and saw this for $150:  http://www.ebay.com/itm/40X-2500X-LED-Lab-Compound-Microscope-w-3D-Two-Layer-Mechanical-Stage-Slides-/400917783770?hash=item5d588fe4da

While it may say 2,500X – that is beyond the resolution of a light microscope. You can get that kind of magnification – the image will get big – but not sharp in focus.  It does have 1000X oil-immersion capability.  I can't vouch for the quality of such a scope; that seems quite low in price. Just like a camera, the lenses make all the difference.  It would probably be fine for your use and you can likely find some for less than that.

You'll be able to see bacteria, but not their 'activity' (though some may be motile)!

2:50 am
September 15, 2015


Paul

British Columbia

Member

posts 31

Thanks, Philip.  Now that I know what to look for, I think I will look around locally.  Not too enthusiastic about buying something of this nature off eBay.  With school just started, there may be some old equipment being auctioned off soon.

2:31 pm
September 16, 2015


Philip Rock

Member

posts 84

Sure thing Paul – I think everybody should have a microscope…but then I am biased, being a microbiologist; it's a whole 'nother world to discover!  Some of the older 'scopes have excellent optics, if they have been cared for.    

 

I'm not sure exactly what you would see with your compost or tea, however.  You would need to mix a little of the compost into water and examine that.  You'll really need to stain the cells to see them well, too.  If you play with the light contrast you can see unstained cells – it's just a little harder.

Any tea you make (you started playing with that yet?) will already be a liquid and you can make a slide of that directly, and stain it, or not.  Again, I'm not sure exactly what you'll see.  If you monitor the tea over the steeeping/fermenting period you should see a decided increase in the number of microorganisms.  You won't know what they are, or if they are good, bad, or indifferent – but they will be there, I guarantee.  You can see most bacteria at 400X but they will look like tiny dots and longer rod-shaped things – some may move.  At 1000X – they will only look a little bigger.

As to your original reason for querying about a microscope, I can tell you that I have looked at 5-6 month old vermicompost from my bins. I keep it in a ventilated plastic bin (my original worm bin) with the top on, where it is about 70 degrees F year-round.  We cultured many varieties of bacteria – a few of which could grow on and breakdown motor oil!  A DNA analysis of the vermicompost revealed the presence of several hundred different bacterial species.  It's a zoo in there but a microscopic one and not easy to see directly. 

Have Fun!

 

Phil

10:52 am
September 17, 2015


Paul

British Columbia

Member

posts 31

Fun is the whole idea.  I was  going to try to see what effect changing pH had on the tea (for storage purposes). Apparently, the "big" tea maker has developed a system for keeping the tea viable for long periods by managing pH. I suppose I could just take samples and vary the pH up or down and note what effects it has on plant growth, but that would be a very long term study (and I really don't know if I am going to last that long…I don't even buy green bananas). Seems to me it would be a whole lot easier just watching the little beggars.

It's good to know that the compost remains viable for that length of time. I still have my original harvest and a second one as well. Looks as if there will be lots by spring time.

I did make some tea, but I had nowhere to use it (I am not a gardener). Not really sure if it worked or not. I aerated it with two airstones, took a sniff for reference, then shut the air off. I let it sit until I could just start to smell it go off, added some molasses and re-aerated it. Seems to have worked. Returned to the original odour and colour, but not being able to actually see what was going on made this whole process more of a guessing game than anything.

I am still waiting on  a response from the local school board about surplus equipment. Will let you know what happens.

 

Paul


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