By Ted Kinsman
Some science images are easy, and some are very complex. This is a scanning electron microscope image of a Monarch Butterfly egg case is a very difficult picture. Just the sample preparation of this image took over a week. For years I have collected butterfly eggs, usually for my young kids. We will have a bottle with several eggs that hatch into microscopic worms that feed on milkweed leaves. In this case my kids and I went for several hikes in the finger lakes region of New York. After a few hours of looking on every milkweed plant we saw, we were able to find three eggs. The eggs were placed in a dilute solution of alcohol and the alcohol solution was slowly increased in strength until it was at 100% - a week later. The egg is then placed in a high pressure solution of carbon dioxide gas to remove all the water. This process is called critical point drying. The egg was then coated with a conductive layer of gold in a sputter coater. At this point the egg is ready for the scanning electron microscope (SEM). Since the microscope only collects a black and white image, the image needs to be colorized using Photo shop. The coloration process itself can be very complex. For this egg image I used two different images – one image contained the red part of the image, while the send image contained the blue data.