Under a low magnification of only 57x, this scanning electron micrograph (SEM) depicted some of the ultrastructural morphologic features displayed on the surface of a carpenter bee's, Xylocopa virginica
head. This particular bee was found deceased on the grounds of the Decatur, Georgia suburbs, an area where these insects are quite common. Carpenter bees can be quite a nuisance, for they are well known as wood-borers, and can create many unsightly holes in a home's wooden components.
The "feathery" structures are known as "setae", and though they appear frail, the material from which they are constructed, known as "chitin", is the same proteinaceous material that created its tough exoskeletal exterior. These setae, are highly sensorial in nature, and transmit changes in the bee's environment such as fluctuations in temperature, chemistry, and wind speed and direction.