8 August 1994
Volume 2: no. 8
I had an opportunity to collect underneath a large blacklight light trap the other day. In just a few minutes I was able to find a dobson fly, two giant waterbugs, and a number of the larger water beetles. These traps were some that belonged to a farmer friend who is testing to see if he can reduce the number of bollworms which attack his cotton by catching them in traps. The traps are 15 feet in the air above a large open cotton field and really draw the insects. Other lights are also extremely attractive to insects this time of year, so do not neglect the night trips, besides night collecting is always an adventure and fun. Anywhere you can find bright lights, there will most often be insects. Tennis courts, swimming pools, and isolated street lights are always good. Be sure to carry your collecting equipment with you when you go to ball games etc., for you never know when the prize of the century will literally drop into your lap. Different kinds of butterflies are also flying these days. A bright colored sponge or pad soaked in sugar water will attract these beautiful creatures close enough for study. Peach, apple and pear peelings are ideal for feeding butterflies. You can also build them a nice mud puddle for sunning if you would like. Simply find an open bare area and add water. If your puddle won't hold water, you might improvise with some plastic sheeting placed in a shallow depression. The butterflies like to sit in damp sandy areas near the puddle.
For the last couple of years Jan and I have presented an Entomology Workshop at the Southern Volunteer Leaders Forum (Rock Eagle). We will be doing a basic and an advanced entomology workshop again this year. The basic will be much like what we have done in the past. The advanced will take a little different tack and this is where we need your assistance. We would like for Delegates from each of the states from the Southern Region to bring insect specimens with them to the Forum. 5 to 10 nice specimens from each state group would be adequate. (You can bring more if you like.) We then will take the specimens and arrange them into a collection which we will present to the camp for use in teaching 4-Hers and others about insects. Mississippi will supply the box which will hold the collection, but we would like to have representative insects from all the participating states. You might get some 4-Hers to donate insects or catch them yourself. Butterflies and moths should be pinned and spread correctly. Beetles, bees and most other insects, except Lepidoptera, may be preserved in alcohol (preferably ethanol) and kept for pinning at the workshop. In any case, we will want to know correct date, locality and collector information for each insect. We have visited with Arch Smith about this project and he indicated that he thought that it might be very helpful for the campers during the annual camping sessions.
Collecting Basics: Some of you have indicated that you are having problems with mold attacking your pinned specimens this summer. Because of the high humidity, this is a possibility. Don't give up the specimens without a fight! Alcohol mixed with glycerine or even alcohol alone can be used to take the mold off your pinned specimens. Simply take a camels hair brush and paint the alcohol/glycerine mixture on the body of the insect, the mold organism should disappear. You should also place silica packets in your collection to keep it from getting too humid. These are available at Wal-Mart or at most photography stores. Baking soda will also work to help reduce excess moisture.
Kill jars need to be cleaned and recharged regularly. If the jars are getting regular, daily, use they may need recharging every day. Ethyl Acetate is the material which we recommend for use in charging a kill jar. The easiest source for this material is nonAcetone fingernail polish remover. Most health and beauty aids sections of stores sell the bottles of remover. The nonoily brands should be used as the oils might stain the wings of butterflies or moths. It is a good practice to keep more than one jar close by and always keep paper towels or tissue in your jars to keep insects separated. Remember for Lepidoptera, fold the wings upward and firmly pinch the upper thorax between your thumb and forefinger before placing them in the kill jar. This will paralyze the wings and enable you to have a more beautiful specimen. NEVER place beetles in a jar with butterflies or moths. Its really much easier to kill beetles in an alcohol vial. Just drop them in.
Position in the Animal Kingdom: The Animal Kingdom is divided into phyla. Insects are members of the largest Phylum: Arthropoda (a Greek word meaning jointed foot). Crayfish, shrimp, spiders , scorpions, millipedes and centipedes are also arthropods, but they are not insects. The Class Insecta or Hexapoda (6 legs) is the largest of the arthropods. There are more than 700,000 described species of insects and probably many more which have not been described. Orders are listed after Class; these include familiar names like Coleoptera, Lepidoptera, Hymenoptera, Homoptera, etc. Many of the insect orders end with the suffix ptera (wing). Family names are next in line under Orders and they end in idae. Genus and species names then follow within the families. Genus names are always capitalized and italicized, species names are italicized. Genus/species names are usually Latin and at times difficult, so many people use common names for familiar insects. For example an Ascia rapae might be better known to most of us as an imported cabbage worm. 4-H collectors need only identify insects in their collections to Order and then common name.
P.S. Be sure and help us get the word out to the Rock Eagle Delegates!
Dr. Michael R. Williams
Entomology & Plant Pathology
Mississippi State, MS 39762-9775
phone - 601-325-2085
home - 601-323-5699
FAX - 601-325-8837