Your Extension Experts
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Volume 4: no.6
26 August 1996
The sounds of school are ringing in my ears and those early birds who take football, band and other activities like that are already back working on the fall session. Regular classes won't be long in following as many schools, at least in Mississippi, begin fall sessions in mid-August. This is a good time to think about insect collections for science classes and is also a good time to begin preparation for those science fair projects which will be assigned later. There are probably more insects active at this time of year than any other. Butterflies and moths are plentiful, though some of the early spring and summer species have almost disappeared. This is a good time to initiate the `puddle club' for butterflies to see what you get. Just make a mud puddle and wait! Lights are also especially effective at this time of year. Don't forget to carry a `kill-jar' to some of those early football games this fall, you never know what will come along. It's also a good time to capture a preying mantis. These critters can be held in a cage and kept for quite a few weeks for observation and study. Keep them one to a cage and feed them crickets, moths or other soft bodied insects which you catch. Females will generally deposit an egg case on a twig. The egg case should be held in a refrigerator for at least a month to help stimulate hatching. The egg case can be held all winter in the refrigerator and then allowed to hatch next spring. Remember that small mantids will eat one another, so you will have to keep them separated.
Get those insect collections ready for the FAIR! Let's show off the beauty of the insect world this fall by showing our insect collections. If you send your collection to a local fair and win a blue ribbon, send it on to the Midsouth Fair in Memphis and to the Mississippi State Fair in Jackson.
I recently ran across an e-mail reference to `Ant Wars!' by Dr. Paul C. Johnson (University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH) and thought that some of you might find it interesting. He has a science experiment in which two ant colonies are mixed and then observed at war. If you are interested in having a copy of the laboratory exercise, drop me a note or call and I will send one. He also sent me another exercise which is entitled `Life in a Pine Cone' which is a laboratory exercise in which groups of students collect pine cones from several trees and examine them closely for arthropods which live in or on them. Using these ideas as a basis I'm sure that there are other `microhabitats' which some of you might decide to explore as a science project. One of the most interesting places in which to collect is an old log. It might be interesting to catalog the different species which are collected from a decaying log and to try and determine what some of the interrelationships are. Another interesting `microhabitat' which is fairly common in Mississippi pastures is the cow paddy. (I suggest you study the more aged ones.) There are also butterfly watch groups who will often give supplies of eggs and or caterpillars to groups to raise for release. The Internet is a good place to tap into some of these groups. The Young Entomology Society and the Entomology Society of America also have interesting newsletters and information for hobby entomologists and for others with a deeper interest.
A pair of knobbed antennae aid in the sense of smell and in orientation. Beneath the head is the proboscis, a tightly coiled feeding tube that is unwound for drinking nectar or other fluids. Two furry palpi protect the proboscis and assist in the sense of touch. The butterfly's large eyes are made of thousands of facets that perceive most colors of the rainbow as well as ultraviolet light. Butterflies along with bees have the widest spectrum of color vision of the insect world.
The legs have taste buds capable of sampling various substances; the front legs of some butterflies are reduced to short, brush-like paws. The four wings are covered by millions of overlapping scales. Some scales have pigments that reflect light, other scales have special shapes that refract light and produce iridescent blues, purples, and silvers. Some male butterflies have scales which are connected to glands and give off pheromones which encourages females to mate.
A number of different butterfly species migrate each year. The Question Mark migrates south each fall. The Painted Lady also migrates, but the most famous migrator is the Monarch. These insects may move as far as 2000 miles annually. In the autumn tens of thousands of these creatures move from Northern US and Canada south to southern California and Mexico where they spend the winter. In the early spring the northward movement begins. The Monarchs lay eggs all along the migratory route, these eggs hatch and go through the growth cycle then these butterflies also migrate northward as well. (Information about butterflies was taken from - The Butterfly by Maria M. Mudd and Wendy Smith-Griswold)
This is the fourth year of production of the Gloworm, and it has been a lot of fun for me. Along the way, for one reason or another I have added people's names to the mailing list. It has grown! So it was suggested that we request that you the reader decide whether you still wanted to receive it. If you want to continue to receive the letter, write to me and let me know! Gloworm is on INTERNET address: http:// www.msstate.edu/Entomology/ENTPLP.html. Try it out and see what you think. Please note that the address is case sensitive and must be used as I have it listed here.
MICHAEL R. WILLIAMS
Dr. Michael R. Williams
Entomology & Plant Pathology
Mississippi State, MS 39762-9775
phone - 601-325-2085
home - 601-323-5699
FAX - 601-325-8837