06 April 2000
Volume 8: no. 1
The Gloworm has been in hibernation since the last century, but it's time for it to emerge from the long nap and share some buggy news. Back on February 2 I heard that the official groundhog up in Pennsylvania had seen his shadow and proclaimed that we would have 6 more weeks of winter. Oh well, it's been the mildest winter I've ever seen! We have caught insects, especially moths, regularly throughout the winter and began catching May and June beetles on March 25 this year. That's kind of early for those critters to begin emergence here. We've also been catching large numbers of craneflies for the last 3 weeks. These delicate creatures come to lights during the cooler part of the spring, then disappear until next spring. If you're going to collect any of them, spray the specimen with hair spray or a fast drying glue to help keep the legs intact. They are very difficult to pin without losing some legs.
The interest in `butterfly gardens' continues to grow, and I'm are really having fun telling folks about our garden here at MSU. The butterflies have really responded. We planted maypop and allowed it to trellis up along the side of the building last spring. The plants covered the 4X8 foot trellis and began to flower and make the seed pods last June. The gulf fritillaries came in and began to lay eggs on the plants, caterpillars emerged and began feeding. We had caterpillars for the remainder of the year on the maypop plants. This is an easy plant to grow and it will really give you a great deal of pleasure to draw in fritillaries. You can order the seed through any good seed catalog - they are called Passion flower by the seed companies, but most Mississippians can walk along a woods line of field road and find the seed pods even this late in the spring. There will probably still be viable seed in the pod which can be planted. Another mainstay in our garden has been Zinnias. These hardy annuals reseed themselves each year and come up just at the correct time. We are already seeing seedlings appear in our flower beds in the butterfly garden. Parsley and dill should also be planted NOW. These herbs grow better in cool weather and need to be large enough to support swallowtail caterpillars in the next few weeks. We're working to get the 4-H entomology butterfly garden project guidelines completed and out to counties. We're also looking for sponsors for this project.
The interest is increasing in the 4-H Linnaean Games. We have a number of schools which have expressed interest in local competitions for the buzz-board game. It's a lot of fun, and with the 4-H connection, there are some prizes. The NEW Manual will be out in photocopy form shortly and will be submitted for official publication shortly thereafter. It will provide the prospective teams with their study materials. We'd really like to encourage the formation and participation of both junior (age 8-13) and senior (age 14-18) teams from each county.
Tomato hornworm -
Large, fat, green caterpillars (up to 10 cm long) with white stripes and a short or large red or black horn projecting upwards at the back are chewing leaves ravenously. They will not sting or hurt people.
Generations Per Year: 1 or 2 in Southern States of U.S.A. Over-winter as: Pupae (5 cm)
Eggs are spherical, greenish-yellow. They are placed one by one on the lower side of leaves. After a week these hatch into greenish-yellow caterpillars which grow into large, fat green caterpillars (up to 10 cm long) with white stripes and a large red (Tobacco worm) or black (Tomato worm) horn projecting upwards at the back. After about 2 weeks the larva begin to fatten even more and drop off the plant to burrow into the soil. They form a mahogany-brown pupae (5 cm) with a hard shell and a handle-like protuberance sticking out from the front. These are in the soil late in the season and may be there over the winter. They emerge from the soil as large grayish, brown moths (12 cm from tip to tip of wings) which fly at dusk in May and June.
The moths are often mistaken for hummingbirds. Some species can fly up to 40 miles per hour for short distances. They may have a wingspan of 4-5 inches.
Plants Attacked: Tomatoes, Tobacco, Eggplants, peppers, potatoes etc. Damage: Leaves are chewed and holes are eaten in green fruit.
Dr. Michael R. Williams
Entomology & Plant Pathology
Mississippi State, MS 39762-9775
phone - 601-325-2085
home - 601-323-5699
FAX - 601-325-8837