Your Extension Experts
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31 August 2000
Volume 8: no. 5
There are always sure signs that fall is coming in the insect world. The cicada and katydid songs are especially good in August and September. Just get out late in the afternoon away from people-made sounds and listen. The trees and weeds are filled with singing insects. After dark they get especially melodic. Another sure sign that fall is coming is the appearance of the looper moths around lights. There are thousands of these small noctuid moths which appear to `nectar' on every flowering plant and swarm around lights at night. They'll also lay eggs on most leafy plants and produce the characteristic caterpillar which loops as it moves along. The moths are recognized by the iridescent figure 8 on their forewings. Monarch butterflies are passing through our area again , this time headed south. Look for the fuzzy-worm caterpillars to begin crossing the road soon - they're a sure sign that fall is in the air. This year the drought has affected some of the common species of insects we see, but others which are usually in short supply have come on to take their place. Be on the lookout for different kinds of critters this year.
We've already set some dates and plans for the remainder of 2000 and 2001. Get these dates on your calendar and `let's get buggin!'
I receive an e-mail note from a gentleman in Oklahoma this summer and want to pass on the information. Mr. William T. Prouty is in the market for yellow jacket and hornet nests. His e-mail address is Hornetboy0000@aol.com. He would like to have as large (whole) nests as possible, but does not want torn or tattered ones. He is willing to pay 4-Hers for collecting them. You may write him at 5326 East 20th Street, Tulsa, Oklahoma 74112.
Yellow Jackets and Hornets - There are 18 North American species of hornets and yellow jackets. They are stout bodied wasps; their hind legs are shorter than other social vespids which include the potter, mason and paper wasp. Hornets and yellow jackets are generally black with white or yellow markings. They are eusocial, building nests of tiers of hexagonal paper cells, all enclosed in a papery envelope. Some species build their nests in the open, attached to branches or beneath any projecting surface. Other species build their nests in the ground. The most common above ground nest is that of the bald-faced hornet. Most yellow jackets nest underground.
The colony cycle of yellow jackets and hornets starts in Spring. A single queen, who has overwintered, initiates a new colony. The colony grows during the summer with the production of many non-reproductive female workers. All of the eggs are laid by the queen. In the fall the colony starts producing reproductive wasps. These are males and new queens. They are larger than workers in most species. The new queens mate with males and overwinter in a protected location, such as under the bark of a decaying log. The workers and the males of the colony die as winter begins. Yellow jackets are frequent scavengers and they are often encountered during cookouts, around dumpsters and in trash receptacles. Many people are stung as they cut tall grass and otherwise end up standing directly over a ground nest. Bald faced hornet workers prefer to feed on flies and other insects. Bald-faced hornets will also feed on their yellow jacket relatives. They continue to enlarge the nest until fall when there may be 300-400 hornet, or 600-800 yellow jacket workers. The large paper hornet nests are often unseen until fall when trees begin to lose their leaves.
Remember pins and boxes are available through the MSU Entomology Department. Ask your agent to call Sherry at 662-325-2085 and request what you need. We'll bill you when we send the materials out. Boxes are $24 each and pins are $5 per 100.
Dr. Michael R. Williams
Entomology & Plant Pathology
Mississippi State, MS 39762-9775
phone - 601-325-2085
home - 601-323-5699
FAX - 601-325-8837