18 July 1994
Volume 2: no. 7
All the rain that we have been getting has really made the insects flourish, in some cases in areas that we would prefer that they don't , i.e. in our crops and gardens. I'm still getting over Entomology Camp. The 24 young people and 12 or so adults who came to Holmes County State Park in June really enjoyed themselves. We caught a few bugs while we were having a good time too! This was an experience which I would like to repeat next year. Dr. Larry Corpus, Dr. Clarence Collison, and Dr. Richard Brown are in for special thanks for taking time to come and share of their specialty with us and we'll always smile every time we see a`staggggg beetle' because of Dr. Jerome Goddard. Let these comments prick your interest, then plan to explore the world of insects with us next year.
The puddle assemblies have begun. Last week I counted about 50 sulfur butterflies around a mudpuddle, but there were about 5 or 6 other species of butterflies flitting around too. Look for them around puddles during those sunny hours between the rain showers. Now is also a good time to bait the butterfly group with ripened fruit. Peach or apple peelings are especially attractive to butterflies on warm sunny days. Simply place them in a container in an open area, hopefully away from ants. If you do it, they will come.
I recently received a newsletter on fireflies. It is the Fireflyer Companion and letter, edited by Dr. J.E. Lloyd. If you are interested in fireflies, write for a copy at Fireflies, Department of Entomology, Bldg. 970, Hull Road, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, 32611. Dr. Lloyd identifies a Fireflyer as a person who chases fireflies and thinks about lightningbugs. Fireflies or lightning bugs, as most folks in the south know them, are neither flies nor are they bugs, they are beetles. Eggs are usually laid at the base of tall grass just beneath the surface of the soil. The glowworm larvae are predaceous, usually on earthworms. They remain as larvae until the next spring where they pupate and emerge as adults during the summer May through August to repeat the cycle. The adult `bugs' use the flashing lights to attract mates. Dr. Lloyd reports that a Fireflyer can use a penlight to attract and collect female `bugs'. Use the penlight to flash short second flashes and look for the answers 2 to 3 seconds later. When you get an answer wait a few seconds and flash again. The female will fly to you. Fireflies may be held in wide mouthed jars with little or no problem. It is not necessary to punch holes in the lid, just replenish the air in the jar by blowing across the open top once each day. With the lid kept on, the inside of the jar will remain humid. This is very important. The `bugs' can be fed with a moist apple slice. Add a small handful of fresh grass to give cover and a place to climb. If you have males and females in the jar they will mate. Don't place the jar in the direct sunlight, but where the natural light will affect them. Lightningbugs are photoperiod sensitive, so they do not do as well in artificial light. Keep 3-5 females in a jar with an equal number of male fireflies. If you are successful at keeping them alive during this time, Dr. lloyd recommends that they be released at the edge of your lawn, hopefully to lay eggs in the taller weeds and grass so that new fireflies will appear next year.
Insect Basics: The other day I was talking with a lady who indicated that she thought that she had seen some `baby' boll weevils. What she actually saw were some adult boll weevils which were slightly smaller than usual. Most animals, like chickens, dogs, cats, rabbits, and even people look much like the adult when they are first born or hatched. Frogs on the other hand definitely look different when they are babies (tadpoles) than when they become adults. Most insects, especially those with wings, are like the frog. They undergo metamorphosis, change of form, which is easily seen. Some insects even have different habitats as immatures than they do as adults. Mosquitoes and dragonflies fly through the air as adults living on land, but are swimmers which live under water as immatures. The changes which occur with some insects are more drastic than with others. If an insect hatches from an egg into a larva (caterpillar or worm) which then develops into a pupa (cocoon, chrysalis, resting stage) before emerging as an adult, we say that they have complete metamorphosis. Insects in which the young and adults look very much alike are said to have an incomplete or gradual metamorphosis. They have three `life stages' - the egg, nymph and adult. Insects grow exclusively during the nymphal or larval periods. They don't grow by regular gradual degrees like rabbits or dogs. The body wall will not expand like our skin to permit this. It's much like a suit of armor. In order to grow to a larger size the armor or shell must be split and shed. This process is called molting. Thus, insects go through their immature life in stages called `instars'. Each instar is usually progressively larger. Some insects molt three times, while others may molt as many as 20 times. Lepidoptera, butterflies and moths; Coleoptera, beetles; Hymenoptera, bees and wasps; Diptera, flies and mosquitoes; all have complete metamorphosis; while Orthroptera, grasshoppers and crickets; Hemiptera, bugs; and Homoptera, aphids and cicadas; have gradual metamorphosis. One way to determine if a bug is a `baby' is to check to see if it has wings, also, most immatures are soft bodied. These two rules don't always hold true, but they provide a general guide.
We generally encourage collectors to take adult insects. The soft bodied immatures haven't developed a hard exoskeleton, so they shrink as the moisture in their bodies evaporates. If immatures are collected they are usually displayed in vials with ethanol as a preservative.
Dr. Michael R. Williams
Entomology & Plant Pathology
Mississippi State, MS 39762-9775
phone - 601-325-2085
home - 601-323-5699
FAX - 601-325-8837