18 September 2000
Volume 8: no. 6
Insects have really come back to Mississippi since the rains began to refresh things, again. The sphinx moths are active now and I've seen Luna and other of the larger more colorful species around night lights. Butterflies are also visiting the late season flowering plants. The last generation is well into full swing. We have gone almost all year with only a few Gulf Fritillaries on the maypop trellis in our butterfly garden, but they came on last week and in less than 7 days completely stripped the leaves from the plants. Bees and wasps have also been very active on the flowers. Field crickets have been extremely abundant this fall both around lights and in most gardens. We've had reports of damaging numbers of these critters in the cracked ground feeding on sweetpotatoes.
I ran a number of reminders in `Gloworm' 5 and have chosen to run them prominently again as a reminder that we'd really like to stimulate more participation.
- BEE ESSAY CONTEST - the deadline for submission of the 2001 Bee Essay Contest is January 10, 2001. Don't wait until January to begin. Do the essay in October and submit it to me, I'll be happy to hold it until deadline. This year's topic is `Encouraging Youth to Become Beekeepers.' All 4-H agents have the rules for the essay contest. They are on the WWW at http://www.msstate.edu/Entomology/4-H/bee2000.html. There are cash prizes for Mississippi winners and for national winners, as well. Many school teachers will allow students to write the essay as a class project.
- 4-H Entomology Camp - June 2-5, 2001 - at Holmes County State Park, Durant, Mississippi. Camp is for ages 10 and above (adults are welcome) and will have a limited enrollment this year. The cost of camp is $125. We already have registrations for the 2001 camp. The enrollment form and information is included on the 4-H Entomology Camp Home page - http://www.msstate.edu/Entomology/4-H/camp.html.
- Linnaean Game Questions must be submitted by May 1, 2001. Each participating team must submit 20 questions to be eligible for the Games. We would welcome the opportunity to work with some teams in the fall and get some challenges going. (I.e. Would the Junior Team from Lee County like a rematch with Pontotoc County this fall?) We're also looking for additional sponsors for this contest.
Fall is the best time to do insect collections. Insects are the most abundant at this time of year, until frost. If you anticipate having to do a school insect collection for the spring, getting a head start now is very smart. Lights are especially good on the warm nights during the fall.
Each year in the spring thousands of Monarch butterflies migrate northward from overwintering grounds in Mexico toward Canada. They visit milkweed plants along the way laying eggs and raising broods of monarch offspring who move ever northward until late July and early August. Then the final summer generation begins its return journey south to Mexico. Hundreds of them will mass on plants along the Gulf Coast in the fall getting one last nectar meal before striking out across the water to their overwintering quarters in Mexico. Females Monarchs secrete a small amount of glue to attach the eggs directly to a suitable host plant. The average female butterfly lays from 100 to 300 eggs. Researchers have studied egg numbers in captive females; Monarch butterflies average about 700 eggs per female over two to five weeks of egg laying. Most caterpillars, including Monarchs, begin life by eating their eggshell, and then move on to the plant on which they were laid. The Monarch larvae passes through 5 instars and lasts from nine to fourteen days under normal summer temperatures. Monarch larvae are somewhat protected from bird predation by the toxins in the milkweed that they eat, but many are eaten by other insects and spiders. Just before they pupate, Monarch larvae spin a silk mat from which they hang upside down. The silk comes from the spinneret on the bottom of the head. After shedding its skin for the last time, the caterpillar stabs a stem into the silk pad to hang. This stem extends from its rear end and is called the cremaster. During the pupal stage the transformation from larva to adult is completed. Monarch pupae are green with small golden spots! The function of the beautiful gold spots is unknown. The primary job of the adult stage is to reproduce - to mate and lay the eggs that will become the next generation. Monarchs do not mate until they are three to eight days old. When they mate they remain together from one afternoon until early the next morning - often up to 16 hours! Females begin laying eggs right after their first mating, and both sexes will mate several times during their lives. Adults in summer generations live from two to five weeks. Each year, the final generation of Monarchs, which emerges in late summer and early fall, has an additional job: to migrate to their overwintering grounds, either in central Mexico for eastern Monarchs or in California for western Monarchs. Here they survive the long winter until conditions in the United States allow them to return to reproduce. These adults can live up to eight or nine months.
Dr. Michael R. Williams
Entomology & Plant Pathology
Mississippi State, MS 39762-9775
phone - 601-325-2085
home - 601-323-5699
FAX - 601-325-8837