Mississippi State, MS
Special Edition Volume 9: no. 1a
Some of nature's most interesting creatures are within easy reach of all of us. Did you know that there are more kinds of insects than all other living things combined. Only in the oceans are the insects outnumbered by their cousins the crustaceans, so finding insects to look at and study is not difficult - just look around you.
Insects are a class of animals which belong to the group called Arthropoda - which is a word which means jointed foot. Insects are joined in this group by spiders (Arachnida), centipedes (Chilopoda), millipedes (Diplopoda) and crayfish and roly-polys (Crustacea).
Insects have three Major body parts: the head, the thorax and the abdomen. The head holds the eyes, mouth and antennae, to the thorax is attached the wings and legs and the abdomen houses the reproductive organs and the breathing apparatus called spiracles.
Our state insect is the honey bee! Our state butterfly is the spicebush swallowtail.
Spicebush swallowtail - Mississippi's state butterfly!
Wing span: 3 - 4 inches (7.5 - 10 cm).
Identification: Upper surface of forewing is mostly black with ivory spots along margin. Upper surface of hindwing has orange spot on costal margin and sheen of bluish (female) or bluish-green (male) scales. Underside of hindwing with pale green marginal spots.
Life history: Males patrol in woods, roads and woodland edges to find receptive females. Females lay single eggs on underside of host plant leaves. Caterpillars live in shelters of folded-over leaves and come out to feed at night. Some chrysalids from each generation hibernate. 2 generations per year from April-October. In Florida, several generations between March-December.
Caterpillar hosts: Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), sassafras trees (Sassafras albidum); perhaps prickly ash (Zanthoxylum americanum), tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana), camphor (Cinnamomum camphora), and redbay (Persea borbonia).
Adult food: Nectar from Japanese honeysuckle, jewelweed, thistles, milkweed, azalea, dogbane, lantana, mimosa, and sweet pepperbush.
Habitat: Deciduous woodlands, fields, roadsides, yards, pine barrens, wooded swamps, and parks.
Range: Eastern states from southern Canada to Florida; west to Oklahoma and central Texas. Occasionally strays to North Dakota, central Colorado, and Cuba.
Photo by L. L. Hyche, Auburn Univ., information on the spicebush swallowtail was obtained from: http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/distr/lepid/bflyusa/ms By Jane M. Struttmann.
The Gloworm newsletter is a regular publication of the Entomology Department of MSU and is free to all who request it. Send subscription requests to Gloworm, Box 9775, Miss. State, MS 39762 or e-mail requests to firstname.lastname@example.org. The newsletter is designed to assist young people in understanding more about the world of insects around them. Teachers may also request workshops and class visits by calling the MSU Entomology Department 662-325-2085.
Other activities available to young people include these 4-H Entomology projects:
Bee Essay Contest
4-H Entomology Linnaean Games
4-H Entomology Camp
Butterfly gardening project
Contact your local county 4-H Extension agent to obtain more information on these and other 4-H activities.