Author: UConn Extension

Bug Out With UConn Extension

UConn Extension’s Bug Week is right around the corner, and we have programs for the whole family.

Bugs are the unsung heroes of our ecosystem, providing services such as pollination and natural pest control. However, bugs don’t stop at environmental benefits. They have also impacted our culture through the manufacturing of silk, sources of dyes, wax and honey production, food sources, and the improvement of building materials and structures. There are also problem bugs, like the Emerald Ash Borer and Brown Marmorated Stink Bug that are a concern in Connecticut. Visit our website at www.bugs.uconn.edu for featured insects and resources.

All ages are welcome to attend and explore the activities and events dedicated to insects and their relatives. Bug Week programs include:

  • Pests and Guests will be held at the Tolland Agricultural Center in Vernon on Monday, July 24th at 5:30 PM. Activities include: cooking with bugs, games and demos for the whole family, and learning about bugs in the garden. Please register at http://s.uconn.edu/3r7 or call 860-486-9228.
  • Insect Wonders at the Farm: Join UConn Extension faculty and Spring Valley Student Farm staff and students for an interactive, fun-filled ‘buggy’ event. Learn about our amazing and important insect friends by collecting and observing them. Activities for the whole family will include insect collecting, insect-inspired crafts, Bug-Bingo and a scavenger hunt. This event will be held on Tuesday, July 25th from 9-10:30 AM. The rain date is July 26th.
  • Join the Museum of Natural History, AntU and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology for an exciting afternoon on campus on Thursday, July 27th from 1-5 PM. We have tours of the insect collections, an AntU presentation, plus exhibit activities, microscope stations, giveaways, and a live ant colony. There will also be special greenhouse displays. Please register at http://s.uconn.edu/3r7 
  • Pollinators at Auerfarm in Bloomfield on Friday, July 28th from 9 AM -12 PM will have a station at the beehive, pollinator plants, and a hands-on make and take activity. The farm is home to a Foodshare garden, 4-H programs and more, offering fun for the entire family. Please register at http://s.uconn.edu/3r7 or 860-486-9228.
  • Find out all about insects and where to look for them at Bug Walks at the Tolland Agricultural Center in Vernon on Saturday, July 29th from 10 AM-1 PM. The program will have live insects on display, right out in the open, plus part of the insect collection from the UConn Natural History Museum, as well as three bug hunts that include going to the butterfly/pollinator garden and the vegetable garden on the property.
  • A photo contest is being offered, with three categories: junior, senior and professional. More details can be found at: http://bugs.uconn.edu/photo-contest/

UConn Extension offices are located across the state and offer an array of services dedicated to educating and informing the public on innovative technology and scientific improvements. Bug Week is one example of UConn Extension’s mission in tying research to real life, by addressing insects and some of their relatives.

For more information on Bug Week, please visit our website at www.bugs.uconn.edu, email bugweek@uconn.edu or call 860-486-9228.

2016 Photo Contest Winners

Thank you to all of our photo contest participants, and congratulations to the winners:

Lopez T Bug
“T Bug”
1st Place Junior: Amelie Lopez
Young Grasshopper
“Young Grasshopper”
1st Place Professional – Jennifer Dacey
Ant at the Allium
“An Ant at the Allium”
1st Place Senior – Alyssa Mattei
summer visitor
“Summer Visitor”
2nd Place Senior – Harley Erickson
forest encounter
“Forest Encounter”
3rd Place Senior – Sylvia Gott

Another Great Year of Bug Week

Thank you to everyone who participated in Bug Week this year. We had a great time at all of our programs and are looking forward to 2017!

Students at Bug Week
Students at Spring Valley Student Farm helped with Insect Wonders at the Farm
walking at farm
Insect Wonders at the Farm. Photo: Alejandro Chiriboga
Ana, Julia and Alejandro
Ana Legrand, Julia Cartabiano and Alejandro Chiriboga at Insect Wonders at the Farm
Maryann and sign
Maryann Fusco-Rollins

bee
Bug Week!
insects on plant
Bug Week!
catching insects
Ana Legrand helps a Bug Week participant catch an insect.
eating mealworms
FoodCorps service members sample mealworms
Mealworms
Preparing to sample mealworms with our FoodCorps service members
Pests and Guests
Displays at Pests and Guests Bug Week activity

crafts
Crafts at Pests and Guests Bug Week activity

Lacewings

By: Donna Ellis, UConn, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, 2016.

Lacewing adult
Lacewing adult. Source: Frank Peairs (Bugwood).

Lacewings are beneficial insects that love to eat aphids, thrips, beetles, small caterpillars, and soft scales. They play an integral role in agricultural pest control, from small backyard gardens to extensive farms. Lacewings are part of the insect order Neuroptera. All immature insects in this order are predators of other insects. Lacewing adults are 8 to 25 mm long, have delicate clear wings with many veins, and at rest they hold their wings over their body. Most lacewing adults feed only on pollen, nectar, and honeydew, but one type of green lacewing will feed on small insects as an adult. There are many different types of lacewings, separated into two larger groups of green and brown lacewings.

One of the most fascinating facts about green lacewings is that

Green lacewing larvae
Green lacewing larvae. Source: Bradley Higbee (Bugwood).

females lay their eggs on ½-inch stalks, either individually or in groups. The stalks may help protect one newly-hatched larva from being eaten by another and also reduces the risk that the eggs or developing larvae may be parasitized. Lacewing larvae, the immature stage of the insect, have a pair of strong jaws to capture and feed on their prey. The larvae impale the prey with their muscular jaws and lift it high in the air. Lacewing larvae are brown in color and are sometimes described as resembling tiny alligators. Another name for a green lacewing larva is an ant lion. These insects undergo complete metamorphosis. The larvae spin silken cocoons around plant stems or leaves during the pupal stage. Adults or pre-pupae overwinter depending on the species, with most species overwintering in cocoons and adults emerging in the spring. There may be multiple generations per year.

Lacewing egg on a stalk
Lacewing egg on a stalk. Source: David Cappaert (Bugwood).

Did you know that lacewings have well-developed hearing? They can detect predators such as bats from great distances, and they will quickly drop to the ground to avoid being eaten. These beneficial insects also use their bodies to make vibrations and attract mates of the same species.

 

References

Cranshaw, W. 2004. Garden Insects of North America. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J. 656 pp.

Gardiner, M.M. 2015. Good Garden Bugs. Quarry Books, Beverly, MA. 176 pp.

Pfeiffer, D.G. and H.W. Hogmire. Lacewings. Mid-Atlantic Orchard Monitoring Guide, http://www.virginiafruit.ento.vt.edu/lacewings.html.

Pundt, L. 2014. Biological Control of Aphids. UConn Integrated Pest Management (IPM) website http://ipm.uconn.edu/documents/raw2/html/734.php?display=print.

Bug Week 2016 – Fun for the Whole Family

UConn Extension’s Bug Week is right around the corner, and we have programs for the whole family.

Paw Paw Sphinx Caterpillar
Paw Paw Sphinx Caterpillar. Photo: Pamm Cooper

Bugs are the unsung heroes of our ecosystem, providing services such as pollination and natural pest control. However, bugs don’t stop at environmental benefits. They have also impacted our culture through the manufacturing of silk, sources of dyes, wax and honey production, food sources, and the improvement of building materials and structures. There are also problem bugs, like the Emerald Ash Borer and Brown Marmorated Stink Bug that are a concern in Connecticut. Visit our website at www.bugs.uconn.edu for featured insects and resources.

All ages are welcome to attend and explore the activities and events dedicated to insects and their relatives. Bug Week programs include:

  • Pests and Guests will be held at the Tolland Agricultural Center in Vernon on Monday, July 25th at 5:30 PM. Activities include: cooking with bugs, games and demos for the whole family, and learning about bugs in the garden. We have a few spots available, please RSVP to bugweek@uconn.edu or call 860-486-9228.
  • Insect Wonders at the Farm: Join UConn Extension faculty and Spring Valley Student Farm staff and students for an interactive, fun-filled ‘buggy’ event. Learn about our amazing and important insect friends by collecting and observing them. Activities for the whole family will include insect collecting, insect-inspired crafts, Bug-Bingo and a scavenger hunt. This event will be held on Tuesday, July 26th from 9-10:30 am and 5:30-7 pm. The rain date is July 27th. Both sessions will be offered in English and Spanish.
  • Jane O’Donnell, Manager of Scientific Collections, Invertebrates will offer tours of the Insect Collections in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology on Thursday, July 28th. All tours are full, please make plans to join us next year.
  • Find out all about insects and where to look for them at Bug Walks and Talks at the Tolland Agricultural Center in Vernon on Saturday, July 30th from 10-1 PM. We will have guided bug hunts every hour, at 10, 11, noon. Two talks will be offered: “Gardening for Native Pollinators and Butterflies” by Pamm Cooper at 10:15 and “Insect Pests of the Vegetable Garden” by Joan Allen at 11:15. We have part of the UConn Natural History museum’s insect collection with Dave Colberg, plus live specimens including native walking sticks, caterpillars and other insects found in Connecticut. We also have on-site vegetable and butterfly gardens, and will have information available about gypsy moths.
  • A photo contest is being offered, with three categories: junior, senior and professional. More details can be found at: http://bugs.uconn.edu/photo-contest/

UConn Extension offices are spread across the state and offer an array of services dedicated to educating and informing the public on innovative technology and scientific improvements. Bug Week is one example of UConn Extension’s mission in tying research to real life, by addressing insects and some of their relatives.

For more information on Bug Week, please visit our website at www.bugs.uconn.edu or email bugweek@uconn.edu or call 860-486-9228.

Wild and Wonderful Insects of New England

Article and photos by Pamm Cooper

elderberry borer
Elderberry Borer. Photo by Pamm Cooper.

Toward the end of spring and the beginning of summer, I find that the most interesting insects are to be found. While spring offers some really good forester caterpillars and their attractive moths, among other things, nature seems to me to save the best for last, it seems to me. From beetles to butterflies, moths and their caterpillars, from June on there are some fabulous finds out there.

I have to admit to being a caterpillar enthusiast, and am partial to the sphinx, dagger, slug and prominent caterpillars and then the butterfly cats as well. Last year the swallowtail butterflies were few and far between, but this year our three main species- black, spicebush and tiger- are clearly more numerous. If you know where to look, you can find them.

I like to turn over elm leaves and search for two really spectacular caterpillars. The first is the double-toothed prominent, whose projections along its back resemble those of a stegosaurus. Along with its striking coloration and patterns, this is a truly remarkable find for anyone who takes the time to look and see. The second one is the elm sphinx, sometimes called the four- horned sphinx. This caterpillar has both a brown and a green form, and has little ridges running along its back. It is a behemoth, as well, like many sphinx caterpillars- robust and heavy.

Read more…

The Monarch Butterfly

By: Ana Legrand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, 2015.

Monarch on purple cone flower
Monarch on purple cone flower. Photo: Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service

The monarch butterfly holds the record for the longest regularly repeated migration. A delicate butterfly that is able to travel between 1,200 and 2,980 miles to journey between three countries – Mexico, United States and Canada. But more on these amazing travels later. Monarchs (a.k.a Danaus plexippus for their scientific name) are bright orange butterflies with white dots on their black wing borders. They also have well-defined black veins on the wings. One can distinguish male from female butterflies by looking at the hindwings. Males have a dark spot on the hindwings while females do not.

This insect has been the inspiration of many stories and has become the symbol for many civic organizations. Its development is representative of an amazing transformation going from a single egg to a larval or caterpillar stage then to a pupa stage and finally to the adult butterfly form. Monarch caterpillars use milkweeds as their food plants. If their life cycle is intriguing then their manner of escaping harsh winter conditions is awe-inspiring. In late summer we may encounter these butterflies in what may appear a casual flight around our surroundings. However, they are engaged in a determined journey to some of the tallest mountain peaks in Mexico. In these mountains, monarchs find shelter in dense fir dominant forests. In Mexico, the fir forests are known as the ‘oyamel’ forests. Monarchs begin their voyage in summer breeding grounds in Canada and United States and fly south to avoid our harsh winters. We might take for granted our knowledge of the eastern monarch’s migration but it took a 38-year search by Frederick and Norah Urquhart to find out where the monarchs of eastern North America overwintered. The oyamel forests are found at elevations from about 9,800 to 11,000 feet above sea level on nine mountains west of Mexico City. There the butterflies form huge aggregations on oyamel firs and cypresses found also in the region. To make it through a journey of 2,980 miles, butterflies build up large quantities of body fat (yes, they too deal with that). Those that leave Canada with poor body fat reserves are less likely to reach Mexico. During their trip they stop to take nectar and in Texas and northern Mexico they really load up to make sure that their body fat reserves are good for their overwintering stay. The oyamel forests do not provide sufficient food for the millions of butterflies that assemble there.

Monarch caterpillar
Monarch caterpillar. Photo: Bruce Watt, Bugwood.org

Higher air temperatures and longer days during January and early February signal to the monarchs that it is time to leave their oyamel forests. Mating begins in January but it really peaks up during March. The butterflies that overwintered in the oyamel forests are known as the Methuselah generation because the adults survive 7-8 months. The offspring of these monarchs will not be so long-lived but survive around 4-5 weeks sufficient to leave new offspring as they keep on their journey northwards. Eventually, the great-great-great-grandchildren of the monarchs that traveled from Canada to Mexico are the ones that reach their northernmost breeding grounds during summer.

Unfortunately, these butterflies that have been able to survive such long journeys between Canada, United States and Mexico might not survive our encroachment on their habitat. Western populations of monarchs that overwinter in California face destruction of their overwintering sites as coastal land is developed. Eastern monarchs suffer increased mortality due to the loss of dense oyamel forests that provide critical microclimate protection. Other threats are loss of milkweeds for the caterpillars and impacts from climate change. In January 2015 the World Wildlife Fund in Mexico reported that the size of the 2014-2015 overwintering population was the second smallest since monitoring began in 1994. To learn more about the monarchs check out the following websites:

http://www.xerces.org/monarchs/

http://www.monarchwatch.org/

Papalotzin – documentary clip

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APyvV6S2p10

Monarch caterpillar feeding and pupating video

http://video.bugwood.org/browse/detail.cfm?vidnum=00000355

Acorn Weevil

Acorn weevil (Curculio sp.)

By: Joan Allen, UConn Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, 2015

Jon Aspinwall photo
Adult Acorn weevil. Photo: Jon Aspinwall.

The acorn weevil is not often seen but is impressive to look at because of its long snout. The chewing mouthparts are at the end of the snout, so this long ‘beak’ does not make it difficult to feed on leaves.

Eggs are laid in green acorns on trees. Larvae feed inside and emerge after the acorns fall to the ground. They burrow into the ground where they remain for 1-3 years until they become adults, completing the life cycle. The video at the National Geographic link is great for a close-up view of adult egg-laying preparation, larval emergence, and, unfortunately, a sad ending.

Acorn weevil video.

Acorn weevil life cycle and info.

 

 

 

 

Acornweevillarva.bugwood
Acorn weevil larva. Photo Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org