2017 Photo Contest Winners

Congratulations to all of our UConn Extension Bug Week photo contest winners for 2017!

Junior Category

caterpillar
1st Place – Ketishia, Willimantic, CT
bee on flower
2nd Place – Kalia, Willimantic, CT
Daeni photo
3rd Place – Daeni, Willimantic, CT
shining wings
4th Place – Amelie, Columbia, CT

 

Senior Category

bee
1st Place – Julia Pratt, “Final Approach” – East Windsor, CT
grasshopper
2nd Place – Sylvia Gott – “Sunny Day Friend” – Colchester, CT
praying mantis
3rd Place – Kathy Lynch, “Praying Mantis” – Vernon, CT

 

Professional Category

bee
1st Place – Jeff Gonci – “Buzzy Bee” – Manchester, CT

Cecropia moth caterpillar

Cecropia moth caterpillar
Cecropia moth caterpillar. Photo: Pamm Cooper, UConn Extension.

This is a Cecropia moth caterpillar. Do you want to see one in person? Meet this guy, and lots of other bugs on Saturday at our Bug Walks event in Vernon.

  • Bug Walks in Vernon (24 Hyde Avenue) – Saturday, July 29th 10 AM – 1 PM
    • Find out all about insects and where to look for them at Bug Walks at the Tolland Agricultural Center in Vernon. 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.

Syrphid Flies

Donna Ellis, UConn, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, 2017.

Syrphid flies are also known as hover flies or flower flies. These tiny beneficial insects are members of the insect order Diptera, which includes flies, mosquitoes, and gnats. They adults vary in size, but the common ones we often see in our area are less than ¼ inch in length. Syrphid flies have 2 wings and are sometimes mistaken for small bees due to similar markings on their abdomen, but they are flies and do not bite or sting. Syrphid flies are amazing pollinators, feeding on pollen and nectar from many annuals and perennials during the summer months. These beneficials are called hover flies because they can actually hover over plants while flying.

Syrphid flies go through complete metamorphosis, from egg to larva (the larva are technically called maggots because they are flies), on to a pupal stage, and finally to adult. As an immature larva, they can feed on many soft-bodied plant pests, such as aphids, eggs, scales, caterpillars, and leafhoppers. The larvae can be found in many colors, including green, brown, yellow, or off-white. To find their prey, larvae move their legless bodies around on plants and swing their heads until they bump into their next meal. Despite their small size, a syrphid fly larva can feed on hundreds of insects before it develops into an adult. The adults only feed on pollen and nectar. There can be a number of generations of these helpful insects during the summer months. Look for them on the flowers in your garden!

syrphid fly adult
A syrphid fly adult, also called a hover fly. These
beneficial insects are often found hovering over flowers.
Photo by Donna Ellis, UConn.
syrphid fly larva
A syrphid fly larva, or maggot.
Photo by David Cappaert, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org.
syrphid fly on flower
If you look carefully near the center of the flower,
you will see a tiny adult syrphid fly.
Photo by Donna Ellis, UConn.

References

Gardiner, M.M. 2004. Good Garden Bugs. Everything You Need to Know About Beneficial Predatory Insects. Quarry Books, Beverly, MA. 176 pp.

Walliser, J. 2014. Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden. Timber Press, Portland, OR. 240 pp.

Spittlebug: A Unique Little Insect

Spittlebug: A Unique Little Insect

By Joan Allen

spittlebug foam
Spittlebug Foam. Photo credit: Gerald J. Lenhard, Louisiana State University, Bugwood.org

Spittlebugs are common and easily recognized by the white foamy ‘spittle’ produced by the nymph or immature stage of the insects as they feed. Adults are less commonly seen but are commonly known as froghoppers (close relatives of leafhoppers, etc). Depending on the reference, there are anywhere from 30 to 60+ spittlebug species in the United States. All feed on plants, including both woody and herbaceous types. Some spittlebugs have broad host ranges and others narrow.

There is usually only one generation per year and most overwinter in the egg stage inside overwintering plant tissue where they were deposited by the females in from mid to late summer to early fall, depending on species. Hatch occurs in the spring, probably in May in Connecticut. Even though spittlebugs feed by extracting plant sap/juice through needle-like mouth parts, they seldom cause notable injury to the plant. There are a few exceptions including the meadow spittlebug (Philaenus spumarius) and the pine spittlebug (Aphrophora cribata).

The meadow spittlebug has a broad host range that includes both herbaceous and woody plants. It is reported to cause damage in clover, strawberry, mint, herbaceous ornamentals and both coniferous and broad-leaved woody plants when present in high numbers. Other common names include the common froghopper and the cuckoo spit (most common name in the UK). Eggs are laid in the stems or crevices of host plants in the fall. When they hatch in the spring, nymphs usually feed on the plant the eggs were laid on but they will move to younger more tender tissues as the plant grows. There are five nymph stages and all produce spittle as they feed.   Once the adult stage is reached, spittle is no longer produced and the adult is quite mobile, quickly jumping a long distance relative to its size when disturbed.

The froghoppers or adult stage are so-called because their bodies are somewhat wider at the rear like a frog. The name

Spittlebug nymph
Spittlebug nymph. Photo credit: David Cappaert, Bugwood.org

cuckoo spit may have come about because the spittle tends to be first seen in the spring around the same time that the first calls of the cuckoo bird are heard. Most adults are brown to green in color with only subtle markings but some species have striking coloration or patterns. The meadow spittlebug adult is quite variable in coloration.

So, about the spittle. The spittle offers some clear benefits to the nymph(s) hiding within. First, it helps prevent the soft-bodied little guys from drying out. In addition, it protects them from detection by potential parasites and predators. A single mass of spittle may be inhabited by multiple nymphs feeding in the same area on the plant. How is the spittle produced? First, the spittlebug ingests more plant sap than it needs for its nutrition/sustenance. The excess is expelled through the anus as a watery waste product. It mixes with a mucilaginous fluid produced by glands on the abdomen and air bubbles are introduced from a special canal by abdominal contractions. This is pretty interesting stuff going on in gardens, forests and meadows all around us each spring and early summer!

If you would like to get a closer look at a nymph, don’t be afraid to brush the foam carefully away from a plant and look for them inside. They will be up to ¼” long depending on their stage of development and may be yellowish, greenish or brown in color. They are elongated and generally are positioned head down. This facilitates the movement of the spittle downward to cover them. Nymphs are shy and will not be happy to be exposed. They will attempt to walk away but cannot run or fly.

Adult meadow spittlebug
Adult meadow spittlebug. Photo credit: Cheryl Moorehead, Bugwood.org

The biggest problem with spittlebugs in the garden, whether it’s an ornamental or food garden, is the unsightliness of the spittle masses. Spittle and nymphs can both be washed off the plants with a steady stream of water. On a small scale, they can be hand-removed and disposed of. Normally, no chemical controls are recommended and the spittle protects nymphs from contact insecticides. Not sure if there are enough spittlebugs to cause plants to be weakened? Look for distorted or stunted new growth, and of course numerous spittle masses on the same plant.

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…