Bug Week

Mantids

By Donna Ellis, UConn, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, 2015.

The insect that we commonly refer to as a praying mantis is also known as a mantid. Praying mantids earned their nickname because they hold their forelegs bent and raised as if in prayer. These large, beautiful predators belong to the insect order Mantodea. Adult mantids common to our area range in length from 5 to 11 cm and have a distinctive appearance. They capture and feed on prey using large grasping forelegs with spines. Mantids can turn their triangular heads 180 degrees as they search for their next meal. Two large compound eyes and three simple eyes allow them to see up to 20 meters away. They have an elongated thorax, the middle of their 3 body segments, which gives the appearance of a “neck”.

Neither of the two mantids common to the US are native species. The European mantid (Mantis religiosa) is also known as the praying mantid. There are green and brown forms, with green being more common. The drab coloration of these insects helps to protect and camouflage them from predators. The Chinese mantid (Tenodera aridifolia sinensis) is a larger species, brown in color with yellow and green striping found on the sides of the wings. Mantid egg cases sold in garden centers and from online sources are typically from Chinese mantids.

Praying mantids can be found on plants with similar coloration to their bodies and in areas where other insects can be found. Mantids are predators of many types of insects, including flies, moths, grasshoppers, and crickets. They wait quietly, poised and ready until a prospective meal is within reach, then quickly grab the unsuspecting prey with their strong forelegs. This action occurs so fast that it can’t be seen with the naked eye. Mantids will feed on both harmful and beneficial insect species. A female mantid will often eat the male after mating.

The life cycle of mantids is an incomplete metamorphosis that includes eggs, an immature stage (nymphs), and adults. Female mantids lay hundreds of eggs each in papery sacs that they attach to weed or other plant stems. The egg sac is the overwintering life stage for the species, and the reinforced papery material provides protection from the elements during the colder months. When young mantids hatch in spring, these nymphs greatly resemble their adult parents but are much smaller and without wings.

The official state insect of Connecticut is the European or praying mantis, designated in 1977.

Mantis-Allen Bridgman

Allen Bridgman, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Bugwood.org

 

Praying mantid

 Mantis egg case-Jim Occi

Jim Occi, BugPics, Bugwood.org

 

Praying mantid egg case

 

References

Borror, D.J. and R.E. White. 1970. Insects. Peterson Field Guides. Houghton Mifflin Company, NY, NY. 404 pp.

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

National Geographic, Praying Mantis, http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/bugs/praying-mantis/

Bug Week Offers Programs for the Whole Family

 

praying mantis
Praying Mantis. Photo: Stacey Stearns

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 who 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 20th at 5:30 PM.Activities include: cooking with bugs, games and demos for the whole family, and learning about bugs in the garden. We still have a few spots available, please RSVP to bugweek@uconn.edu or call 860-870-6974.

–  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 and a scavenger hunt. This event will be held on Tuesday, July 21st from 9-10:30 am and 5:30-7 pm. The rain date is July 22nd. Both sessions will be offered in English and Spanish.

–       Dr. 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 23rd. Times available are 10 AM, 10:30 AM, 2 PM and 2:30 PM. Please RSVP to bugweek@uconn.edu or 860-486-9228.

–       Find out all about insects and where to look for them in this UConn Bug Week event at the Museum of Natural History in Storrs on Saturday, July 25th from 1-3 PM. We’ll focus on Lepidopterans, the order of insects that includes butterflies and moths, but will see what other types of insects we can find too! This event will include a short indoor presentation with live specimens and an outdoor exploratory walk with tips on where to find a variety of insects in their natural habitats. Discover more Bug Week activities at http://bugs.uconn.edu.

–       For more information on our programs please visit http://bugs.uconn.edu

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.eduor call 860-486-9228.

Want More Bugs?

butterfly on girls nose
Photo: The Maritime Aquarium of Norwalk

Are you looking for more bug related activities, and can’t wait for Bug Week? We’ve pulled together a few things of interest for you:

WayBack Burgers is offering Cricket Milkshakes. WNPR and the Daily Share both had news stories about it. The milkshakes are only offered for a limited time, stop and visit a Wayback Burger before September to try one.

The “Flutter Zone” is a special exhibit of live butterflies from Asia and South America at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk. The Aquarium is also offering ‘Flight of the Butterflies’ in IMAX through September 7th.

Million Pollinator Garden Challenge

Million Pollinator logoPollinators are responsible for 1 out of 3 bites of food we take each day, and yet pollinators are at critical point in their own survival. Many reasons contribute to their recent decline. We know for certain, however, that more nectar and pollen sources provided by more flowering plants and trees will help improve their health and numbers. Increasing the number of pollinator-friendly gardens and landscapes will help revive the health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats and other pollinators across the country.
The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge (MPGC) is a nationwide call to action to preserve and create gardens and landscapes that help revive the health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats and other pollinators across America. We will move millions of individuals, kids and families outdoors and make a connection between pollinators and the healthy food people eat.
Pollinators Gardens Should
  • use plants that provide nectar and pollen sources
  • provide a water source,
  • be situated in sunny areas with wind breaks
  • create large “pollinator targets” of native or non-invasive plants
  • establish continuous bloom throughout the growing season
  • eliminate or minimize the impact of pesticides.
The MPGC mobilizes America’s extensive gardening community, and supports them in making more native and non-invasive pollen and nectar producing plants available in their gardens.  The Challenge increases their understanding of the critical role that such actions can play in reversing declining pollinator populations.

Citizen Scientists Needed

Citizen Scientists Needed for the Vanishing Firefly Project

By Erin Weeks

Originally Published on EntomologyToday.org

 

photinus-pyralis-awFinding a mate can be hard enough in the animal kingdom, but nocturnal creatures face an added difficulty — locating potential partners in the dark. It’s a problem many insects have solved by evolving an array of mating signals that engage all of the senses: crickets chirp, moths follow pheromone trails, fireflies glow and blink.

These signals don’t just attract other insects — they’ve also become cultural touchstones for humans. Singing crickets have been immortalized in folklore across the globe, and, at least in the West, “lightning bugs” are part of what makes hot summer nights so evocative and nostalgia-inducing.

“That’s the best thing about fireflies, they’re something people around the world have strong feelings for,” said Juang-Horng “JC” Chong, an entomologist at Clemson University in South Carolina. Those strong feelings launched Chong and another Clemson professor, Alex Chow, on a project that’s turned a simple question — are fireflies disappearing? — into a national census of the iconic insect and a citizen-science success story.

The Vanishing Firefly Project began in 2010, not long after biogeochemist Chow experienced a firefly light show for the first time. Chow, who grew up in brightly lit Hong Kong, arrived at a plantation-turned-wildlife refuge on the coast of South Carolina to study nutrient dynamics. The fireflies in the rural area put on an impressive spectacle that spring. But Chow noticed fewer fireflies after prescribed burns of the property’s forest, and he wondered if there was a correlation between the insect’s habitat use and its abundance.

Read more…