UConn Extension

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.

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

Aphids

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

15-151aphid-JAllen
Photo: Joan Allen. Notice you can see the cornices (tubes on the abdomen)

Aphids are tiny, soft-bodies insects with pear-shaped bodies. They have long legs and a pair of tube-like cornicles on the back of their abdomen. They have incomplete metamorphosis which means the newly hatched young gradually molt through several nymph stages until they become adults. Aphids are plant feeders and they suck plant juices through straw-like mouth parts. There are many species of aphid and some are important plant pests. When present in large numbers they cause plants to yellow, produce stunted or deformed new growth, or even die. In addition, aphids vector some plant viruses. Some aphids produce white waxy filaments that cover their body and give them a cottony appearance. Aphids excrete a liquid high in sugars called honeydew that drips onto leaves and other surfaces. Black fungi called sooty molds grow on the honeydew. Some ants like to eat the honeydew and will even protect the aphids from predators to preserve their food supply. These tiny insects often go unnoticed in low numbers but they have fascinating life cycles.  Many aphids live on a wood plant in winter and migrate to an herbaceous ornamental or vegetable plant for the summer. Some are happy to feed on a variety of plants while others are quite fussy and will only feed and reproduce on one. Aphids grow and multiply rapidly, with the time from hatch to reproducing adult as short as one week under favorable conditions. Check out the links for more info and images.

 

Aphid information great for all ages.

Aphids and ants: a fascinating relationship!

Aphid life cycles and habits.

Aphids feeding
Photo: Joan Allen. Aphids feeding

Lady Beetle

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

Lady beetles, also known as ladybird beetles or ladybugs, are members of the insect order Coleoptera, which are insects with sheathed or covered wings. The adults range in length from 1 to 10 mm, typically have round or oval bodies often brightly colored red or orange, and may have spots or other patterns on their wing covers, known as elytra. Lady beetles can be found in many habitats, including back yard landscapes, vegetable gardens and commercial farms, fruit orchards and vineyards, and natural areas, anywhere their food sources are abundant. The adult life stage of these beneficial insects can also feed on pollen, nectar, and honeydew from garden plants.

Most lady beetles are beneficial. They are predators of soft-bodied pests such as aphids and scale insects as well as insect eggs, immature insects, and mites. There are several species of lady beetles that are pests of beans, grains, and squash, however. A number of lady beetles have been used as biological controls for agricultural pests. Vedalia beetles (Rodolia cardinalis), for example, were the first biological control agents released in the US, where they controlled cottony cushion scale in California citrus groves. The twice-stabbed lady beetle (Chilocorus stigma) is a predator of aphids and scale insects in woodlands and orchards. There are native and non-native lady beetle species in the US.

Lady beetles undergo complete metamorphosis, changing from egg to adult in approximately 8 weeks. They overwinter as adults. In the spring, after mating, female lady beetles lay yellow eggs in clusters of 5 to 30, typically on the underside of leaves and often where a food source is abundant. Eggs hatch in about 4 days and the immature lady beetles, called larvae, begin to feed on their prey. Both larvae and adult lady beetles feed on the same types of prey. The larvae do not resemble adults at all, appearing more like tiny alligators with elongated bodies that are segmented, dark in color with yellow, white or red banding or spots, and sometimes with spines. Larvae feed abundantly, with a single larva devouring up to several dozen aphids per day. The larvae molt and pass through four growth stages, or instars, during a three- to four-week period. Larvae then develop into pupae, a transitional stage occurring in 3 to 12 days from which they emerge as adult lady beetles.

Some common lady beetles in Connecticut are the multi-colored Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis), the 7-spotted lady beetle (Coccinella septempunctata), and the spotted lady beetle (Coleomegilla maculata).

Asian lady beetles-Louis Tedders

Louis Tedders, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org

 

Multi-colored Asian lady beetles (Harmonia axyridis)

Spotted lady beetle-Whitney Crapshaw

Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

 

Spotted lady beetle and eggs (Coleomegilla maculata)

Lady beeetle larva-Clemson

Clemson University – USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, , Bugwood.org

 

Lady beetle larva feeding on aphids

 

References

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

University of Florida Featured Creatures http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/beneficial/lady_beetles.htm

White, R.E. 1983. Beetles. Peterson Field Guides. Houghton Mifflin Company, NY, NY. 368 pp.

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.