By Patricia Drackett, Director, The Crosby Arboretum/MSU Extension Service
The Picayune Item
Plans are already well underway for crafting a “buggy good time” for you and your family at the Crosby Arboretum in September! In case you haven’t heard of BugFest, this is our annual celebration of all things creepy crawly. More than 600 people have been known to attend over the two day festival, which includes the popular night collecting activities on Friday, September 28.
Pre-registered school groups will begin arriving at 10:00 a.m. Friday, September 27 for their field collecting activities on, and the event will conclude the following day at 4 p.m. The classes will be greeted by Arboretum volunteers, and students and professors from Mississippi State University specializing in entomology. Instruction will be provided on collecting methods and the classes will then descend upon the Arboretum grounds to try their hand with nets and collecting jars.
When they discover something of interest, they will return to the Pinecote Pavilion for help in identifying the insect. Many will be collecting specimens to build their insect collections, while others will simply observe, identify, and release them. Throughout the event, a station will be set up on the Pavilion to provide help with pinning insect specimens.
Some of the MSU students who will be providing instruction for the visiting classes are long-time “bug campers” who once attended summer entomology camps on the MSU campus for elementary and high school students. Today, they are providing assistance for the camps and events such as BugFest, having made the transition to college studies in entomology. Many bring outstanding insect collections to the event and each year his collections grow more impressive. Dust off your headlamp and join these young adults and our other Arboretum volunteers in your quest for some bugs! Why might you choose to spend your time collecting or observing insects? The simple reason is that they are incredibly fascinating. The collecting process also teaches children many valuable transferable skills, for example, through their observation of characteristics in order to identify them, and also through the methodical process of sorting the insects into specific groups, called insect orders.
You might also find that watching a cicada emerge from its exoskeleton (the topic of a recent column) is more exciting than watching television, because it’s real, amazing, and happening right in front of you. And after observing such an event, you may suspect where scriptwriters of horror movies found the inspiration for their screen monsters.
One of the Crosby Arboretum’s trails honors an insect aficionado, Dr. Ross E. Hutchins who started with Mississippi State University in 1931 as a graduate student and later became Professor of Entomology and Zoology. Dr. Hutchins served as Department Head from 1951 to 1963 and was a prolific writer and photographer. His photography collection is held in the Mississippi Entomological Museum, located on Mississippi State University’s Starkville campus. Some of his pictures can be viewed on their website (just enter the keywords into your favorite search engine), such as the one titled “Two male stag beetles fighting”. Photos like this are seen throughout the many delightful books Dr. Hutchins has authored on insect life and the natural world.
Teachers and homeschool educators interested in the sciences have long ago discovered that Dr. Hutchins’ books, very popular in the 1970’s, may now be picked up inexpensively at library discard sales or through used book sites on the Internet. Although they are written for a younger, junior-high or high school audience, his books are very readable, enjoyable, and educational for all ages.
Tips and manuals, along with other information to assist you in your buggy experience at the Arboretum or in your own backyard is available on the Internet, for example, a 4-H Entomology Handbook can be downloaded from our website (www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.e
Join us on Friday, September 6 for a wildflower field walk from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with Dr. Sue Wilder, Regional Ecologist, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Although we are approaching the end of the summer growing season, our site is still full of beautiful blooming native plants. Sue will discuss the native wildflowers that are flowering this time of year and talk about the ecology of the Arboretum’s habitats and the adaptations that plants and animals have made to live in their environments.
On Saturday, Sept. 14, from10 to 11 a.m., a special program will be offered on Home Landscape Design and Renovation to help you prepare for our upcoming plant sale. Learn the steps for analyzing your property, and creating low-maintenance and attractive landscapes with Crosby Arboretum Director Pat Drackett. Mississippi native plants for your home landscape will also be discussed as low-maintenance options. Both programs are free to members and only $5 for non-members. Don’t forget to mark your calendar for the Arboretum’s Fall Native Plant Sale that will be held on Friday/ Saturday, Sept. 20 and 21, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Site admission is free this day. Many hard to find native trees, shrubs, and perennials will be available for purchase, and volunteers will provide information to guide you in locating them on your property.
For detailed information on Bugfest, see our website. Interested school groups may call the Arboretum office to schedule a Friday arrival time by calling (601) 799-2311. We are open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and located in Picayune, off I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59).
For further exploration:
See “Insect Collecting Methods”, by Joe MacGown, on the Mississippi Entomological Museum’s website, for lists and information on collecting supplies for both terrestrial and aquatic insects.
See www.whatsthatbug.com for reader-submitted images and questions and answers that will always amaze.
Get the book “Pet Bugs” or “More Pet Bugs” for instructions on how to keep a variety of very economical pets