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Arbo Paths: Bugfest is coming!

Madagascar hissing cockroaches will be on display at this year's Bug Fest.

Madagascar hissing cockroaches will be on display at this year’s Bug Fest.

It’s almost that time again, when the fields and forests of the Crosby Arboretum will be abuzz with two whole days of insect-related activities including school field trips, night insect collecting, and children’s crafts on the Buggy Midway. Saturday afternoon, the Audubon Institute’s Bugmobile will make an appearance for several special presentations.

Bugfest will take place on Friday and Saturday, September 26 and 27. On Friday, the site will open at 9:00 a.m. to pre-registered school groups. The fun will continue until around 10:00 p.m. that evening, which will offer the popular night collecting activities. Bring your flashlight!

On Saturday, the festival is open from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. A detailed schedule is now available on the Crosby Arboretum website’s program calendar. You may also download a 40-page condensed 4-H Entomology Collecting Manual from the program calendar page – just “click the bug”. This fact-filled manual will help to orient attendees who are interested in starting an insect collection.

Our Madagascar hissing cockroaches will be graciously provided again by Nicholson Elementary gifted teacher Maureen Pollitz. Maureen has informed us that she has roaches available for adoption this year. If you would like to take home a roach (or two), bring in a container with a perforated lid. Roach care sheets will be available, and care instructions are also easily located on the Internet.

The basic essentials for your roach’s first night include a (chlorine-free) water source such as a sponge in a jar lid, some dry dog food and perhaps an orange slice or other fruit or vegetable, like a romaine lettuce leaf. Hissing roaches prefer warm, dark, moist environments. Maureen has a large piece of bark in her terrarium – actually an old aquarium. Add an inch or so of aquarium gravel. The top of the glass may be coated with petroleum jelly to keep them from crawling out, and hardware cloth or netting may be used for the lid. Although hissing cockroaches are popular pets, some persons can develop allergies to them. It is best to keep their habitat clean, and to wash your hands after handling them

Collecting nets and jars may be checked out for use on-site at Bugfest for those building a collection, as well as collecting containers for those groups who would prefer to catch and release their insects. Extension Entomologists will be available at a pinning and I.D. station for the duration of the festival, and many insect collections will be on display there. A video presentation on fun facts about insects and other arthropods will be provided on Saturday, September 27 by Extension Entomology Specialist Dr. John Guyton and former high school Bug Camp attendees, many of whom are now studying entomology at MSU.

Have an insect you need identified? Bring it to Bugfest for the Extension entomologists at the I.D. station. Specimens may also be mailed to the Mississippi State University Extension Entomology Insect Identification Lab. The service is free of charge to citizens of Mississippi. Visit the Extension website at www.MSUcares.com and enter the keywords “submitting insect samples”, to find forms, read tips on packing your insects, and obtain the address for mailing in your specimens. You may also email your bug photo directly to Pearl River County Director Dr. Eddie Smith at emlsmith@ext.msstate.edu, or Extension Urban Entomologist Dr. Blake Layton at blayton@entomology.msstate.edu

Information on beneficial insects, butterfly gardening, and pollinating insects including bees may also be found at www.MSUcares.com. 

A special Bugfest event this year will be the in-depth lesson on beekeeping on Friday, September 26 by Extension Bee Specialist Dr. Jeff Harris, who has worked with bees ever since he caught his first swarm at the age of 8. Dr. Harris was 5 when he began learning about them from his uncle, who kept bees. By the time he was in high school, he had accumulated around 25 colonies. Perhaps you know a youngster who would enjoy the upcoming events offered at Bugfest. Perhaps they will follow in Dr. Harris’s footsteps.

Mark your calendars for a buggy good time at our annual BugFest event. See the program calendar on the arboretum website at www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu for details.

Admission to the Arboretum is free for members and $5 for non-members, and $2 for children under 12. Call 601-799-2311 for more information. The Arboretum is 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: Got a bug you need to identify? Take a spin on a website such as www.whatsthatbug.com or www.bugguide.net, two informative and often entertaining resources for identification.

By Patricia Drackett