Bug Fest at Crosby Arboretum is an educational good time
Some of the many exhibits offered at the two-day event include an observation honeybee hive and the opportunity to learn about flies that use ants as hosts for their young.
Mississippi State University Extension Service associate Lois Connington said the hive on display was just a smaller part of a larger hive, but featured windows that allowed the children to see its inner workings.
As children peered into the hive, bees flew around the area. Before each presentation Connington advised anyone with a bee allergy to keep their distance. However, many children seemed unafraid of the seemingly docile honeybees.
During the presentation she shared a little about the different classes of bees, including the drone, worker and queen.
Connington said the males are called drones, and their sole purpose is to fertilize the queen. The workers, which consist of females, perform the day to day operations of the hive. Those tasks vary depending on the age of the bee.
Younger worker bees tend to the hive cells and help keep the brood warm. When they reach about three-days-old the worker bees feed older larvae. Once they reach six-days-old they feed the younger larvae. Tasks then range from moving food within the hive beginning at 12 days old, to guarding the hive entrance at 18 days. At the last stage of their lives they collect pollen, nectar and water for the hive until their death between 35 to 45 days.
Connington said queen bees are not only raised differently than other bees, but are fed royal jelly. Royal jelly is a special food that helps them develop into the queen bee.
Many people have seen beekeepers calm bees by using smoke around the hive. Connington said the practice works because the smoke masks the scent of an alarm pheromone bees emit when danger is recognized.
Another display featured the phorid fly, an insect that uses fire ants to breed. Phorid flies are native to South America, which is where the fire ant also hails. Fire ants have become an invasive species since their introduction into the United States. Now the USDA has found a way to help control their populations. USDA Laboratory Director Ann-Marie Callcot showed children the small phorid fly, which uses fire ants to lay their eggs. For the past 10 years the USDA has introduced the flies into areas where fire ants are prevalent.
In order to reproduce, phorid flies lay an egg into the worker ant outside the hill. The egg will hatch in the thorax of the ant, and develop before migrating to the head for the final phase of development into an adult. During this stage the ant’s head will fall off and the fly will continue to develop until about 45 days after the egg was laid. The adult fly will then emerge from the head and the life cycle will begin again.
Volunteer Brady Dunaway, who is currently attending Copiah Lincoln Community College, was displaying a number of insects that live in the water, such as whirligig beetles. Dunaway said he also intends to find mosquito larvae and dragon fly nymphs in the pond at the Arboretum to show the children.
Devena Daniel, who homeschools children in Pearl River County, brought several of her students to the event. She used Bug Fest as a way to reinforce the topics she teaches the children. Whirligig beetles were an example of how water tension is used by small insects to walk across the water.
Matthew Daniel, one of Devena Daniel’s students, said he intended to catch at least two butterflies during his visit to the arboretum.
Other topics covered included the various mouth parts bugs use to eat virtually every edible substance on the planet and carnivorous plants that use insects as source of nutrition.
At the end of the day volunteers helped students pin and preserve the bugs they caught with nets handed out at the event.
Bug Fest continues today.