Crosby Arboretum Bugfest is this weekend

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Summer nights are abuzz with the songs of cicadas. These insects may spend more than a decade in the ground as nymphs before emerging to join the chorus (photo by Pat Drackett).

Summer nights are abuzz with the songs of cicadas. These insects may spend more than a decade in the ground as nymphs before emerging to join the chorus (photo by Pat Drackett).

With our annual Bugfest returning this weekend, we’ve certainly been hearing something akin to the steady buzz of insects inside our brains. And I’ve been pondering, why does the subject of insects continue to bring so many visitors each year to the Arboretum for an exploration of their life and behavior?

This subject is not unique to the Crosby Arboretum. In nearby Louisiana, insects are celebrated at the Audubon Institute’s Insectarium in New Orleans, at the summer Insect Day at the Louisiana Arboretum in Ville Platte, and on various weekends near Washington in entomological events called Bugstock. And on the same weekend as our event, over 30,000 are expected to attend an annual Bugfest at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.

Insects, like the weather, appear constantly in casual conversations. We complain about mosquitoes that inevitably appear after a rainy day, and the love bugs that steadily accumulate on our car windshields. We comment on the beauty of a passing butterfly or dragonfly, or the task-oriented labors of a honeybee or ant.

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Insects offer us fascinating topics for conversation, as do spiders, technically arachnids and not insects, having eight legs instead of six. One story is sure to lead to another. Over the last few weeks I’ve heard many references to golden orb weaver spiders, becoming more common at the Arboretum this time of the year. They build large and intricate webs, spun from an awesome golden silk. The related spiny-backed orb weaver spiders, so very tiny compared to the huge golden orb weavers, are also found on our grounds.

Enter the key words “interesting” or “amazing” and “bug facts” into your favorite Internet search engine and you’ll soon be reading some intriguing subjects. Haven’t you ever wondered how long a cockroach can live without its head? And just how big are the largest insects in the world?

It’s not necessary to kill insects in order to learn from them. At Bugfest, in addition to nets, collecting containers can be checked out to be used to observe insects after catching them. Or you may enjoy “capturing” insects with your camera. Our current gallery exhibit features photography by Doreen Leone and includes several exquisite photos she has taken of dragonflies.

Bugfest is made possible by the Mississippi State University entomology faculty and students, a component of the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology. The event has been guided by Extension Professor Dr. John Guyton for over 10 years. MSU beekeeping specialist Dr. Jeff Harris will also be at this year’s event.

Download the condensed 4-H Entomology Handbook, a 40-page reference guide, from the September program calendar page of the Crosby Arboretum website at Click the beetle to download the handbook.

Bugfest will begin on Friday, September 18 at 10 a.m. with a field day for local school groups and homeschool educators. Admission to the educational event is free for adults and $2 for students. At 6 p.m. on Friday, September 18, a Buggy Midway will feature children’s crafts until8 p.m. At dusk, night collecting activities will take place, using lighted sheets to attract beetles and moths. Bring your flashlight! On Saturday, September 19, the Buggy Midway will be open from10 a.m. to noon. The New Orleans Audubon Institute’s Bugmobile will provide several presentations, beginning at 1 p.m.
Friday after 6 p.m. and all day Saturday, admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children under 12 (Arboretum members are admitted free). If children have attended earlier with their school on Friday, there will be no re-entry charge.

A workshop on planting fall garden containers led by senior curator Jill Mirkovich will be held September 26. For more information, call601-799-2311 or see our website. The Arboretum is open Wednesdays through Sundays 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).

By Pat Drackett