Kids’ Workshop – Bugs! Bugs! Bugs!

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, June 28, 2017

By Pat Drackett, Director, The Crosby Arboretum
MSU Extension Service

Do you happen to know some youngsters who are looking for something to do on their summer vacation? Bring them to the children’s insect workshop with Hancock County Extension Agent Christian Stephenson on Friday, July 7 from 10 noon.

It seems like everywhere you turn during the summer months, you will find some type of insect. Swallowtail butterflies glide through the pitcher plant bog. Ebony jewelwing damselflies – indicators of clean water – are often seen resting on the leaves of the arrow arum and lizard’s tail near the Arboretum’s Cypress Cove deck. You might even encounter a curious insect called a walking stick, a praying mantis, or a golden orb weaver spider.

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Actually, spiders are arachnids, not insects – they have eight legs rather than six, which is characteristic of insects. Still, people tend to lump them in with insects. An interesting spider that is common in the Savanna Exhibit is the green lynx spider. Its green coloration allows it to be easily camouflaged while it lies in wait for insects visiting flowering plants for nectar. Lynx spiders are well named, as they have cat-like, fast reflexes, and pounce quickly on their prey.
Are you a butterfly fan? You won’t be disappointed if you take a walk through our pitcher plant bog on a hot, sunny afternoon, which usually finds the delicate jewel-toned insects on their search for nectar. Maybe you’ll see a giant swallowtail. This butterfly has a peculiar bouncy and restless manner, and it always seems to be on the move.

Butterflies need shelter from the wind and rain, and will roost at night in shrubs. You can provide additional shelter for them by creating a brush pile in a corner of your garden. Other butterfly-friendly garden items to provide are flat rocks for basking in the sun on cool mornings, wet muddy areas where butterflies can sip water and minerals, and shallow water sources such as saucers filled with pebbles and water.

Last week, our MSU summer intern Brady Dunaway showed me a glass vial containing a large insect specimen. To my amazement I realized I was looking at a very big mosquito. Brady proceeded to recite its Latin name and characteristics of this species which is so much larger than the typical mosquitoes I am accustomed to dodging and swatting.

Being a plant person, it had simply never occurred to me that there would be more than one kind of pesky mosquito, but Brady told me there are quite a few different species found in Mississippi. I rustled up a state list of mosquitoes on the website of the Mississippi Entomological Museum (on MSU’s Starkville’s website), developed by Jerome Goddard and Joe MacGown, which contained more than fifty species. Yikes!

Brady revealed several other facts about mosquitoes, and it was news to me that both males and females will feed on flower nectar, as they need the sugar for energy. And not all species will feed on human blood, but prefer to feed instead on particular animal species.

Come learn more fun facts at the Children’s Insect Workshop on Friday, July 7, from 10:00 AM to Noon, which will be led by Hancock County Extension Agent Christian Stephenson. Summer intern Brady Dunaway, who has just returned from Mississippi State University’s “Bug Camp”, will be assisting with the workshop. Cost for non-members’ children is $2 (no charge for adults). Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Call now to reserve your child’s space in the insect workshop. A program on Hummingbirds will be offered on Saturday, July 22, from 10:00 to 11:00 AM, with long-time hummingbird bander James Bell. James will reveal how you can fill your yard with hummingbirds! Learn all about their lives, how they feed, why they fight, and tips and tricks to attract them. The program is suited to ages 8 and up. Non-member adults $5, non-members’ children $2.

Do you keep a journal, or love to write? Attend a workshop, “Bringing Nature to Life in Your Writing”, with local writer Mary Beth Magee on Saturday, July 29, from 10 AM to Noon. Fee for non-member adults is $7.
Space in programs is limited. To guarantee your space, please call 601-799-2311 as soon as possible to register. For more information, please see The Arboretum is located in Picayune, I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59).