Arboretum Paths: Children’s Insect Workshop this Friday at the Arboretum

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, June 13, 2018

By Pat Drackett, Director, The Crosby Arboretum

MSU Extension Service

Do you know any youngsters who are looking for something to do on their summer vacation? Bring them to the Arboretum to enjoy a children’s insect workshop with Hancock County Extension Agent Christian Stephenson on Friday, June 13 from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m.

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It seems like everywhere you turn during lately, you will see some type of insect. Just this morning, our educational curator Jennifer Buchanan discovered that her crinum lily had been almost entirely consumed by Spanish moth caterpillars (Latin name, Xanthopastis regnatrix). I’ve spotted some big and beautiful red dragonflies darting around our Gum Pond bridge project, and bees and butterflies abound in our Pollinator Garden and the south Pitcher Plant Bog.

A multitude of moths rise to greet me just about every morning I open our Visitor Center doors. I imagine they are taking a well-deserved rest after cavorting around our outdoor lights all night long. Recently, I’ve been seeing the ones that look very much like a dried leaf. The various camouflage patterns they come in never cease to amaze.

I often pass ebony jewelwing damselflies – indicators of clean water – resting on the leaves of the arrow arum and lizard’s tail near the Arboretum’s Cypress Cove deck. Last week, I came across a small walking stick on the deck. What treats these are to find on my walks through the grounds.

Although spiders are not insects – they are arachnids, having eight legs rather than the six that are characteristic of insects – people still tend to lump them in with insects. One interesting spider common in the Savanna Exhibit is called a green lynx spider. The green coloration allows them to blend in easily and lie in wait for insects visiting flowering plants for nectar. Lynx spiders are well named, because they have cat-like, fast reflexes, and will pounce quickly upon 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, as you will usually find many of these delicate insects on their search for nectar. One of my favorite butterflies is the giant swallowtail, which has a peculiar bouncy, restless manner, and 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 are flat rocks for basking in the sun on cool mornings, wet muddy areas where they can sip water and minerals, and shallow water sources such as saucers filled with pebbles and water.

Visit the MSU Extension Service website, at and enter insect keywords such as butterflies, bees, or pest species such as fire ants, mosquitos, or bed bugs into the search field to read more about these insects.

From the Extension website, you can sign up to receive a weekly electronic newsletter about insects and their relatives called Bug’s Eye View by Extension Entomologist Dr. Blake Layton. The featured insects are both pests and non-pest species. Information on pest species includes management and control recommendations. Scroll to the bottom of the page to “Newsletters” and select “Bug’s Eye View”. You may also read archived issues on this site.

Some of my favorite insect websites are Bug Guide ( and What’s That Bug s ( which can help with insect identification. You can also submit photos of unknown insects with a description of where it was found for experts to provide a thorough and sometimes sidesplittingly humorous reply. Please be advised that the What’s That Bug website is addictive, and can keep you up late at night.

Sign up for Friday’s Insect Workshop with Christian Stephenson by calling 601-799-2311. Space is limited and reservations are requested.  Cost for non-members’ children is $5 (no charge for adults). Children must be accompanied by parent/guardian.

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).