Crosby Arboretum BugFest is this Friday and Saturday!

Published 11:05 am Tuesday, October 10, 2023

By Patricia R. Drackett
The Crosby Arboretum/MSU Extension Service

We are pleased to announce that BugFest 2023 is right around the corner.  Make plans to come visit this Friday or Saturday, October 13 and 14 (Friday and Saturday).  Friday morning will be a field day for area schools and homeschool groups.  We are so excited that so many students and educators will be attending this year!

Friday evening at 6:00 p.m. night activities will begin.  There will be exhibits to browse on the Pinecote Pavilion, and there will be stations with sheets set up in the woods to attract beetles and moths with black lights.  Saturday’s event will be from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and there will be fun for all ages, including the “Buggy Midway” with children’s activities.  Many exhibitors will be in attendance, including the Audubon Insectarium, the Hattiesburg Zoo, and the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. We are sincerely grateful to our sponsors this year, Orkin of Gulfport, Keesler Federal Credit Union, Wildlife Mississippi, and The Crosby Arboretum Foundation.

BugFest 2023 is a celebration of insects.  This year, the Arboretum offered a new event to get people involved in observing and capturing the beauty of the insect world with a Photo Competition!  Subjects for photos were Arthropods, which include insects, spiders, scorpions, centipedes, and millipedes on land, and crabs, crayfish, shrimp, lobsters, and barnacles in water.  The contest also highlights the various amazing Mantis species for our “Best of Show” Mantis photo award.

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Nearly eighty participants entered 130 photos this year (youth, beginner, and advanced categories).  Many photos were taken over the last month, indicating that the competition served to get numerous people outside and focused on insects.  The awards ceremony will be held on Saturday afternoon toward the end of the event, on the Pinecote Pavilion.

Insects have been declining worldwide both in the number of species and in general abundance and most people are not aware that this is occurring. happening, an issue. One of the reasons for the worldwide insect decline is loss of habitat.  What can you do?  Create more habitat for insects, which includes planting native plant species!  Reduce your lawn areas by expanding the size of your existing landscape beds.  Plant a pollinator garden with specific species that will attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators. 

Keep in mind that lawn areas do not support as wide a variety of insects as other habitats will.  Look around your property and determine where and how you can create more diverse habitat, such as meadows, bogs, and forests.

A simple way to create habitat is to simply stop mowing some areas of your lawn and allow them to evolve through the process of plant succession and “grow up” as a forest. Many years ago, in the early 1980’s, that is exactly what the planners of The Crosby Arboretum envisioned.  Twenty acres of pine savanna was decided to be retained, and each year be subjected to the application of prescribed fire for certain portions of these areas.  Forty acres was allowed to grow into the young woodland you see today.  Although we have records of the early years describing the shrubs and trees planted in the understory of the pine trees, many of these plants are no longer growing, as the forest is much shadier than it was forty years ago, as the tree canopy has become much denser. 

Letting an area return to forest will not only provide habitat for insects and other wildlife but lower your maintenance tasks.  Mowing and applying fertilizers and pesticides to your lawn can be time-consuming and costly, so consider creating more forested areas if this is possible.  Creating a diverse landscape that includes open meadows, shrubby areas, and forestland will encourage the development of a more diverse insect community, as well as more areas where wildlife can forage and nest.

Learn about the insects you encounter.  Are you seeing them on certain plants?  Perhaps that plant is a food source associated with that insect.  Find a field guide or smart phone app to help you identify them.  Start a notebook of your observations.  You can also record your insect sightings in an online database that will provide a “citizen science” resource for researchers of data that may be helpful to them. 

 The Crosby Arboretum is located off I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road. The office is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (last admission at 4:00 p.m.). Leashed pets are always welcome on our three miles of walking trails.