Your Extension Experts
Entomology; extension insect identification; fire ants; termites; insect pests in the home, lawn and
March 30, 2006
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18 January 1994
Volume 2: no. 1
Most everybody has finally settled back into the normal grind after all the HOLIDAYS. They were great, but I am happy to be finished with them for a while! It's time to start planning for an exciting `insect year' so let's get started! A number of you are looking for Science Fair Projects and insects always make a good subject for study. I'll suggest a couple of possibilities in this month's Gloworm and maybe give some others later.
Life History Study: In the fall or early winter collect 25 to 50 acorns from 3 to 4 oak trees. Carefully open some of the acorns to see if there are insect grubs inside. If at least 5 larvae are found, preserve some of them in alcohol solution, (you might also mount one of the nuts from which the larvae were taken). Collect a number of additional nuts from the trees and bury them in a large pot or pan of soil. Leave the top of the nuts level with the soil. Place a screened cage over the nuts, to prevent escape of the emerging insects and to keep animals from disturbing the nuts. Emergence should occur in May, June, and July, so the cage must be inspected weekly during these months. This experiment can possibly be moved inside to speed the process, but remember that the soil must be kept moist, but not wet. Pecans, hickory nuts, and other nuts may also be used. Screened cages are often used by entomologists to check weevil emergence in pecan groves. The cages, usually a meter square, are placed in shady areas under the trees and checked periodically for weevils. Record the number of insects which emerge, by species. How did the insects get into the nuts? How did they get out? Did all the insects feed on the nuts? What was the effect on the nuts? What would be a good cultural control method for weevil pests of nut trees?
Weight Lifting Contest: All of us have seen ants carrying leaves or other heavy loads, so it might be fun to test them to see just how much they can carry. Collect a large ant (carpenter ants are good subjects) or a grasshopper. Insects can be immobilized with cold temperatures or carbon dioxide. Weigh the insects, a postal scale might be used for this. Tie a thread around the thorax between the first and second pair of legs on the grasshopper or around the waist of a carpenter ant. Attach weights (small washers might be used) equivalent to the weight of the insect to see if they can pull them. Keep adding weight until they can no longer pull them. Record the amount of weight each insect can move. Relatively speaking, which is stronger, the ant or the grasshopper? On a body weight basis are they stronger than man? (Ideas for the two experiments above were taken from 4-H Club leader's Guide, Oklahoma Coop. Ext. Ser., OSU) Insect Names: Keeping track of living things in the world is extremely difficult, even when we have a system of identification. Scientists group organisms into smaller and smaller classification units. As the units get smaller the characteristics of the organisms are very similar. The largest unit in this system is KINGDOM, and can be generally divided into plants and animals. Kingdom is divided into PHYLA (phylum, singular), which are divided into CLASSES. Class is subdivided into ORDERS, which are divided into FAMILIES. Families are further divided into GENERA, (Genus, singular), which are divided into SPECIES. Thus each living organism can be cataloged by its characteristics. The Genus and species name is the scientific name of a particular organism and are written in italics or underlined. The Genus name is also capitalized and the species name is not. In 4-H, we use the common name of insects, because it is often very difficult to be completely certain about an individual species. Therefore, if you wanted to list an insect's complete name it would look like this:
Kingdom: Animal Phylum: Arthropoda Class: Insecta Order: Lepidoptera Family: Danidae Genus: Danaus Species: plexippus Common Name: Monarch Butterfly.
Almost all insect names are in Latin and have special meanings. For example, the butterfly listed above is an Arthropod: meaning that it has jointed appendages; it is also in the Order Lepidoptera: meaning that it has scaly wings ( Lepido - scales, ptera - wings). Thus, the Latin name often gives some clues to some of the characteristics of the organism.
Interesting Insects: Phantom midges are very similar to mosquitoes, but differ in that they have a short proboscis (snout), fewer scales on the wings, and they do not bite. The larvae are aquatic and predaceous upon mosquito larvae and other water dwellers. Their antennae are modified into prehensile organs for catching and holding prey. The larvae of one Genus are almost transparent, giving them the name `phantom midges.' The larvae of some species have a breathing tube and are very similar to mosquito larvae in appearance.
Entomology Camp Update: We have already received reservations for the entomology camp (brochure is included!!!), so each of you is encouraged to get your reservation in ASAP. Adults (teachers and 4-H volunteers, especially) are strongly encouraged to sign up, as there will be special classes for you. Please post the brochure!
Dr. Michael R. Williams
Entomology & Plant Pathology
Mississippi State, MS 39762-9775
phone - 601-325-2085
home - 601-323-5699
FAX - 601-325-8837