24 June 1994
Volume 2: no. 6
Wow, the summer has hardly arrived and I'm already so covered over with things to do that I'm sure that many will have to be forgotten until next year. This is the first free couple of hours I have been able to find to try and put a `Gloworm' together. We finished our Entomology Camp up on June 10. It was a `big success', of course, I'm prejudiced about it. We spent from Sunday afternoon until Friday noon, learning about insects and hunting them. The big attraction at camp was that everybody wanted to catch a STAG BEETLE. That became the battle cry for all the campers throughout the week. Dr. Jerome Goddard told us on Sunday night that he had collected and sold a stag beetle (male) for $37.50. So everybody wanted to catch one and send it in to get rich. We did catch 4 or 5 during the week, but haven't gotten the address from Dr. Goddard, yet. Most of the campers went home with 40 to 50 pinned specimens, with a much better understanding of insects, insect collecting, and with about 30 new friends. We are already talking about camp for 1995.
Last month I gave out some incorrect addresses and information. BioQuip Products have moved to 17803 LaSalle Avenue, Gardena, CA 90248-3602; telephone 310-324-0620. The entomological blacklight sells for $42.50 (DC), $45.00 (AC) and $70.00 (dual AC/DC). I could not locate the new address for American Biological Supply Company. Dr. Brown tells me that the DC light comes equipped with a cigarette lighter like plug and that clips to fit a battery must be purchased separately, (ca. $9.00). Black lighting is adventuresome and fun.
Collecting Tips: At times collecting is fast and furious, and we don't have time to wait until one specimen is killed before another needs to be placed in the kill jar. Multiple kill jars, about the size of baby food jars (narrower and deeper jars are even better), work really well. Keep them well charged with ethyl acetate, that's finger nail polish remover, nonacetone type. Also, remember that an alcohol jar (ethanol is best) can be use as a kill jar for almost all insects, except Lepidoptera. When beetles and other insects dry out from their alcohol bath they look as good as new and they don't become brittle if they have to stay in the alcohol longer than a day or two. It is important that specimens collected be processed as quickly as possible. Always work them up being careful to apply correct Date, Locality and Collector information to specimens as soon after collection as possible.
Spreading boards and pinning blocks are easily constructed using the foam poster board which is available at most frame shops. Lepidoptera should be spread within a day of collection, but if they dry out before they are spread, they can be relaxed by placing them in a closed container with a damp paper towel. Don't leave them that way more than a day or so or they will mold and ruin. Spread the wings carefully on the boards making sure that they are at the correct level to prevent canting upward or drooping after they are removed from the board. Wax paper can be used to cover and hold the wings in place while they are drying. Pins can hold the paper down without penetrating the wings. Use patience and take your time when working up a day's catch. That can make all the difference in the world in the way a collection looks.
Insects to look for: As the summer progresses the more colorful butterflies appear, looking for flowering plants from which they collect nectar. Many are also looking for larval host plants for egg laying (oviposition). A variety of plants will often attract a variety of insects, so if you are planning a butterfly garden, plant as many kinds of plants as you can. Tiger Beetles are also plentiful during the hot part of the summer, but they may require some ingenuity to find. They are often very active in sandy areas which are not overgrown by vegetation. Larvae can be found in burrows in the sandy soil. Velvet ants are often seen in the same general area. Pitfall traps may be used to collect insects of this kind. Simply dig a shallow hole and place a cup, usually two cups, one inside the other work best, so that the lip of the cup is level with the soil line. Add alcohol to the cup. Check the cup daily, removing the insects which fall in and replenish the level of alcohol. Be sure and remove the trap when you are finished. Dragon flies have been especially plentiful this summer and are also fun to watch and to catch. Don't go overboard with any single species, but look for variety.
Enclosed in this issue are some photocopies of Entomology Camp activities. I hope you enjoy them.
Dr. Michael R. Williams
Entomology & Plant Pathology
Mississippi State, MS 39762-9775
phone - 601-325-2085
home - 601-323-5699
FAX - 601-325-8837