Your Extension Experts
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26 February 1999
Volume 7: no. 2
Baseball is here and the butterflies, at least some of the Sulphurs, have been flitting about on warm days. Moths and beetles have been coming to lights all winter, so some of them probably never went into hibernation at all. One of the questions everybody always asks is about overwintered survival - it's one of the most difficult to answer. The abundance of insects of a particular species is often determined more by spring and summer weather - which affects hosts, than by the harshness of the winter. Many insects have tremendous reproductive capability if factors are favorable to them. A single mating pair of houseflies have the potential for causing a population explosion and covering the earth with fly offspring in a single year. Natural enemies, diseases and abiotic factors hold the populations in check. Many of the thousands of eggs and immature insects are consumed by other insects or animals to serve as their sustenance for survival. Others die from viral, bacterial, or fungal diseases. All are affected by climate - including temperature and rain.
An insect which attacks a pest is referred to as a beneficial. Lady-bird-beetles (ladybugs) are the most commonly known beneficial insects in our area, but there are many more which are also helpful. Lady beetles feed primarily on aphids both as adults and as larvae. The immature larvae looks like a small colorful alligator.
The praying mantis is another beneficial insect which is well known. They begin to emerge from the `ootheca' egg capsule in the spring as small nymphal mantises. As many as 150 to 200 may emerge from a single ootheca, but only a very few will survive to become adults, for they will feed on one another.
Activities for 1999
We have just finished the Mississippi Beekeeping Association Essay Contest. The winners this year were Henry Thompson - 1st place, and Elaina Hagel - 2nd place and Audra Hagel 3rd place. Henry is from Hattiesburg and Elaina and Audra are from Byhalia. They received cash awards from the Mississippi Beekeepers. We had 62 essays this year. This is a good end of the year project for young people. We'll announce the subject of the 2000 essay in early summer. The Mississippi Bee Essay is due December 1.
A number of counties are already preparing for the 4-H Linnaean games. These should prove to be a lot of fun this year as we see some `grudge matches' developing between some of the teams. Senior competition is scheduled for 4-H Club Congress and Juniors will compete during the Project Achievement Days in each district.
Camp is scheduled for June 6-10 at Wall Doxey State Park, Holly Springs. We're planning some different activities with a theme of `It's a bugs life' this year. We already have a number of applications from out of state. It's important that we get your application as early as possible so we can make preparations. An application is enclosed in the Gloworm.
Butterfly Gardens are still very popular. It's also time to get some of your plants started. We planted (in pots) some maypop and also started some zinnias in the last week or so. These will be set out as soon as the threat of frost is past. Parsley, dill and other herbs which are used as larval host plants can also be started and transplanted.
Get outside and enjoy the early spring insects.
Dr. Michael R. Williams
Entomology & Plant Pathology
Mississippi State, MS 39762-9775
phone - 601-325-2085
home - 601-323-5699
FAX - 601-325-8837