insects

Volunteer Spotlight: Dr. Lynn Keller

UConn CAHNR Extension typically holds Bug Week in July; however, this year Extension has designated July as Bug Month. The UConn Extension Master Gardeners and Master Gardener interns participate. Bug Month is an educational outreach activity that promotes insects in the environment (bugs.uconn.edu/). Volunteers like Dr. Lynn Keller make this educational event fun and successful. In order to become a Master Gardener people need to attend and complete the Master Gardener program that includes coursework, office hours, and community service. The training allows them to become knowledgeable about various gardening topics.

Lynn Keller in her gardenLynn heard about the UConn Extension Master Gardener program many years ago and completed the program in 2019. She learned about a volunteer opportunity to assist with Bug Week from Gail Reynolds, the Middlesex County Master Gardener program coordinator. Lynn enjoyed her entomology (study of insects) classes in college while studying to be a veterinarian. She also enjoyed the entomology class offered by the Master Gardener program and felt like it would be a good fit for her interests.

As a volunteer, Lynn works with various program leaders to coordinate dates and events during Bug Month in July. These activities include bug kits for youth, photo contests, and educational activities. Part of her role includes finding new leaders for these programs and ensuring they have the proper resources as well as creating content for the Bug Month website (bugs.uconn.edu/). New programs are suggested every year, and Lynn works with the team to implement them in addition to fundraising and finding sponsors. She also promotes Bug Month by writing articles and participating in local radio shows.

Bug Month is designed for family participation, and Lynn enjoys educating families on the importance of insects in our lives. She says, “If we didn’t have insects, we wouldn’t have pollination, which would result in missing out on many of our favorite foods.” Her volunteer work is making an impact because adults and children are learning more about the “integral role that insects play in the food web and in our environment.” She also notes that this program provides suggestions for simple steps families can take to improve beneficial insect habitats in their yards and communities.

One of Lynn’s favorite memories from her time as an Extension volunteer is at Bug Week events in 2019. Many children attended the event at the Tolland Agricultural Center and were excited to participate in the fun activities. Lynn enjoyed seeing the children’s enthusiasm while they were looking at bugs under a microscope and learning about them. She also enjoys continuing her education on native plants and insects which allows her to share this information with family and friends. Her advice to new volunteers is to find an opportunity that you are passionate about and use that passion to make a positive difference in our communities.

The UConn Extension Master Gardener Program started in 1978 and consists of horticulture training and an outreach component that focuses on the community at large. Master Gardeners devote thousands of hours to organized community outreach projects each year. The Master Gardener program also offers Garden Master Classes for our volunteers and interested members of the general public. More information on the program and classes are available at mastergardener.uconn.edu.

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities. Learn more about our volunteer programs at s.uconn.edu/volunteers.

Article by Emily Syme

The New England Greenhouse Floriculture Guide Now Available!

2021-2022 New England Greenhouse Floriculture Guide Now Available!

New England greenhouse growers have long relied on the New England Greenhouse Floriculture Guide, for its unbiased, detailed information about insect and mite management, disease prevention and management, weed control, and plant growth regulation. The Guide is updated every two years to ensure that it provides up-to-date information about crop management
methods and products.

The New England Floriculture, Inc., sponsor of the Northeast Greenhouse Conference, in collaboration with University Cooperative Extension from New England States is proud to introduce the free online version of the New England Greenhouse Floriculture Guide: A Management Guide for Insects, Diseases, Weeds, and Growth Regulators.

We invite you to test this version of the Guide and provide us feedback about
how you use the guide. Find the guide at: http://negfg.uconn.edu/

The Guide is also available via a Print-on-Demand service. The printed guide
costs $35 (plus tax & shipping). https://www.negreenhouse.org/pest-guides.html

Insect Spotlight: Scorpionfly

Scorpionfly

Scorpionfly

Scorpionflies are harmless, but are so named because the males curl the tip of their abdomen up like a scorpions’ stinger. Life of adults and larva are not well known, but both are omnivores, eating decaying vegetation and insects. Adult scorpionflies have a head resembling that of a horse.

To learn more click here.

What is It?

Spotted Pine Sawyer BeetleWhat is it?

The Spotted Pine Sawyer Beetle. It is right on time with adults appearing in June. It’s look alike is the Asian Longhorn Beetle, but the adult stage for the ALB occurs during August, says Carol Quish from our UConn Home & Garden Education Center.

Ask us your question at: http://bit.ly/AskUConnExtension_form

Our colleagues at University of Maine Cooperative Extension have a fact sheet with more information: https://bit.ly/BeetleFactSheet

Photo: Bruce Shay

#AskUConnExtension

What is that Brown Bug in my House?

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug on wood flooringWhat is that brown bug in my house?
 
“Those are stink bugs, Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs to be exact. They come into homes in the fall to spend the winter in a resting state. They come in through attic vents, cracks and crevices, down chimneys and can crawl under siding making their way inside. They do not damage, nor do they eat or mate or lay eggs. They are just hanging out during the winter in protection inside your home,” says Carol Quish of our UConn Home & Garden Education Center.
 
“We heat and light our houses, which sends artificial environmental signals to the bugs to come out of their winter slumber and we notice them moving about inside.”
 
“To keep them from coming in the fall, seal cracks and crevices, secure window screens and weather stripping around doors and windows. Screen attic vents, too. See the factsheet link for more information.”
 
#AskUConnExtension

Bug Week Offers Programs For Whole Family

monarch butterflyUConn Extension’s Bug Week is right around the corner, and we have programs for the whole family.

Bugs are the unsung heroes of our ecosystem, providing services such as pollination and natural pest control. However, bugs don’t stop at environmental benefits. They have also impacted our culture through the manufacturing of silk, sources of dyes, wax and honey production, food sources, and the improvement of building materials and structures. There are also problem bugs, like the Emerald Ash Borer and Brown Marmorated Stink Bug that are a concern in Connecticut. Visit our website at www.bugs.uconn.edu for featured insects and resources.

All ages are welcome to attend and explore the activities and events dedicated to insects and their relatives. Bug Week programs include:

  • Pests and Guests will be held at the Tolland Agricultural Center in Vernon on Monday, July 25th at 5:30 PM. Activities include: cooking with bugs, games and demos for the whole family, and learning about bugs in the garden. We have a few spots available, please RSVP to bugweek@uconn.edu or call 860-486-9228.
  • Insect Wonders at the Farm: Join UConn Extension faculty and Spring Valley Student Farm staff and students for an interactive, fun-filled ‘buggy’ event. Learn about our amazing and important insect friends by collecting and observing them. Activities for the whole family will include insect collecting, insect-inspired crafts, Bug-Bingo and a scavenger hunt. This event will be held on Tuesday, July 26th from 9-10:30 am and 5:30-7 pm. The rain date is July 27th. Both sessions will be offered in English and Spanish.
  • Jane O’Donnell, Manager of Scientific Collections, Invertebrates will offer tours of the Insect Collections in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology on Thursday, July 28th. Times available are 12 PM and 4 PM. Please RSVP to bugweek@uconn.edu or 860-486-9228.
  • Find out all about insects and where to look for them at Bug Walks and Talks at the Tolland Agricultural Center in Vernon on Saturday, July 30th from 10-1 PM. We will have guided bug hunts every hour, at 10, 11, noon. Two talks will be offered: “Gardening for Native Pollinators and Butterflies” by Pamm Cooper at 10:15 and “Insect Pests of the Vegetable Garden” by Joan Allen at 11:15. We have part of the UConn Natural History museum’s insect collection with Dave Colberg, plus live specimens including native walking sticks, caterpillars and other insects found in Connecticut. We also have on-site vegetable and butterfly gardens.
  • A photo contest is being offered, with three categories: junior, senior and professional. More details can be found at: http://bugs.uconn.edu/photo-contest/

UConn Extension offices are spread across the state and offer an array of services dedicated to educating and informing the public on innovative technology and scientific improvements. Bug Week is one example of UConn Extension’s mission in tying research to real life, by addressing insects and some of their relatives.

For more information on Bug Week, please visit our website at www.bugs.uconn.edu or email bugweek@uconn.edu or call 860-486-9228.

Wild and Wonderful Insects of New England

Written by Pamm Cooper

elderberry borer
Elderberry Borer. Photo: Pamm Cooper

Toward the end of spring and the beginning of summer, I find that the most interesting insects are to be found. While spring offers some really good forester caterpillars and their attractive moths, among other things, nature seems to me to save the best for last, it seems to me. From beetles to butterflies, moths and their caterpillars, from June on there are some fabulous finds out there.

I have to admit to being a caterpillar enthusiast, and am partial to the sphinx, dagger, slug and prominent caterpillars and then the butterfly cats as well. Last year the swallowtail butterflies were few and far between, but this year our three main species- black, spicebush and tiger- are clearly more numerous. If you know where to look, you can find them.

I like to turn over elm leaves and search for two really spectacular caterpillars. The first is the double-toothed prominent, whose projections along its back resemble those of a stegosaurus. Along with its striking coloration and patterns, this is a truly remarkable find for anyone who takes the time to look and see. The second one is the elm sphinx, sometimes called the four- horned sphinx. This caterpillar has both a brown and a green form, and has little ridges running along its back. It is a behemoth, as well, like many sphinx caterpillars- robust and heavy.

Read more…

Winter Survival of Insects – the Right Stuff

Photo and article by Pamm Cooper for UConn Extension

 

snow covered branchDuring the cold New England winter months, we are blissfully ignorant of all the survival drama going on in the natural environment, at least as far as insects are concerned. Out of sight, out of mind, so to speak. While we have heated homes, running water and warm winter clothing, insects have only the bare necessities required to survive temperature extremes. Those that do not, such as the Monarch butterflies and some dragonflies, may migrate to more insect- friendly climates.

Those insects that remain have special survival mode states or processes that will see them through even the toughest icebox conditions nature may throw at them.

While many butterflies can overwinter in the chrysalis form, there is one that ecloses as an adult in the fall and remains a butterfly for the winter. That champion of the deep freeze is the Mourning Cloak, Nymphalis antiopa). This butterfly find shelter under loose tree bark, in open sheds or tucks away in woodpiles. Freeze tolerance is accomplished by small ice crystals that form outside the cells of vital organs. The small size of the crystals keeps them from damaging chemicals in the insect’s blood as well. Thus, the Mourning Cloak can survive freezing and thawing episodes and can even be seen flying about open woods during warm winter days.

Some insects produce chemicals resembling anti-freeze, like glycerol, that lowers the freezing point of the insect’s blood. Somewhat like cold- hardening that plants undergo, insects subjected to rapid freezes may die, but those that are physiologically prepared will tolerate the same conditions. When fully hardened to the cold, insects can survive in bark crevices or under mulch. Some, like lightning bugs, may come out from inside bark cracks if the winter temperatures rise above 40 degrees, especially on the south- facing sides of tree trunks. A few years ago, the winter was especially mild. On sunny days you could find many lightning bugs on trees, barely able to move, but still making a brief appearance.

Some insects survive by retreating in the soil below the frost line. Bumblebee queens, ants, beetle grubs and termites do not even have to go that deep in soils if there is as little as six inches of insulating snow cover. This is how scarab beetle grubs are able to return in the spring and resume feeding on lawn grass roots.

The social honeybees profit by their cooperative efforts to keep the queen war. The worker bees do this by crowding together around the queen and shivering so that their muscles generate heat. As the periphery cools, the worker bees constantly shift positions so each has a timely turn in the warm inner parts, the ultimate example of the “ gung ho” principle in action.

The life cycle of insects may include a phase known as diapause where dormancy, similar to the hibernation period of some animals, keeps the insect in a state where it can survive adverse environmental conditions for long periods of time. This may include surviving as an egg or inside a puparium. Aphid eggs are often laid in twig or bark crevices or underneath growth buds. Moths often survive by pupating in leaf litter, under the soil or in leaf shelters. Woolly bear and other tiger moth caterpillars survive winters under leaf litter and snow.

A final look at insect survival in our cold winters involves aggregation, which may also cause aggravation, if they do so in our homes. Lady beetles and Box elder bugs are two such insects that utilize this strategy, which is really more like a hop, skip and jump migration into a warmer place. A short flight to enjoy the  “Florida” of our homes until survivable outdoor conditions return.  While in a torpor, they may be well hidden, needing no food for the entire winter. Occasionally they venture out of hiding, but often fade away back into the shadows. It could just be a little spot check to see what is happening, with a quick retreat as they discover that nothing is.’

As spring arrives with warmer temperatures, the little world of insects will slowly make its appearance, whether for good or bad. So enjoy their absence, or look forward for their return, as you see fit.