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The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Project
Winter Entomology
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University of Kentucky College of Agriculture
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Department of Entomology
Youth Entomology: K-5 | 6-12 | 4-H

  The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Project

Hemlock Wooly AdelgidWhat is the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid?
The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) is a small, aphid-like insect that feeds on the Eastern Hemlock tree.  Like an aphid, HWA uses its piercing mouthparts to suck sap from its host.  Its nickname is "woolly" because of the fluffy, waxy, protective substance that the creature secretes.  HWA is not native to the United States, but came to our country by accident on ornamental plants that were brought here from Asia.  Over the last century, the insect has gradually infested stands of the Eastern Hemlock all across the eastern United States.
(Photo by Tom Coleman, UK Entomology).

Why is HWA a problem?
The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid is considered an "invasive, exotic species."  "Exotic" because it is not-native to the United States.  "Invasive" because it is a destructive, difficult-to-control pest.  HWA quickly establishes itself in an environment because few predators are adapted to feed on it.  It has also no diseases that help to reduce its population.  Eventually, an HWA infestation causes severe stress to hemlock trees, leading to their eventual death.  Although hemlock trees are not economically important lumber species in Kentucky, they are very important to the environmental health of watersheds.  Because hemlocks grow in moist valleys, they help shade forest streams during the summer.  They also help control erosion along streams.  Without hemlocks, streams would become hot and muddy - a lethal combination for aquatic animals. 

What can teachers and students do to help?
In Spring of 2006, the first hemlock woolly adelgids were confirmed in southeastern Kentucky by the University of Kentucky Department of Entomology.  So far, the insects have been found in only a few places in the state.  However, judging by the spread of HWA in Tennessee and other states, it is likely that the adelgid will continue moving north.  It is possible to save limited numbers of hemlock trees from HWA, but the trees cannot be helped if their locations are not known.

Currently, the University of Kentucky is gathering information about the location of hemlock trees in Kentucky.  Teachers and students can help us by sending us the approximate location (or GPS coordinates) of hemlock trees.  The Departments of Forestry and Entomology can then plot those locations into digital maps to help monitor the spread of HWA.  If you live in extreme southeastern Kentucky, you can also search hemlock trees for signs of HWA infestation.

Get started!
If you are interested in helping, contact us (blaken@uky.edu, 859-257-7453) for instructions on how to search for hemlock trees, how to survey for HWA infestation, and how to use the hemlock survey form (below).  We can also help you fit an HWA investigation into your science curriculum.  We will also visit your school and introduce the project to your students.  Participating students will get valuable experience with scientific data collection.  If you have access to GPS units, this is also a great excuse to use them for a real scientific project.

More information:

UK Entomology Factsheet: Meeting the Threat of the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

USDA Guidelines for HWA: PDF article

Life Stages of HWA: PDF factsheet

University of Kentucky Hemlock and HWA Survey Form: PDF data sheet

  Winter Entomology

When it's warm in Kentucky, insects are easy to find.  They're in meadows, gardens, buildings, trees - they're everywhere.  Unfortunately, the school-year is positioned atop the coldest part of the year: late fall to early spring.  This makes it tough to design an entomology curriculum, especially if you want your students to experience outdoor insect investigations.  Don't let the cold keep you and your students inside, though.  There's plenty of insects to study during the winter; they're just a little harder to find.  With a little patience (along with some gloves and a scarf), you will be amazed at the amount of arthropod activity that can be found during winter in Kentucky, especially in the habitats listed below.

Although indoor insect pests are most prevalent in summer and fall, some are active all year.  In fact, some insects and other arthropods found in Kentucky are only able to survive our winters because of climate-controlled buildings.  The House Centipede is a good example.  It is originally from the Mediterranean, but it has spread to colder parts of the world thanks to human homes.  In Kentucky, the house centipede can be found outdoors in the summer, but it comes inside homes for the winter where it hunts for roaches, spiders, and other small creatures.  Several species of small, dark-colored millipedes are also common indoors during the winter in Kentucky.  They crawl into garages, kitchens, and pantries where they feed on food scraps, dead insects, and other organic material.  House centipedes and millipedes are often captured and eaten by the American House Spider, which also thrives indoors during the winter.  These small, mottled spiders typically hide in sheltered places close to the floor and wait for prey to wander into their messy cobwebs.  It is very common to find several dead millipedes in the web of a house spider.  Other arthropods sometimes seen indoors during the winter include: cockroaches, fruit flies, sowbugs, and cellar spiders.  Also look for dry-product pests like clothes-moth larvae and flour beetles. 

When several arthropods are living in the same indoor space, they are bound to interact.  If any of these creatures can be found in the school, students can observe their behaviors and try to determine their ecological roles.  Students can also find these creatures in their own homes and garages and report any activity that they see.

American House Spider
American House Spider (R. Bessin 2000)
House Centipede
House Centipede (R. Bessin 2000)

Decaying Logs
Decaying logs are fascinating winter ecosystems.  Students can break logs apart on mild winter days to find termites, beetle larvae, centipedes, millipedes, spiders, ants, and more.  These creatures are active on all but the coldest days in Kentucky.  Termites and certain beetle larvae feed on the decaying wood.  These creatures are eaten by centipedes, sac spiders, and predatory beetle larvae.  Millipedes feed on fungus that grows inside the rotting wood.  Large bess beetles (which, like termites, use special gut flora to digest wood) are also sometimes found in decaying logs during the winter.  Also look for the larvae of flat bark beetles.  These strange-looking larvae are not well-understood, but are believed to be predatory.

Look for decaying logs in piles of firewood or forests.  Tree-lined streams and other small stands of trees may also have large logs.  The best logs for winter arthropod viewing will be large and soft.

Flat Bark Beetle Larva
Flat Bark Beetle Larva (B. Newton 2003)
Bess Beetle
Bess Beetle (B. Newton 2004)
Centipede (B. Newton 2006)

Aquatic Habitats
In Kentucky ponds, lakes, and streams, life seems to proceed as usual during the winter, though perhaps at a slower pace.  As long as the water isn't frozen, aquatic habitats in Kentucky are full of insects during the winter, and can be investigated with an aquatic dip net and a white collection pan.  Streams are home to caddisfly larvae, stonefly naiads, aquatic beetles, mayfly naiads, crane fly larvae, and dobsonfly larvae, all of which live under submerged rocks and logs.  You will also find non-insect arthropods like crayfish, aquatic worms, and sowbugs.  Lakes and large, unfrozen ponds are likely to have damselfly naiads, dragonfly naiads, and water bugs (like water boatmen, water scorpions, and backswimmers).  While conducting your investigation, use macroinvertebrate testing documents available from Kentucky Water Watch to show your students how aquatic arthropods are indicators of water health.

Cases of Caddisfly Larvae
Cases of Caddisfly Larvae (B. Newton 2002)
Dobsonfly Larva
Dobsonfly Larva (B. Newton 2005)
Crane Fly Larva
Crane Fly Larva (B. Newton 2005)
Water Beetle
Water Beetle (B. Newton 2005)
Mayfly Naiad
Mayfly Naiad (B. Newton 2005)
Stonefly Naiad
Stonefly Naiad (B. Newton 2004)
Featured Critter: Long-Jawed Orb Weavers

Long-Jawed Orb WeaverLong-jawed orb weavers are thin, long-legged spiders that belong to the scientific family Tetragnathidae.  They are distinguished by their unusually long "chelicerae."  Chelicerae are the muscular appendages to which a spiders fangs are attached. A long-jawed orb weaver uses its long chelicerae to capture prey in much the same way that a mantid uses its spiny front legs.  Like all spiders, long-jawed orb-weavers have 8 legs and two body sections (cephalothorax and abdomen).
(Photo by B. Newton 2006)

The largest species of long-jawed orb-weavers have a body length of about 1" with a leg-span of 2".  They are common in sycamore branches that overhang lakes and streams in Kentucky.  Other species are common in meadows, gardens, row-crops, and along the forest-edge.  Also belonging to the family Tetragnathidae are the "orchard spiders."  Although closely related, orchard spiders do not look very much like long-jawed orb weavers. 

For more information about long-jawed orb weavers and orchard spiders, visit the Long-Jawed Orb Weaver Critter File.

Entomology Media

Insect-Lo-PediaYoung Naturalist's Handbook: Insect-lo-pedia

by Matthew Reinhart

There are thousands of children's books out there, and many of them are about insects.  The writer of children's entomology literature faces a difficult task: create a book that stands out.

The Insect-Lo-Pedia, part of Matthew Reinhart's "Young Naturalists Handbook" series, scores in the content department.  It has lots of interesting facts and figures about insects and covers all the basics, like "insect anatomy" and "what is and what is not an insect."  This is the stuff that is interesting and educational for 7-9 year-olds.  Lots of books have this kind of entomological information, but many writers of entomology books for children place the information randomly throughout the book, or organize the info by topic.  Instead, Reinhart's book appeals because he breaks the info down by "type of insect."  In fact, without spelling it out, he covers every major scientific insect order (26 of them), with pictures and facts for each order.  So, along with the usual insects like beetles and butterflies, Reinhart includes seldom-encountered insect orders (like rock crawlers and web spinners) and common insect orders that are rarely mentioned in kid's literature (like scorpionflies and thrips).  This thorough coverage lives up to the title "Insect-Lo-Pedia."  One thing that I don't understand: why does Reinhart include lots of detailed scientific species names (Phryganea grandis and Megaloprepus coerulatus, e.g.), but leave out the scientific insect order names?  I would like to have seen the scientific order names instead of species names, especially since the book is organized by insect order.

My only other complaint about Insect-Lo-Pedia is with the style of the artwork.  The insect drawings are colorful and anatomically accurate, but generic, and maybe a little "cute" for the 7-9 set.  I would expect that a 7-9 year-old who wants this level of insect information might prefer either photos or highly realistic drawings.  But that's just my taste: Reinhart sells a lot of books, and so do other children's writers who use this art style.

Tom Myers, Nature Photographer
KET (Kentucky Educational Television)

Mixed Media Edisode 804

Online Streaming Video at: www.ket.org/cgi-bin/foxweb.exe/db/ket/dmps/Programs?id=MIXM0804
Tom Myers owns a pest-control company in Lexington, Kentucky.  When he is not controlling insects, Tom is photographing them.  He has photographed insects (and other creatures) from all over the world, and this video clip from KET highlights his photography techniques and his passion for wildlife.  Tom often volunteers his time and his photographs for educational projects at the University of Kentucky Department of Entomology. 


Upcoming Events
Bugs-All-Day, Lexington Explorium
All Week
Family Insect Safari - Evening Edition, UK-LFCUG Arboretum, Lexington, KY
Family Insect Safari, UK-LFCUG Arboretum, Lexington, KY

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If you would like to know when each new Wee Beasties issue is posted online, send us your email address to blaken@uky.edu and we will put you on the list!  Also visit our Youth Entomology Web Resources for lesson plans and more.



If you have ideas, experiences, or information that you would like to share or would like information about educational resources available through the University of Kentucky, Department of Entomology, write, phone, or email:

Blake Newton
S-225 Agriculture Science Center - North
University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY 40546-0091
Email: blaken@uky.edu

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