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Spring! (March)

Here at BUGS.org we can’t wait to get back out and go exploring for BUGS again! It has been a long, cold Winter – but it’s almost over now, YAY!

If you can wait to get back out there and want something to do, here are few thiyngs to keep an eye out for this time of year in Ohio:

These first few warm days of the season are awesome times to go for a BUG walk! It smells great! There is great energy of renewal – or restarting at least - in the air. A terrific advantage to this time of year is that there are days that are warm enough to want to be outside, but no leaves have come out yet.

This gives us a great chance to learn a little about what some of the bugs do for Winter. If a BUG is going to spend the Winter quietly not moving around much – which is what most in Ohio do – it could be a sitting duck for predators. Animals that cannot warm their body temperatures have a big problem when it is very cold outside; their muscles don’t work! Even if you taste bad, being brightly colored as a warning won’t work in the Winter because there are enough hungry and thirsty animals out there who will be willing to take a chance. And with no leaves and snow everywhere, it would stand out like a sore thumb.

Cocoons & Mantis egg cases

The pupa stage of some moths (and sometimes flies and wasps, too) is wrapped in silk-like strands produced from glands in the caterpillar’s mouthparts. They wrap themselves up to be protected from the harsh winter elements. This silk is often a light brown color giving them the added advantage of being cryptic (or blending in). Sometimes, they will wrap themselves up with silk and leaves making them even harder to spot. There are many species of big moths in Ohio. Not all of them make cocoons – some lay their pupae on the ground in the leaf litter, some even borrow underground to pupate. The ones that make cocoons are obvious when you see them.

Praying mantids (the plural is “mantids’ because the scientific Family name (from Latin) is Mantidae (which comes from the Greek word for “prophet” or “seer”). In Ohio, there are three common species – two real big ones (the Chinese Mantis and the Oriental Mantis, and one small one, the Carolina Mantis. All of these – in fact, all Mantids – enclose their eggs in stuff that comes out of their abdomens (back ends) like bubbly froth, and hardens like Styrofoam. This protects the eggs from the elements and predators and, since it is usually a faded brown color, helps them blend in to the surroundings.

While you are out walking around in the woods and fields on the pre-leaf Spring days, keep a sharp eye out! The technique for spotting cocoons and egg cases is about the same; look for ‘irregularities’ in the branches.

When trees and bushes have no leaves, their branches have a certain pattern to them. Most individual branches are fairly straight and depending on the type of plant, split from each other in similar ways. If there is a cocoon, egg case or even a dead leaf, it breaks up that pattern.

What YOU can do!

Find a place with a lot of bushes or low tree branches.
Stand very still and look.
Scan slowly back and forth and up and down.
Your eyes will adjust to the patterns in the branches.
If you are lucky, something will catch your eye!
Follow the “what you SHOULD do” guidelines below.

Check out these pictures and links of these awesome nature finds from various web sites:

Cecropia Moth Cocoon

cecrop_far     cocoon_near

Polyphemus Moth Cocoons


Chinese Mantis Egg Case

chinese eggs

Carolina Mantis Egg Cases




Check out this Cecropia Moth emerging from its cocoon!

and... check out this Praying Mantis hatching from its egg case!


Eastern Tent Caterpillar Eggs

Early in the Spring in Ohio, you can see, in the ‘V’ areas between branches of small trees (especially Black Cherry trees), little webs starting to form. Throughout the Spring and early Summer the webs grow to take up the entire space between branches. If you look closely at the web, you will see caterpillars living inside. In a later edition of “What YOU Can Do!” we will talk about these little guys more, but for now, you can find their eggs if you’re lucky!

The mother moth lays her eggs in the Fall before she dies. She ‘wraps’ them around a branch like a collar. They are shiny, black and textured so they almost look like Styrofoam.

tent egg

Eastern Tent Caterpillar Eggs

What you SHOULD do!

* Enjoy Nature in Nature *

When you see cocoons or eggs or bugs in the field, that is their home. You should think of them as if they were your friends living in their homes. You would not go to your friend’s house and ‘take’ them home with you! You may have them come visit, or if you know what they eat, stay for supper. If you know them real well, you may have them do a sleep-over. But then you’d let them go back home…. Same with BUGS!

Cocoons and eggs fall into a special category

NOTE: you cannot ‘collect’ anything at a municipal or state park or any other protected area!

- If you want to find out what is inside the cocoon or what type of eggs you have, you can carefully bring them home and give them a safe, protected place to emerge.

- Outside is best since they need to ‘see’ the Sun and feel the temperature

Many plants and animals use the changing lengths of days to know when to go to the next phase of their life cycles

- Make sure they are in a large container!

When moths and butterflies emerge from the pupae, they need space for their shriveled wings to stretch out. If the cocoon is near the bottom of the container, or if the container isn’t large enough, their wings won’t form right and they will never get better once they ‘dry.’

- Praying Mantis egg cases have TONS of babies in them.

- When these guys hatch, it is quite an event!
- They will all pile up on top of each other and die if there isn’t enough room for them to spread out and move around.

- In either case, a 10 gallon aquarium is large enough

- Make sure they won’t get flooded Put them in a garage window or a covered porch or someplace so the rain or snow doesn’t drown the bugs.

** When they emerge --- LET THEM GO HOME!!!!! **

This should go without saying, but here is some background

Many moths (like the ones above) have no mouth! They do not eat as adults. They only live for a week or two – long enough to mate, lay eggs and die. You cannot feed them if you try. All you can do is see them, and let them go!

A Mantis egg case will produce a whole whole whole bunch of babies. For the first few weeks of their lives, they eat very small insects. They will not eat anything that is dead. And you cannot find enough food for them. They will all likely die before their first skin shed. If they are in the same cage for long, they will eat each other!

Put them back where you found them – or as close as possible – that is their home!

**** Before you let them go ****

- Show everyone you can!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

- You might want to draw a picture or take a photograph (we like to make videos!), or make a story or poem about your bug’s visit.

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