Blake Newton, UK Extension Entomology
It's official: today is the first full day of spring! In Kentucky, that means mild, humid weather. And that also means bugs. This is bad news for some people, but for entomologists, it's a time for joy. It's also a good time for educators. Kids and teachers are typically trapped inside most of the school year, but spring is a time when some classrooms have an opportunity to get outside. And one of the easiest ways for a K-12 science class to take advantage of the outdoors is to study and observe insects. Insects are present in every kind of outdoor habitat, and they start appearing on mild days in early spring.
Recently, Scott Darst, (4-H Agent, Madison County Kentucky) called us and said that he was planning to take some kids outside this spring, and he wanted to know what kinds of insects you can expect to see on the earliest spring days. Here are some of them:
Butterflies. Some butterfly species overwinter as fully-grown adults (or spend the winter as pupa) and are ready to take advantage of wildflower-nectar on the first mild spring days. Some of the ones that I see in early spring in Kentucky are Commas, Question Marks, and some of the so-called Sulphurs and Whites. Yesterday, I saw one of the Whites (probably a Cabbage Butterfly).
Bees. Like butterflies, bees are pollinators, so they are ready for spring wildflowers, too. Honey Bees and several other types of bees are commonly seen on early spring days. Yesterday, I saw a large Carpenter Bee visiting daffodils in my yard.
Flies. Several types of flies are common in early spring. House Flies and their kin become active on mild winter days and early spring days to take advantage of carrion and other decaying materials that begin to thaw as winter comes to an end. Crane flies breed in cool wet areas, so spring is a time for them to thrive.
Spiders. While spiders are probably most-commonly noticed in late summer and early fall in Kentucky, there are several types that are active as soon as mild temperatures return in the spring. Furrow Spiders are one of the few types of orb-weavers that overwinter as adults, and they can be seen making webs in spring. I have also already seen a Bold Jumping Spider this spring. These large jumping spiders are also able to live through the winter as adults.
Others. Although the critters mentioned above are among the most noticeable early-spring insects, there are many more that you might encounter, too. Ants are already moving in Kentucky, and so are some of the wasp species. I have also seen a Boxelder Bug. Also, aquatic insects (like mayfly and stonefly naiads and caddisfly larvae) thrive in cool water, so spring is a great time to find them if you are willing to get a little bit wet!
So get out there and hunt for some bugs. If it's a sunny day and the temperature is above 50°F, I guarantee that you will find some, and it's also pretty likely that--even though bugs are involved--you'll have a better time than you would sitting inside!