Animal Ark Stampede 5K Saturday, Oct 11th

Even though the butterfly house has closed for the season, Nevada Bugs is active all year round, and we love to support other Reno area causes. That’s why we’re excited to hang out this Saturday, October 11th, at the 2nd Annual Animal Ark Stampede 5K. We’ll be there with a few live bugs and generally supporting Animal Ark and the hundreds of runners. The course takes participants through the Animal Ark wildlife sanctuary and around the beautiful surrounding hills, and there is also a kids’ fun run. Course details can be found on their website– late registration is only $40! We hope to see you there!

Animal Ark Summer

End of the season approaches!

It’s been a little while since our last post here, but it’s only because we’ve been delightfully busy! Since we returned from Arizona, we saw 700 people at a set of Washoe County Library visits, and have had a variety of groups and families visit the butterfly house.

Of course, the other big news is that the end of our open season is nearing– we have just two weekends remaining, with our last open weekend being September 25th, 26th, and 27th. But, we’re going out with a special event- we’ll be tagging and releasing monarchs on all three of our last open days between 11am and 1pm! We have been raising caterpillars that will join the migration to the west coast, and we are going to contribute our little bit to monarch migration research by tagging (with small identification stickers) and releasing adults from the butterfly house property. These tags may then be recorded by observers at the overwintering grounds, helping researchers understand where monarchs from our area migrate to, and how long it takes. We’d love for you to join us and help us release these amazing creatures into the wild.

Sometimes at the butterfly house, it’s just nice to take pictures :) The butterflies make great subjects, and there is always something interesting going on around the garden. So, without further ado, we present a small portfolio of late summer at the butterfly house.

One of our desert tortoises, Watson, dining on clover flowers

One of our desert tortoises, Watson, dining on clover flowers

Checkered skipper and buckeye, bonding time

Checkered skipper and buckeye, bonding time

Just a sample of Neil's gardening handiwork, including grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, uber-hot peppers, seaberries, raspberries, and gooseberries! Superfood galore!

Just a sample of Neil’s gardening handiwork, including grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, uber-hot peppers, seaberries, raspberries, and gooseberries! Superfood galore!

We found the cutest horned lizard baby across the street

We found the cutest horned lizard baby across the street

Some of our amazing visitors :-D

Some of our amazing visitors :-D

Mutualism in action! These ants is harvesting sugar water from this Lycaeides caterpillar.

Mutualism in action! These ants are harvesting sugar water from this Lycaeides caterpillar, and also act as good defenders if a potential predator wanders along.

Longhorn bees, a set of solitary native bee species, are

Longhorn bees, a set of solitary native bee species, are important sunflower specialist pollinators, and also use the sunflowers as a resting place.

We went mothlighting with the folks at the Tahoe Institute for Natural Sciences near Boca reservoir and had a great time!

We went mothlighting with the folks at the Tahoe Institute for Natural Science near Boca reservoir and had a great time!

 

One of our visitors found a western toad taking up residence outside the butterfly house- right under a drip irrigation emitter!

One of our visitors found a western toad taking up residence outside the butterfly house- right under a drip irrigation emitter!

We found this male and female orb weaver together... in our butterfly house. We relocated them outside!

We found this male and female orb weaver together… in our butterfly house. We relocated them outside!

The Jerusalsem artichokes are in full bloom, attracting numerous bees and flies. A great permaculture plant, providing food for humans and insects.

The Jerusalem artichokes are in full bloom, attracting numerous bees and flies. They are a great permaculture plant, providing food for humans and insects.

The kids from Triad Elementary came and release 60 painted lady adults into the house, where they basked in the sunlight and dined on old fruit, a favorite of nymphalid butterflies.

The kids from Triad Elementary came and release 60 painted lady adults into the house, where they basked in the sunlight and dined on old fruit, a favorite of nymphalid butterflies.

A copper on one of our Dyer's chamomile

A copper on one of our Dyer’s chamomile inside the house…

While a large two-tailed swallowtail necatared outside on an Echincacea flower

…while a large two-tailed swallowtail nectared outside on an Echinacea flower

We’d love to see you at the butterfly house before we close for the winter, so come on out: we’re open 10 – 3 Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays till the end of September!

Arizona Conference Highlights

Wow, what a rush! We just got back from our conference in Rio Rico, Arizona (the Invertebrates in Education and Captivity Conference) on Monday, and we were back at the butterfly house today. (As a side note, the butterfly house is looking GREAT, with lots of butterflies and the garden is in full bloom and berry harvest.) We had an amazing time, and met many great people in the captive rearing/educational invertebrate profession. This includes animal keepers and managers of zoos, butterfly houses, and natural history museums; as well as population biologists raising and studying endangered species; education researchers; and myriad others, like National Parks Service employees and wildlife photographers.

We started right off with catching bugs, on an all day adventure titled the Swing-n-Sweat! Starting in typical Sonoran Desert mesequite/acacia/cholla cactus habitat, we found large cactus longhorn beetles. We traveled around the Coronado National Forest, spotting giant water bugs, pipevine swallowtails, stag beetles, and tarantula hawks, among many others.

In the desert looking for cactus longhorn beetles

In the desert looking for cactus longhorn beetles

Cactus longhorn beetle, Monoeilema gigas

Cactus longhorn beetle, Monoeilema gigas

Female stag beetle that was hiding in a rotting log- prime beetle habitat

Female stag beetle that was hiding in a rotting log- prime beetle habitat

These tiger beetles were flying all over the banks of a small pool

These tiger beetles were flying all over the banks of a small pool

 

The next morning consisted of some great talks about citizen science projects being done around the country, like Bumble Boosters; followed by another afternoon and evening of bug hunting! This trip revealed new treasures like an 8-inch long red-headed centipede Scolopendra heros, and this 7-inch wide poplar sphinx moth that we attracted with a blacklight. There be big bugs in the desert! The monsoons made for amazing light and a wonderful rainstorm, cooling off the 105+ degree temps.

Scenery from the second day's trip

Scenery from the second day’s trip

Another stop on the second day was not only pretty but also had...

Another stop on the second day was not only pretty but also had…

Scolopendra heros, the giant red-headed centipede. Packs a very painful venom, so stand back!

Scolopendra heros, the giant red-headed centipede. Packs a very painful venom, so stand back!

It was gorgeous!

It was gorgeous!

Scorpions do in fact glow under UV light

Scorpions do in fact glow under UV light

Poplar moth, Pachysphinx modesta, a large and beautiful moth

Poplar moth, Pachysphinx modesta, a large and beautiful lepidopteran of the night

We attended a great workshop about making exhibit displays, listened to talks from fellow educators who run outreach programs, and Kevin gave a talk introducing Nevada Bugs and Butterflies and what makes us special to the group. The conference ended with a banquet and dancing amidst an astounding lightning storm outside the hotel. We left with our heads full of new ideas for displays, new techniques for keeping our insects happy, and new friends. Finally, we stopped by the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum outside Tucson, for some final inspiration with place-based, desert biodiversity education. It is an amazing museum and if you are in the Tucson area you should save a morning in your schedule to walk through beautiful gardens. Thanks to all who made this such a great conference and we look forward to coming back next year!

Flowers at sunset

Flowers at sunset

View from the Sonoran Desert Museum

View from the Sonoran Desert Museum

The Sonoran desert region is not that dissimilar from our Great Basin; just hotter. And actually wetter- Reno gets 7.5 inches of rain per year for comparison. The monsoons give enough water to support amazing (if seasonal) plant and animal diversity in the desert.

The Sonoran desert region is not that dissimilar from our Great Basin; just hotter. And actually wetter- Reno gets 7.5 inches of rain per year for comparison. The monsoons give enough water to support amazing (if seasonal) plant and animal diversity in the desert.

We'll miss you Arizona!

We’ll miss you Arizona!

 

We’re going on a trip!

Hi everybody! For the next week we’ll be going to the Invertebrates in Education and Conservation Conference (IECC) meeting, presented by the Terrestrial Invertebrate Taxonomy Advisory Group (TITAG). This conference brings together educators, photographers, zookeepers, exhibit designers, consultants, and other professionals that use invertebrates in their work from across the United States. The conference is located in the tiny town of Rio Rico, Arizona, just 15 miles north of the border with Mexico.

Neither Kevin nor Cynthia have been south of Las Vegas in a car!

When the monsoons come in July, it brings a flush of vegetation, and with it, a flush of insects. Not to mention the Sonoran desert nocturnal wildlife, which is amazing. Kevin is presenting a talk on Saturday about Nevada Bugs during the education section, and we are looking forward to learning a lot during the day and seeing lots of amazing bugs in the hot desert sun. Look for pictures from the trip on our Facebook account!

 

 

Herpetology workshop at the butterfly house July 12

Hi everyone! We’re excited to announce our next workshop this Saturday, July 12, from 10:30-11:30 at the butterfly house, with the topic this time being our native reptiles and amphibians. We’ll have two outstanding UNR researchers on site to talk “herps”- Dr. Sarah Snyder is a recent Ph.D graduate of the UNR Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology program and is now a visiting professor for Bard College at Simon’s Rock; and Chava Weitzman is a current Ph.D. student in the Tracy lab working on desert tortoise immune ecology. During the workshop they’ll introduce you to some of our native Nevada reptiles and amphibians and discuss desert reptile biology. They’ll also have live reptiles to show and touch including native frogs, snakes, and lizards, as well as two desert tortoises that have just moved into their new habitat at the butterfly house! This is sure to be a fun, educational, and interactive time, so come check it out!

Leopard lizard eating a grasshopper at the butterfly house

Leopard lizard eating a grasshopper at the butterfly house

Better weather, and a tour of the site by Neil Bertrando

The weather is much better today, which should make for great butterfly activity in and around the house- stop by and see us!

Also, on Saturday, June 28th, starting at 9AM, Neil Bertrando (the owner of our site) will be giving a tour of his entire property, which will include the butterfly hoop house, but will also be much more, as he’ll discuss how his site is integrated into the surrounding landscape, as well as a detailed tour of the permaculture design elements all around the property. A longer description is below; this is sure to be a great time packed full of cool information and ideas. More information details are below. Hope to see you there!

Join us for a tour of Steppe One Farm, the home of Neil and Katie Bertrando, this Saturday, June 28th, from 9-11 am.  Steppe One Farm is a developing agroforestry based homestead ecosystem that was planned using the Permaculture and Keyline Design systems.  It is located 10.5 miles North of the Truckee River in Lemmon Valley, the terminal basin watershed that feeds Swan Lake, at 413 Matterhorn Blvd. Reno, NV 89506.  Directions Here

With Neil as tour guide, the group will explore the food forest, windbreaks, alley crop, animal systems, and more.  We’ll look at the beneficial linkages between these systems, including strategies for water harvesting and conservation, irrigation, soil building and fertility cycling, plant selection and spacing, integrated pest management, accelerating succession, season extension, and phased implementation.

You’ll also get a chance to check out the Butterfly House and interpretive trail developed in collaboration with Nevada Bugs and Butterflies.  The Butterfly House is stocked with all Native Butterflies and lots of flowering and food producing plants.  It embodies the practical application of a main goal of Steppe One Farm: to demonstrate the potential synergy created when agriculture is designed to mimic nature.  The hoophouse itself is mobile and adapted from designs by Eliot Coleman and plans at Johhny’s Seeds (http://www.johnnyseeds.com/assets/information/7000movecattunnelbendermanual.pdf).  We’re excited to share our experience with this system and many others around the site.

Because the Butterfly House has open hours starting at 10 am, parking will be a little tricky.  We’re asking you to help us stay organized and to meet both your needs and those of others.  If you show up for the tour and plan to stay for the whole thing, please park in the roundabout driveway or along the road on the South Fenceline.  You can also park on Fir St. on the North boundary of the site if you want to be able to leave at any time.  Please be careful walking on Matterhorn Blvd. because people tend to drive very fast on weekends.

It will likely be hot and sunny, so please be prepared and bring your preference of tools to foster a comfortable and hydrated experience: for example, a sun hat, water bottle, and sunblock.  We do have red harvester ants as on-site residents, so closed toed shoes are recommended.

We’ll also have Loping Coyote Farms’ nursery plants for sale.  Some of the plants we currently have in stock are several varieties of Fruiting Mulberries, Yellow Cornelian Cherry, Purple Cherokee Tomatoes, Culinary Sage, Red Valerian, Comfrey, Creeping and Varico 2 Thyme, Hyssop, Dyer’s Chamomile, Ginko biloba (male and female), Sylvetta, Gold Button Yarrow, and Lemon balm.  Most herbs and vegetables are $5 each and most trees are $20 each.  We are also offering 5 mixed herbs or veggies for $20.
RSVPs are appreciated.  To RSVP, email neilbertrando (at) gmail.com

We hope you’ll join us to enjoy the abundant colors, aromas, flavors, and sounds that enrich our lives in the high desert at the beginning of Summer.

With Gratitude,
Loping Coyote Farms and RT Permaculture

Weather update for the butterfly house today

Hi everyone! If you’re in the Reno area today, you’ll see it’s cloudy, cooler, and even a bit windy. This means a couple things:

1) visitors to the butterfly house should dress appropriately; we are an outdoor site and are exposed to the elements (which, honestly, is normally just bright sun in Reno), and

2) the butterflies may not be quite as active today. Butterflies like warm, mostly calm, sunny days, and they may not fly as much on days like today. We’ll still be open 10-3 but if you have the flexibility, you might wait till the sun breaks through.

You can check the local weather for Lemmon Valley here. And, as always, you can call and ask us if now is an ideal time to come visit at 775-276-1393. Thanks!

Pollinator week continues

Hi everyone! We had an amazing opening day today, with 32 people coming to see the butterfly house. We had such a great time meeting new parents and kids, and planting some anise hyssop seedlings too! We will be open tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday, 10-3, as usual, and we are continuing National Pollinator Week activities with the Great Basin Community Food Co-Op Friday from 6-8 including discussion with Dr. Anne Leonard from UNR. Details below, hope to see you at the butterfly house and the co-op tomorrow!

Pollinators are responsible for creating 1/3 of the food consumed by humans every day!

Pollinators are responsible for creating 1/3 of the food consumed by humans every day!

Opening Day at the butterfly house AND community events for National Pollinator Week!

Next week is a huge week for us at Nevada Bugs and Butterflies! Not only will the butterfly house open for 2014 on Thursday, but the whole week is National Pollinator Week, and Nevada Bugs is proud to be partnering with several local organizations, celebrating the bees, flies, beetles, butterflies, bats, and other animals that pollinate most of the world’s flowers as well as 1/3 of human food crops. Here’s the rundown:

  • On Tuesday, June 17th, we’ll be at the Discovery Museum from 10am-2pm, along with UNR professor Dr. Anne Leonard and her lab, showing off some of our local pollinators and a live bumble bee colony! We’ll also have pollinator seedlings for kids to pot and take home (somewhat limited quantity).
  • The butterfly house opens on Thursday, June 19th! We’ll be open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 10am-3pm. Come see some of Nevada’s beautiful spring and summer butterflies up close, surrounded by blooming flowers and growing vegetables. You can catch butterflies, grasshoppers, and beetles on the one-acre permaculture garden, observe many species of native bees, and check out our new wooden interpretive signs that are stationed around the property to learn about plants, animals, and garden landscape. Directions to our butterfly house can be found on the Come Visit Us page of our site.
  • On Friday, June 20th we’ll be at the Great Basin Community Food Co-Op from 5:30-7:30pm, where we’ll have a honey tasting with honey collected from different crops, short films about bee pollination and conservation, and a group discussion about local pollinators with Dr. Leonard. This is a great opportunity to learn about the biology and natural history of bees from an expert doing research on them right here in Reno!
  • Finally, on Saturday, June 21st, come on out to the butterfly house anytime between 10am-3pm and make your very own native bee house. These reed structures are easy to make and provide crucial nesting habitat for many different species of cavity-nesting bees. As always, this program is free of charge :)

We hope you’ll join us in celebrating your favorite pollinators, be they butterflies or otherwise, all this week and come see us at the butterfly house on the 19th!

Tubular flowers encourage pollinators like this bumble bee to dig deep for nectar, increasing the chance of the flower being pollinated.

Tubular flowers encourage pollinators like this bumble bee to dig deep for nectar, increasing the chance of the flower being pollinated.

Meet the Bugs: Milbert’s tortoiseshell

It’s prime time for raising butterflies here at Nevada Bugs; we’re getting ready for our opening day on June 19, and that means we need caterpillars, and fast! One species we’re raising now that you’ll be able to meet on opening day is the Milbert’s tortoiseshell (Aglais milberti), a beautiful brushfoot butterfly with a 2 – 2 1/2 inch wingspan. They are a fairly common species in riparian areas, marshes, trails, and occasionally roadsides, and range broadly across Canada and the western United States.

milberts_tortoiseshell

Milbert’s tortoiseshell. Picture from Butterflies and Moths of North America

IMG_1640

Milberts’ caterpillars on stinging nettle (needles visible in background)

As with many butterflies, Milberts’ caterpillars can eat only a couple plant species, and in this case the most common local host plant is stinging nettle, Urtica dioica. This species is infamous for the painful sensation it leaves if you carelessly brush against it in the woods, and this is likely a good defense against small mammalian predators. We’ve learned to wear gloves when handling these plants!

Despite the drawback of handling nettle, these butterflies are a fun species to rear as caterpillars due to their somewhat unusual feeding behavior. As young larvae, until around the fourth instar, or molt, they feed in large groups, often covered in webbing to protect themselves and completely devouring a plant before moving on. Even as they age, they continue to congregate in groups, though they can form silk nests individually in the wild. They then leave the plant and wander off to find a safe place to hide and pupate, where they stay as a beautiful brown-green chrysalis with a copper sheen.

Caterpillars everywhere!

Caterpillars everywhere!

Milberts' chrysalis.

Milberts’ chrysalis. The Greek word chrysos means “gold.”

Milberts’ have a rapid development time, going from newly hatched to pupa in under 3 weeks. However, after pupation they are a fairly long-lived species, often living over a month. They exhibit two flight generations per year and will be active as adults until perhaps early October, when they’ll overwinter as adults. Be sure to see these beauties on our opening weekend!