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.

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

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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!

 

Preparing for summer at the butterfly house

Spring is in full swing here in Reno, as evidenced by the rainy weather we’ve had these last couple days. Despite that, we’re preparing for the hot summer days we know are coming. For our butterfly house in Lemmon Valley, this means two things- moving the house to its alternate ‘footprint,’ and putting the shade cloth on.

One of the neatest features of our hoophouse is that it is meant to be two hoophouses in one, which it does by being mobile, on wheels and a track that is double the length of the house. This way, the hoophouse can be on one of two sites, depending on the season. This design allows us to grow cool-weather crops (kale, chard, lettuce, etc.) on one side, then move it to the other side to grow warm-weather crops (tomatoes, peppers, melons, etc.) during the summer and the butterfly house open season. This hoophouse is based on the ‘moveable caterpillar tunnel’ designed by Eliot Coleman and the folks at Johnny’s Seeds.

Rails being laid down before the hoophouse is placed on it. One of our great volunteers Josh Jahner in the foreground.

Rails being laid down before the hoophouse is placed on it. One of our great volunteers Josh Jahner in the foreground.

Newly constructed hoophouse, taking up half of the rails

Newly constructed hoophouse, taking up half of the rails. The pergola is not yet built in this picture.

We move the hoophouse on the first weekend of May this year. Moving the hoophouse consists of detaching it from all its anchor points (not shown above), cleaning the tracks of debris, moving all the delicate plants out of the way, taking the plastic off the sides of the house, and slowly moving the house to the other side, being careful not to rip any of the fabric or plastic in the process. It is slightly delicate work, but it went off without a hitch. After it’s in the new location, new anchors (t-posts) are hammered in and the plastic is covered at the base to seal the house in. The next step is planting pollinator plant seedlings for the butterflies in June and warm weather crops to grow through the summertime.

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Plastic removed from the sides of the house

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New anchors being staged in place

 

Hoophouse, this year, in its new location

Hoophouse, this year, in its new location

 

The following weekend after moving the house, we put the shade cloth on over the plastic. Those of you who visited the butterfly house last year may remember the whole structure being shade cloth, but we put a heavy UV-resistant plastic over the whole thing for the winter to grow those cool-season crops as soon as possible. Now that summer is approaching, it can get in excess of 90 degrees in there, so it’s time to cool things down a bit. For this, we simply unrolled the shadecloth over the plastic and tied the whole thing down with parachute cord. Soon, we’ll take the plastic off the sides entirely and replace them with shadecloth to increase ventilation and further moderate the temperature for the butterflies during the summer.

Cynthia tying the shade cloth down with parachute cord

Cynthia tying the shade cloth down with parachute cord

These are two of the biggest spring transition activities for the hoophouse- after we plant seedlings in the house, all we have to do is wait till early June to start stocking the house with butterflies. One more sign that summer is quickly approaching!

A long overdue spring update!

Hi everyone,

Boy, turn your head for one second and it’s spring! You may have noticed that there hasn’t been an update too recently on the website, and that’s mainly for one reason: I (Kevin), who mostly writes these blog posts, have been finishing up my Ph.D. degree in the Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology program at the University of Nevada here in Reno. I recently successfully defended my dissertation on April 23, and will be finished “officially” on May 9. It has been a long time in the making, and I am delighted to have finally accomplished what I set out for when I moved to Reno 6 1/2 short years ago.

Anyways, that’s a long way of saying I’ve been very busy lately, and have been doing a pretty sizable portion of writing, so the posts had to wait a bit! But now that the bulk of the work is done, Cynthia and I are both excited to continue our preparation for another exciting summer with Nevada Bugs.

We had a great time at the Reno Earth Day event in Idlewild Park on April 27th. We got to meet so many new kids and parents from around Reno, and we even got to hang out next to our good friends at the Tahoe Institute for Natural Science! We also held a workshop event where we made insect origami and native bee houses, complete with coloring sheets. This was our first year out there and we had an absolute blast!

Cynthia and the bugs Earth Day

Cynthia and the bugs Earth Day

 

Also, in case you’ve been wondering, while the butterflies are overwintering, the butterfly house is still in use, just mostly by plants! Neil Bertrando continues to grow delicious veggies in the house throughout the winter, making use of the space even when the butterflies aren’t flying. However, with the plastic over the house warming the inside even in mind weather, he has spotted a few early risers, including this Melissa blue, emerging after spending the winter on one of the perennial plants in the house as a larva. How cool!

Earlier in the spring

Earlier in the spring

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Growing cool season crops inside the butterfly house

An adult Melissa blue, emerging after spending the winter in the butterfly house

An adult Melissa blue, emerging after spending the winter in the butterfly house

We’ll have more info coming very soon about some of our upcoming events, including some possible work days for volunteers, as well as some fun public events that are currently in the works with both UNR and the Discovery Museum. Stay tuned!

Join us at the Discovery Museum March 22 & 23

We’ll be at the Terry Lee Wells Discovery Museum Saturday and Sunday, March 22nd and 23rd from 12pm-2m! We’ll have lots of different live insects to hold and observe, including the beetles and velvet ants we’ve featured on the site here in recent weeks. Come get up close and personal with some of our cool bugs, even get a look at some cute baby buckeye caterpillars under the microscope. Hope to see you there!

Come see our cute millipedes!

Come see our cute millipedes!