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
Cactus longhorn beetle, Monoeilema gigas
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
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
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!
It was gorgeous!
Scorpions do in fact glow under UV light
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
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.
We’ll miss you Arizona!