Category Archives: Outreach

Spring 2023 update

We know many of you have been wondering why we no longer have a butterfly house. The short answer is that we have some exciting new jobs outside our work with NV Bugs, that butterfly declines have made it harder to run a butterfly house, and that we have been concentrating our Nevada Bugs & Butterflies time on documenting rare butterflies in Nevada (you can read more about this in our previous blog post).


Butterfly declines in Nevada make it harder to run a native butterfly house

Even since the first year of our Butterfly House in 2013 we have experienced a decline in the number of butterflies we see. The most well-documented decline has been in the western monarch population- millions of monarchs could be found at their overwintering sites in the 1980’s but less than 5% of that number overwinters today (more info here and here). This has led many scientists and monarch experts to suggest it is no longer prudent to collect wild monarchs and raise them in captivity. If you visited our butterfly house in the past, you know that monarchs were a very important part of the experience! As we are out looking for butterflies in the summer we certainly notice other species that were once more common are harder to find now. Recent research done in part at UNR by our mentor and collaborator, Matt Forister suggests there is a 1.6% yearly cumulative decline in western butterfly abundance. This means that every single season there are on average 1.6% fewer butterflies seen by community scientists compared to the year before. As Matt says, it doesn’t sound like a lot, but imagine if every year your bank account was decreasing by 1.6%!

Because we are committed to protecting the amazing diversity found in Nevada, we are hesitant to collect our breeding butterflies from the wild at this time. We are still hopeful it is possible to responsibly run a native butterfly house in Northern Nevada in the future.

Kevin and Cynthia at Rye Patch State Recreation Area

Our new jobs with bugs!

On a more personal note, both Kevin and Cynthia have exciting new jobs- jobs that were not available back when we were running our science center and butterfly house. Kevin is now working for the Xerces Society as a conservation biologist studying western butterfly declines and working with partners to protect our most at-risk species. Cynthia is still the Education and Collections Coordinator for the UNR Museum of Natural History, and recently she has been able to take on more insect curation duties at the museum, in addition to her science outreach work. As you may know, the museum holds all of the University’s plant and animal collections, including valuable insect collections from across the Americas. Curating these collections- organizing them, updating scientific names, and preventing pest infestations- takes a significant amount of time, and it is important work to maintain these collections for researchers and museum visitors. You can schedule a free visit to the UNR Museum of Natural History on their website.

Opening day 2016 and 2nd annual National Pollinator Week event!

Science center opening day is this Thursday!

That says it! We are so excited to begin our fourth season (can you believe it?) at out science center and butterfly house. We’ve been raising butterflies for weeks, and we are ready to put them in our mesh-enclosed butterfly house for all to enjoy! In addition to the butterfly house, the garden is bigger and lusher than ever, our Mojave desert tortoises Tessie and Watson are with us again, we’ll have friendly millipedes, beetles, and other invertebrates to see and touch, and a host of other activities on site. As in the past, we’re open every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from June 16 to Sept 24th (closed on Saturday, July 2). We can’t wait to see everyone throughout the summer, and as always you can find directions, recommendations, and other information about our science center on our website at And, it’s the perfect time to schedule your group visit to our site! Group visits (group limit ~25 + chaperones) can be scheduled by emailing Kevin at There are plenty of open times in July and August so just let us know!

Topping off our opening days will be the 2016 Pollinator Week event at the UNR Pollinator Garden on Wednesday, June 22nd in the courtyard of the Fleischmann Agriculture/Life Sciences building at the south end of the UNR campus. w\We’ll have garden tours, pollinator talks from local experts, native bee and butterfly specimens, a bug petting zoo, poster and plant giveaways, native bee house making, and more!

Our planned acitivity lineup includes the following sessions:

  • Garden Tours (Sarah Kulpa, USFWS, in the FA courtyard): 10:00-10:30; 11:00-11:30; 1:00-1:30
  • Nevada’s Native Bees (Jake Francis, UNR, in the FA courtyard): 11:45-12:00, 12:15-12:30
  • Herbicide Use and Pollinators (Jay Davison, UNCE, in the FA courtyard): 11:45-12:00, 12:15-12:30
  • Nevada’s Native Butterflies (Dr. Matt Forister, UNR, in the FA courtyard): 12:00-12:15, 12:30-12:45
  • NDF Nursery and Native Plants (Ryan Sharrer, NDF, in the FA courtyard): 12:00-12:15, 12:30-12:45)
  • Monarch Citizen Science Training (Nevada Bugs and Butterflies, in Fleischmann Agriculture room 300G): 2:00-3:00

This event is free and open to the public! Free parking spots for this event are available on the top level of the West Stadium Garage, and streetside parking is also available at the south end of campus on 9th St. and Evans Ave.

We can’t wait to welcome both our many returning families as well as many new ones we’ve met in the past year out to our science center this summer. We’ll see you out there!

You can also RSVP on our Facebook page for this event!

You can also RSVP on our Facebook page for this event!


Native Bee Talk by professor and author Joseph Wilson on May 12th

We are very excited to announce the next activity in our spring lineup, a talk by professor and author Joseph Wilson titled “Get to know the bees in your backyard.”

Bees are arguably one of the most important insect groups on the planet, but despite their importance they are remarkably misunderstood.  For example, it is commonly thought that the U.S. and Canada are home to just a handful of bumble bees, sweat bees, and honey bees.  In fact, there are over 4,000 species of bees native to the North America! This talk aims to dispel the common myths of bees, and will provide engaging accounts of the bees encountered in this region of the world, with clues for telling these stunning creatures apart.

Dr. Wilson is an assistant professor of biology at Utah State University Tooele and author of the newly published book The bees in your backyard: A guide to North America’s bees. Copies of the book will be for sale and Dr. Wilson will be signing books following the talk.

This free talk will be held on Thursday, May 12th at 6:30 pm at the Wilbur D. May Museum (inside Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno). The talk is co-sponsored by Nevada Bugs and the UNR Museum of Natural History. It’s sure to be a great time, packed with information and beautiful pictures, and we hope many of you will join us! Send us an email if you have any questions.

Joe's book is also available for purchase from Amazon

Joe’s book is also available for purchase from Amazon

The Stillwater Foundation awards grant to Nevada Bugs!

We are very pleased to announce that Nevada Bugs has been awarded a grant from the Stillwater Foundation, located in Reno, Nevada! The Stillwater Foundation seeks to promote global well being by supporting organizations that provide youth development and education, contribute to medical research and outreach, and promote environmental stewardship. We are proud that our outdoor science center and outreach programs serve as educational resources for the community in and around Reno. With the science center and butterfly house closed for the winter after a third hugely successful season, our organization’s work continues with outreach events at schools and youth groups throughout the year. We are also already planning for next year’s season at the science center and beyond, including educational workshops about pollinator identification and conservation and the creation of a citizen science butterfly monitoring program to be a part of the North American Butterfly Monitoring Network. Funds from organizations like the Stillwater Foundation go directly into this programming and we are so thankful for their support of our mission!

Pygmy blue butterfly, Quail Valley Road, Reno, November 8, 2015

Pygmy blue butterfly, Quail Valley Road, Reno, November 8, 2015

Opening day approaches, and National Pollinator Week 2015

It’s been a bit since our last post, but it’s only because of all the good things happening– Cynthia, Kevin, and all our board members and volunteers are busy preparing for our 2015 opening day on June 18th! New signs and interactive activities are being made, the butterfly house is being readied, and we have many cute caterpillars in the lab, growing and pupating and getting ready to show off for everyone in less than two weeks. (Side note: if you’re interested in a group visit to the butterfly house, please email Kevin as summer days are filling up fast already!)

In addition to our opening day on the 18th, this next week starting June 15th marks the beginning of National Pollinator Week, and there are several great events in Reno celebrating the amazing work that native pollinators do for us every day. On Saturday, June 13th from 1-4, Urban Roots will be hosting a pollinator fair including hands-on activities, pollinator-product tasting stations, and a Spelling Bee, as well as info sessions on native pollinators and how to attract them. Then, on Wednesday, June 17th from 10am-1pm there’s a pollinator celebration at the south end of the UNR Campus, right outside the Natural History Museum on our brand new pollinator garden, installed with the help of the great folks at the Nevada office for the Fish & Wildlife Service. There will be garden tours, native bee and butterfly specimens, a caterpillar and beetle petting zoo, poster and plant giveaways, native bee house making, and more. Both events are free and are a great chance to learn how to support the thousands of native pollinators in the Great Basin. Hope to see many of you at one of these events, and then at our opening day on June 18th!

Pollinator Fair Flyer2

Urban Roots event, June 13th

UNR pollinator flyer 2015

UNR event, June 17th


FREE native plant course– attract pollinators to your yard!

Update: We’ve filled our course! Thanks for all those who are interested. Given the number of requests we received, we will almost certainly offer another course later in the year, so keep an eye out as the season progresses.

We are proud to announce a free native plant course taking place out at our butterfly house on May 17th 1-4pm, created as a partnership between Nevada Bugs, the US Fish & Wildlife Schoolyard Habitat program, and RT Permaculture. The topic of this course will be using plants native to Nevada to attract the many different types of beneficial insects that are in our area. Topics will include plant choice and planting techniques that will maximize your site’s usefulness to native insects, an introduction to native insect identification and conservation, and a special highlight on monarch butterfly conservation. Our site owner, Neil, will also lead a tour of his 1-acre permaculture garden, which has many great examples of how to use native plants to attract beneficial insects. In addition, you’ll go home with a set of native plants to plant at your home– for free!

Native insects have several important functions for natural areas and your own back yard– pollination of many crops, control of pest insects, and nutrient cycling to name a few. Many native insect species, like our native bumblebees, are threatened by habitat loss as well as habitat fragmentation, where each habitat patch becomes smaller and less connected to other patches. Increasing pollinator-friendly plants and creating habitat for insects are the best ways to conserve the native species that help make our landscape productive, diverse, and unique. Native plants will also use less water, remain hardier, and be more pest and disease-resistant than many nonnative plants.

The course size is limited, so email Kevin to reserve your spot and help make a difference in conserving our native plants and pollinators! pollinator plant wksp flier

Nevada Bugs t-shirt fundraiser!

2014 was a big success for Nevada Bugs & Butterflies: in one season alone we quadrupled the number of visitors to the Butterfly House & Science Center! Besides welcoming 884 visitors to the butterfly house, we also connected with 2,814 budding scientists who joined us at outreach events held in local schools, libraries, and museums. We’re asking for your support as we extend our reach even further with our end-of-the-year fundraiser. Help us prepare for 2015 by purchasing your own Bugs and Butterflies t-shirt! Shirts are American Apparel and are available in men’s, women’s, children’s, and toddlers’ sizes. They make great gifts and will be delivered in time for the holidays!

For adult men and women, go here:

For children and toddlers, go here:

Because of logo scaling issues, adult and children’s t-shirts are being sold through two different campaigns.

Sure, the butterflies won’t fly again until springtime, but our plans take wing over the winter, when we focus on developing new programming, researching curriculum, training volunteers, and securing supplies for the summer to come. Additionally, outreach in classrooms and community centers continues through the winter months. Your donations allow Nevada Bugs to provide hands-on experiences with Northern Nevada’s native insects all year long!

Sale ends December 5th; get your shirt before it's too late!

Sale ends December 5th; get your shirt before it’s too late!


Move viewing- Microcosmos- November 18th

Come join us for a beautiful, artistic look at insects! We’ll be visiting our friends at Artemisia MovieHouse, Reno’s alternative for independent, foreign, and classic films, as they show the 1996 French art documentary Microcosmos! This film is a fascinating and beautiful look at insect life using extreme close-ups, slow-motion and time-lapse photography. The film is a winner of 9 awards including Technical Grand Prize at Cannes. The film will be shown Tuesday, November 18th @ 7pm, at the Good Luck MacBeth theatre, 713 S. Virginia St. Admission is $7/$5 for Artemisia members, bicyclists, and students. We’ll have our bugs to hang out with and hold after the show. Hope to see lots of people there!

Directed by Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou

Directed by Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou

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

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!