Monday, April 19, 2010

Keeping Archie Millipede and my Hissers alive at a chilly Frick Earth Day 2010

A couple months ago, I was invited to partner with Frick Environmental Center and bring Fun with Bugs to the Frick Earth Day celebrations May 17, 2010. Since May weather can be unpredictable, I requested electric so that I could plug in the heating pad that warms the two glass tanks ('Millipede Manor' and 'Roach Ranch'). These tropic-loving bugs prefer temps of 80 degrees Fahrenheight, will stop getting romantic at below 65 F, start showing their underbellies at 50 F, and die shortly after if kept at those temps.

Well, three days before the event, it was 79 F, sunny and hisser-friendly weather. Archie and Millie my giant millipedes approved of it too (they were getting all cuddly). Then on D-Day... the temperature dropped to 40 F (35 with wind chill). That would be DEATH for my beloved pets. I considered pulling out of the event, but I didn't want to let down any of the brave souls who ventured out that day for the Earth Day festivities and Fun with Bugs activities.

So I brought a space heater in addition to the heating pad. And we put up a tarp around the entire corner where the Bug Petting Zoo was. This definitely helped block a bit of the wind. The heating pad beneath the two tanks cranked out enough heat to keep the bugs alive. We kept a thick blanket over the tanks throughout, and took the hissers out only for the races. The Bug Wrangler for the day, Spencer Clark (my DH), kept his hands warm so Millie the Giant Millipede was pretty comfy as long as the space heater was directed at her. She even

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Frick Earth Day Celebrations hosts Fun with Bugs!

Date and Time: 17 April 2010 (11 am to 4 pm)
Place : Frick Environmental Center and Park, 2005 Beechwood Blvd, Pittsburgh.
Ages : All ages

This full-day program sponsored by Pittsburgh Parks was well participated despite poor weather. Temperatures of 40 F and even hail at one point failed to put a damper on the throngs of visitors who turned out for the Earth Day festivities. At the Fun with Bugs tent, three stations gave visitors the chance to 'pet a bug', 'eat a bug' and 'race a bug'. Clare Chianerize won a $25 gift card in the drawing held for participants who completed all three checkpoints. About 160 chocolate covered crickets were enjoyed by adventurous tasters, and between 20 to 30 folks participated in each of the three roach races that were held throughout the day. Some very astute mathematicians were also seen counting segments on Millie the Giant Millipede, and performing complicated multiplications for the 'Leg's Guess Contest'! The winners of the Leg's Guess Contest were Alexander de san Martin, Torey Verts and Parker McKenna. Congratulations winners! My thanks go out to volunteers Mike, Terry, Mallory and Kristen. Couldn't have done it without you!

Click here for photos! 

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Common Spring Garden Soil Pests & Beneficials

Summary of post
I've been digging up lots of different insects, slugs and etc in my yard this spring and often wonder which ones are good and which are bad. Here are some common critters you might encounter in your garden dirt: earthworms and cicadas (beneficials), white grubs, cutworms and wireworms (pests).

I always feel bad when I scoop up a shovelful of dirt and discover that I've amputated or worse yet decapitated yet another of these beneficial creatures. (Though it can be difficult to tell the head or tail apart!) Some earthworm species can regenerated amputated body parts, i.e., the tail. But you're not going to get two worms if you cut one in half ;). Here's some interesting worm reading.

Depending on how you look at it, cicadas can be a pest or a beneficial. Pest because their feeding on plant roots might or might not hurt the plant. (Scientists are somewhat up in the air about this and more experiments are needed). Also, cicada mommies can get carried away when cutting slits in tree bark to lay eggs, and end up slicing the tree in two (just kidding...really!). Beneficial because cicadas feed other animals in your garden. By that I don't mean cicadas provide food to the birds and such, I mean that cicadas are the food. Deep fried cicadas are a real treat. "Flying Peanuts" I fondly call them. A golden crisp shell encloses a creamy nutty filling, perfect with your favorite dinner aperitif!

White Grubs (Scarab beetle larvae)