Make Plans to attend Bug Awareness Weekend at the El Paso Zoo – August 2-3
The harmless vinegaroon is found in the desert areas of El Paso. It gets its name from a vinegar like smelling acid that it will squirt at its enemies.
Do you know of any children that like bugs? The El Paso Zoo does and every year we break out the bugs just for them. It’s a back to school “bug out” and our educators with lots of help from zoo keepers, volunteers and our resident chef, get all buggy just thinking about the fun weekend ahead. Bug lovers you say? Yep, kids love bugs; you can see it in their faces, no doubt about it.
Children at the Zoo enjoying a close up look at a tarantula.
Now if you are an entomologist, you know that of the more than one million different kinds of bugs scientists have described so far, “true bugs” belong to the insect order called Hemiptera. These are the oval shaped insects with flattened bodies and mouths that let them suck blood or juices from plants, animals or humans. They include cicadas, aphids (like the ones you find in vegetable gardens), leafhoppers, kissing bugs and bed bugs.
Here at the Zoo and pretty much across the country, most people refer to the entire world of creepy crawlers as bugs, no matter what order they are classified in. The Zoo’s bug collection is used mainly for education presentations called Zoo Adventure Programs offered to school groups. We also show them at special animal encounter programs for the general public in our discovery centers. The list of species living here includes tarantulas, scorpions, centipedes, millipedes and insects like whirligig beetles, diving beetles and water bugs. Most of what we have lives right here in El Paso, but they are rarely seen because of their nocturnal lifestyles.
The Zoo plans to feature an exhibit with bugs as part of a new Chihuahuan Desert experience exhibit expected to open in 2018. As you enter the area you will have an opportunity to go inside an abandoned ranch house where an amazing array of insects and small animals have moved in and taken over. Until then our educators will feature our bugs during special events and educational programs. Currently we maintain a collection of over 25 species including a new red clawed scorpion, Brazilian black tarantula and giant African millipede.
Our Bug Awareness Weekend will tie into the three geographic regions featured at the Zoo. In the El Paso Electric Kalahari Research Center we will have some bugs from Africa. In the El Paso Water Utilities Discovery Education Center we will have our largest collection of bugs from the Americas. Across the Franklin Canal we will have some bugs from Asia in the Asia Discovery Center.
Some zoo-goers can’t get enough of our cricket- chocolate-chip cookies.
You definitely will not want to miss the amazing bug dishes that our resident Chef, Miguel Guillen will be cooking up. Last year we had long lines of bug eaters from across the city coming by to eat up everything the Chef created including Grasshopper Stir Fry, Sweet Cricket Popcorn and Roasted Leaf Cutter Ants. Don’t say “ugh bugs”, all around the world people eat bugs as part of their daily diet. The term entomophagy is used to describe how people eat bugs. Did you know that people have eaten bugs including their eggs and larvae since prehistoric times? Eating bugs is rare in the developed world, but it seems to be growing in popularity here at the Zoo. Who knows, perhaps someday a major TV network will host a bug cooking reality show and we can host it right here in El Paso!
This year I am scheduled to tell some of my favorite desert bug stories in the Cisneros Paraje Discovery Center. Do you know about the amazing relationship between desert termites and spadefoot toads? Years ago a friend of mine who was making a documentary on the Chihuahuan Desert discovered an insect using a tool! At the time I thought only higher primates like humans had that kind of intelligence. During my presentation I will show an amazing video clip of his discovery.
Bugs to look for at the Zoo during Bug Awareness Weekend:
Asian forest scorpion Bahia scarlet bird-eating spider Bark Scorpion Centruroides Black velvet spider Black Widow Spider Brown tarantula Centipede (Vietnamese) Chilean Rose Tarantula Cobalt Blue Tarantula Common Emperor Scorpion Desert Hairy Scorpion Flat rock scorpion Giant Sand Scorpion Indian ornamental tarantula Madagascan Hissing Cockroach Pink-toed Tarantula Sonoran Centipede Sunburst Diving Beetle Tailless Whip Scorpion Tanzanian blue legged centipede Texas Tan Tarantula Vinegaroon Whirligig beetles Green diving beetle Water scorpion Ferocious water bug Giant water bug