200 Years. 200 Stories. Story 60: “Getting Buggy ”

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photo of Karen Verderame and rhinoceros beetle
Karen Verderame with a rhinocerous beetle (Dynastes granti).

Getting Buggy

Outside In Supervisor Karen Verderame explains what she has learned while making the Academy the place to see live bugs.

When I started working at the Academy in 2003, we had very few live arthropods. There were hissing cockroaches and a few tarantulas—two tarantulas to be exact. In the summer of 2008, we went from three species of arthropods to more than 50 species of arthropods! Why did that happen? Two words: BUG FEST! It was time to get buggy.

Acquiring and caring for a diverse and large arthropod collection brings challenges and some really fun lessons. Most importantly, I’ve learned never to underestimate invertebrates. The bugs always know more, so I stay one step ahead at all times. There are the moments when I find myself playing Where’s Waldo? searching for a camouflaged walking stick. Giant spiny walking sticks are truly thorny sticks with eyeballs. I also find myself examining an insect tank for more than 20 minutes to contemplate, “If I were an Atlas beetle, how would I try to get out?” Most importantly, in teaching visitors about invertebrates, I’ve learned that being outwardly excited about live bugs is a good way for my passion to infest others!

Want to meet Karen and get up close with some fascinating creepy crawlies? Mark your calendars for Bug Fest 2012. August 11-12, 2012!

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