“I Have a Question! Where do Your Bugs Come From?”


April 7, 2016
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When I’m maintaining the live exhibits in the Brown Hall of Entomology in the Cockrell Butterfly Center, or giving a tour of our Insect Containment Room, one of the questions I’m most frequently asked is, “Where do the bugs come from?” It’s a very good question! Many people ask if we are able to actually collect them, and I wish that were the case. Travel the world to collect exotic live specimens? Yes, please!

But the truth is we get our animals in boxes delivered by FedEx or UPS. The boxes come from all over the place. Arizona, Thailand, Costa Rica… But most of our exotic shipments come from the Penang Butterfly Farm in Malaysia, which collects and breeds butterflies and other insects and arthropods. They provide us with a large butterfly shipment each month and several arthropods throughout the year. Whenever our supply of large exotic insects is dwindling, I place an order for mostly beetles, but also katydids, mantids, and even centipedes or spiders.

We recently received one of these shipments, and I wanted to give you a sneak peek. I love getting these boxes. It feels like Christmas!

box

This box transported five beetles, three large katydids, three mantids, two large spiders, and a few hundred butterflies!

shipment

Each animal is packed carefully in individual containers with a moist sponge inside. Materials are placed in the box, such as soft filler and ice packs, to make sure the bugs stay comfortable on their long trip. They leave Malaysia on a Monday and arrive here Friday morning.

deadleaf

The dead leaf mantis is nearly impossible to spot against a background of dead leaves.

deadleaf3

Until it moves!

dragonheaded

This dragon-headed katydid wasted no time finding a hiding spot! Katydids mimic leaves to keep them protected from predators.

IMG_0807

Giant long-legged katydids are the largest species in the world. They are a favorite around here!

orbweaver

The giant golden orb-weaver has the largest and strongest web in the world. Although the web may sometimes accidentally ensnare birds or bats, the spider only feeds on flying insects.

orchid mantis

The orchid mantis has the most spectacular camouflage of all! They hide among orchid flowers waiting to grab unsuspecting pollinators such as bees and flies.

All of these and more can be seen on display in the Brown Hall of Entomology. Some can even be brought to your school for an exciting, hands on Bugs on Wheels presentation! See the HMNS website for further details!

Erin M
Authored By Erin M Mills

Erin Mills received her undergraduate degree in Entomology from Texas A&M University in 2004, and after a short tour of the pest control industry, joined HMNS as the Cockrell Butterfly Center’s Insect Zoo Manager in 2005. Over the years she expanded the butterfly center’s live arthropod collection, developed the ever popular “Bugs on Wheels” outreach program, and continued to establish her role as HMNS’s insect expert. In October of 2016, she achieved her long time goal of becoming Director of the Cockrell Butterfly Center. She is constantly striving to improve the butterfly center and how it serves and educates the public about the wonderful and amazing world of insects! As a Board Certified Entomologist, Erin has extensive knowledge of insect identification, ecology, plant relationships, husbandry, really any insect-related topic!

5 responses to ““I Have a Question! Where do Your Bugs Come From?””

  1. Ms. Wills says:

    This is a great way to make text to world connections. I will use this in my fourth grade writing class. Thanks!

  2. Fred says:

    Thank you very much! What is the limb-span of the giant long-legged katydid?

  3. Erin M. says:

    They live for about 2 years on average. Good question!

  4. Fred says:

    Thank you, ma’am. That’s a good deal longer than I’d thought. What I meant was how long are they including their legs (limbs)?

  5. Erin M. says:

    Oh my gosh! I just noticed that I did not read your question right and your reply! So Sorry about that! I’d say nearly 8 inches!

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