Educator How-To: How to Make Your Own Pet Squid

The days just after Thanksgiving are always busy at the Museum. There are flurries of children on field trips, shoppers looking for that unusual and prefect gift and, my favorite, the annual installation of the holiday trees in the grand hall. The trees, which are decorated by local area non-profits, celebrate a variety of themes and causes and are not to be missed. My particular favorite each year is the tree decorated by the Houston Conchology Society. My department also gets to decorate a tree and it is always an ode to science. This year’s theme: Cephalopod Christmas. How can you go wrong there?

We know you will be out to visit the trees this year, and we assumed that you would want a cephalopod for yourself so I whipped up this little tutorial for your very own pet squid.  He’s adorable. He’s a cephalopod. Most importantly, he doesn’t have to be fed, walked* or cleaned up after. 

(*You might look really awkward trying to take your cephalopod for a walk.)

Ed How To - Squid 1

Materials:

1 Paper towel tube
1 Toilet paper tube
Paint – color of your choice
Paint brush
Scissors
String, yarn or thin ribbon – 2 to 3 feet.
Tape
Straw
Glue
Black permanent marker
Stapler

Procedure:

  1. Color your tubes with the paint of your choice. (Don’t clean up the paint quite yet. You’ll need it again in a minute.)
    Ed How To - Squid 2
  2. Set the tubes aside and let them dry.
  3. Pinch one end of the toilet paper tube shut.
    Ed How To - Squid 3
  4. Use scissors to cut a 45 degree angle off each side of the tube so you now have two triangle pieces and a pointy tube.
    Ed How To - Squid 4
  5. Use a stapler to keep the tube flat. I aligned my staple with the length of the tube so as to not get in the way of the next step.
    Ed How To - Squid 5
  6. Use the scissors to cut 8 legs from the paper towel tubes. The legs should go up the tube about 2/3 of the way.
  7. Use the rest of the paint to color the pieces you cut off – both sides and the inside of the legs you just cut. The legs may get a little floppy when they are wet with paint, but don’t worry – they’ll firm up when dry. If you have some weird delaminated bits, you can always add a little bit of glue.
    Ed How To - Squid 6
  8. Once everything is dry, cut one of the triangle pieces down the fold so you have two pieces. Cut the other triangle piece into two feeding tentacle pads.
    Ed How To - Squid 7
  9. You are going to use the halved triangle pieces to make the fins of your squid. Apply a little bit of glue to the hypotenuse of the two triangles (opposite the 90 degree angle) and slide them in between the two pointy bits of the toilet paper tube – one on each side.  The 90 degree angle should be the part sticking out and making the fin.
    Ed How To - Squid 8Ed How To - Squid 9
  10. Now grab the paper towel tube. Use the scissors to shape the legs as you see fit. I like mine a little bit more realistic but, really, you can leave them as is.
  11. If you so choose, you can also curl or shape the legs for more realistic appearance. For mine, I did this by rolling the legs over a round marker – switching from the inside of the leg to the outside of the leg every so often.
  12. Now, glue the feeding tentacles to the string. You can also staple or tape them on as you see fit. Go crazy.
    Ed How To - Squid 10
  13. Tie the middle of the string into a small knot. This will give you a little bit more material when you attach the feeding tentacles.
    Ed How To - Squid 11
  14. Holding onto the knot, drop the feeding tentacles down through the uncut end of the paper towel tube.
    Ed How To - Squid 12
  15. Staple, glue or tape the end of the knot to the edge of the paper towel tube to secure it in place.
    Ed How To - Squid 13
  16. Cut a 2 ½” to 3” slit in the uncut end of the paper towel tube. This will allow you to overlap these edges and fit the “legs” into the “head”.
    Ed How To - Squid 14
  17. Now let’s make a siphon. Cut a straw slightly longer than your slit. Let’s say 3 ¼” just for fun.
  18. Flatten the straw a bit and then attach the straw to one of the edges of the slit you just made.
    Ed How To - Squid 15
  19. Curl the side of the slit without the straw behind the side of the slit with the straw. Then, fit the “legs” into the “head.  Push it all the way in.
    Ed How To - Squid 16
  20. Once you know it fits, take the “legs” out, put a little glue on the top edge and fit it back into the “head”.
    Ed How To - Squid 17Ed How To - Squid 18
  21. Last step! We need to add some eyes! Using your black permanent marker, make two dime sized circles on your guy on the “leg” piece between the “head” and the legs.  They should line up approximately with your fins.
    Ed How To - Squid 19
  22. Done! Enjoy your pet squid and take him on lots of walks to the park.  Squid love going on walks. Here’s the final product.I have named him Maurice.
    Ed How To - Squid 1

 

Cold Snap Raises Concern: How will the monarchs fare?

Should I be concerned about the monarch butterfly?

Is it going extinct?

Will these cold temperatures kill the ones I’m raising?

What is “OE” and should I worry about it?

If you have questions about monarchs, you are in good company.

Thanks to the recent petition to US Fish and Wildlife by a number of conservation organizations to grant them “threatened” status, monarch butterflies have been in the news a lot this fall. Also, more and more people are hearing about the protozoan parasite that affects monarch health, the dreaded OE (short for the unpronounceable and unspellable “Ophryocystis elektroscirrha”). Finally, if you are in Houston, or other areas with monarch butterflies that do not migrate but spend the winter here, you may have questions about what this unusually early and unusually cold snap will have on the caterpillars and adults in your garden.

This is a quick response to all of those issues:

  1. Monarch butterflies are not in any sense endangered. The species is very widespread, found throughout the world, from Australia to southern Spain, Hawaii, etc., etc. What the groups petitioning for threatened status hope to achieve is to bring awareness to the possible end of the huge annual migration that takes place in the North American populations. Within the past decade or so, the number of individuals making the southern migration to overwintering grounds in Mexico has declined by about 90%. This is indeed worrying, and it would be a terrible loss if this unique and spectacular phenomenon ended. But there will still be monarchs – just not as many (millions instead of billions) and perhaps only non-migratory ones in areas where they can survive year-round. The decline in the North America population is thought to be due to a number of factors – the main one being loss of habitat. Genetically modified corn and soy beans have been bred to resist herbicides such as RoundUp, so farmers can spray their croplands for weeds (including milkweeds) and not affect these GMO crops. Until the widespread use of GMO crops, milkweed was abundant in the rows between plantings and in the highway right of ways.  Thus the huge expanse of farmland in the central USA cornbelt was critical in building up their populations during the breeding season (summer).  GMO crops, and subsidies for ethanol (which encourage corn farmers to plant every bit of their land, right up to the roadways) mean that this “cradle” of monarch populations is no longer available. There are other factors causing the huge decline in the migratory population – global climate change, urbanization, some habitat loss in Mexico – but this, i.e., habitat loss in the central USA, is the main factor. We do not know yet whether monarchs will be designated as “threatened” – such proposals take a long time to go through the various review processes. The good news is that this petition is raising awareness about this worrying loss of habitat – which affects not only monarchs, but bees, other butterflies, and many other organisms.

  1. “OE” is a naturally occurring protozoan parasite of monarch and queen butterflies (genus Danaus). This tiny organism multiplies inside the caterpillar stage, and is spread in a dormant spore form by the adult butterfly. Low levels of OE do not greatly affect their hosts, but parasite levels build up rapidly over successive generations of monarchs, and when infection levels are high, many detrimental effects (including death) are seen. Infected caterpillars may not pupate properly, or they may not be able to get out of the pupa, or the adults may be weak, malformed, or die early. Unfortunately, well-intentioned people raising successive generations of monarchs, especially on tropical milkweed (which does not have an annual dormant period) appear to be the main cause of OE buildup (via the very persistent spores).

    In areas like Houston, where mild temperatures allow for resident, non-migratory populations year-round, researchers have found that most adult butterflies are carrying the spores (i.e., over 75% of the butterflies they test are infected). For more information, visit the Monarch Watch organization’s website or click here for more information from the University of Georgia.

    You can also find plenty of information by doing an online search for Ophryocystis elektroscirrha.

  1. You raise monarchs and are concerned about whether they can survive the cold temperatures we’ve been having.

    The whole “point” of the monarch migration is to avoid cold temperatures – monarchs are really tropical butterflies that, like many songbirds, take advantage of our summers. However, in our area where it seldom gets truly cold, and where there is now lots of tropical milkweed available, thanks to the butterfly gardening craze, some monarchs forego the migration and spend the winter here, where they continue to breed (the migrating monarchs do not mate or lay eggs until spring). 

    Cold enough temperatures can certainly kill or harm monarchs, especially in the caterpillar stage or if they are in the process of pupating. However, unless it freezes and/or the caterpillars, pupae, or butterflies are highly exposed, monarchs can survive temperatures in the 30s. 

    During a cold snap, caterpillars will often crawl to the base of the milkweed they are eating and curl up on the ground until it warms up again. Adult butterflies can hunker down in a sheltered area and will come out again when it’s warm enough to fly. But if it’s cold enough for long enough, they will die. Of course it’s hard to tell people to let nature take its course — but that is probably best — especially given the high levels of OE we see in most people’s home-grown monarchs. If you do want to save your babies, you can always bring them inside for a few days until it warms up. 

    Butterflies can be fed sugar water, Gatorade, or fruit juice (place them with their feet touching a sponge or paper towel moistened with one of these sweet fluids and they will probably extend their proboscis to get a meal. If you would like to test to see if your butterflies have OE (only the adults can be tested), click here to learn how to do it. We (at the Cockrell Butterfly Center) would be happy to look at your samples, or you can send them to the University of Georgia.

If you have questions that were not answered here, feel free to write us at bfly-questions@hmns.org.

 

 

 

Add Holiday Cheer to your Home with Designer Trees at Jingle Tree

HMNS Sugar Land

Give. OWN. Be Merry. Kick the holiday season off with Jingle Trees at HMNS Sugar Land! At Jingle Tree you can give, OWN and be merry when you bid amongst festive company on a silent auction of dazzling, pre-decorated trees. Nineteen designer trees are up for bid, each with a unique theme such as “Holiday Kitchen” and “Candyland.” The trees were unveiled on Tuesday at the Strolling Luncheon. Bidding continues as you mix and mingle at the Jingle Jangle Happy Hour on Thursday, November 20, or you can bring the kids over for Cookies with Santa on Saturday, November 22. More information on the Jingle Tree events can be found below.

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Can’t make it out for any of the events? Don’t worry you can view the trees and bid online here.

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Bidding ends Saturday, November 22, at 1:30 p.m. after Cookies with Santa. The winners will be notified by text.

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The trees may be picked up Saturday, November 22, from 1:30 – 3:00 p.m. or Monday, November 24, from 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Tree wrapping (for self-transport) or home delivery (includes wrapping) are available at an incremental charge.

Jingle Tree brochure small

Jingle Jangle Happy Hour
Thursday, November 20
5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Come out for our Jingle Jangle Happy Hour to mix and mingle as you bid on your favorite trees!

Cookies with Santa
Saturday, November 22
11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Bring the kiddos out for Cookies with Santa while you take advantage of the final day to bid on our Jingle Trees! Final Chance to Bid.

Mark Your Calendars for these events happening this week (11/17-11/23) at HMNS

samurai

Bust out your planners, calendars, and PDAs (if you are throwback like that), it’s time to mark your calendars for the HMNS events of this week!

Get into the holiday spirit with the Jingle Tree events at HMNS Sugar Land, learn more about the museum travel trip the – “Shelling Experience”, and armor up for the opening of our special exhibit Samurai: The Way of the Warrior

Jingle Tree – Open House and Strolling Luncheon
HMNS Sugar Land
November 18
11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Come to our Jingle Tree Strolling Luncheon to mix and mingle as you enjoy food from Events by Safari and bid on your favorite trees in this exclusive first look! Click here for tickets. 

Travel Night – Sansibel Shelling, April 2015
Tuesday, November 18
6:00 p.m.
Interested travelers and those already registered are invited to this evening’s presentation of the April 12 – 16, 2015 HMNS trip “Shelling Experience: The Islands of Sanibel, Captiva and Coya Costa” with trip leader Tina Petway and HMNS travel department staff. On this coastal adventure with Tina Petway, HMNS associate curator of malacology, you will comb the beaches of the best shelling grounds in the continental US. You will also experience diverse marine and wildlife of this threatened ecosystem. Trip itinerary and registration information available at Class – Travel Night – Sansibel Shelling, April 2015Interested travelers and those already registered are invited to this evening’s presentation of the April 12 – 16, 2015 HMNS trip “Shelling Experience: The Islands of Sanibel, Captiva and Coya Costa” with trip leader Tina Petway and HMNS travel department staff. On this coastal adventure with Tina Petway, HMNS associate curator of malacology, you will comb the beaches of the best shelling grounds in the continental US. You will also experience diverse marine and wildlife of this threatened ecosystem. Trip itinerary and registration information available at www.hmns.org/travel.

Jingle Tree – Jingle Jangle Happy Hour
HMNS Sugar Land
Thursday, November 20
5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Come out for our Jingle Jangle Happy Hour to mix and mingle as you bid on your favorite trees! Click here for tickets. 

Catalyst Event – Samurai: The Way of the Warrior
Thursday, November 20
6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Complimentary drinks, light bites, entertainment and admission to Samurai: The Way of the Warrior. Click here for tickets. 

Special Exhibit Opening – Samurai: The Way of the Warrior
Friday, November 21
The Houston Museum of Natural Science is proud to host Samurai: The Way of the Warrior, an exhibit of exquisite objects related to these legendary warriors. Among these are full suits of armor, helmets, swords, sword-hilts, and saddles, as well as exquisite objects intended for more personal use such as lacquered writing boxes, incense trays and foldable chairs. Click here for tickets. 
Organized by Contemporanea Progetti SLR with the Museo Stibbert, Florence, Italy. Local support is provided by Kuraray.

Samurai: The Way Of The Warrior Members’ Event
Friday, November 21
6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Children’s crafts, cash bar and light refreshments available at this Members’ event. Click here to register.

Jingle Tree – Cookies with Santa
HMNS Sugar Land

Saturday, November 22
11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Bring the kiddos out for Cookies with Santa while you take advantage of the final day to bid on our Jingle Trees! Final Chance to Bid. Click here for tickets.