A big rock for Valentine’s Day? Watch our VP of Astronomy Carolyn Sumners discuss the massive asteroid zooming past Earth on Feb. 15

If you anticipated seeing stars this Valentine’s Day, you weren’t far off.

Asteroid 2012 DA14 is projected to pass “dangerously close” to earth Feb. 15 — potentially taking out some important communication satellites.

Carolyn Sumners talks Valentine's Asteroid on MyFoxHouston

Discovered last year, the asteroid is half the length of a football field, weighs 130,000 metric tons and will pass Earth at a closer distance than the Moon at some 17,000 miles per hour. But astronomers, including HMNS’ own VP of Astronomy Carolyn Sumners, have put our stammering hearts to rest — sort of:

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“Asteroids this size – the one we’re talking about for next week – can destroy a city, not a planet,” Sumners told MyFoxHouston.

Luckily, NASA says there’s no chance of impact. This year, the cosmic love’s on you.

The Mythology of Love [Museum Store]

You know what time it is? Valentine’s Time. And whether you’re a devotee of Cupid or a this-holiday-was-invented-by-Hallmark humbug, our museum store has a range of gifts you’ll love giving – or receiving.

Check out these these heart-warming selections – each was chosen based on an ancient cultural belief or historic tradition associated with the material from which it’s made – meaning your gift will be much more than just jewelry. It will be a story that you’ll both remember forever.*

Check out our full list of Valentine’s Selections – and Get 10% Off!

AMETHYST

Amethysts are a guy’s best friend! Greek and English legends attribute many virtues to this stone, thought to aid the warrior in victory and make a man shrewd in business.

The Greek word amethystos translates to “not drunken.” Amethyst was considered to be a strong antidote against drunkenness or lovesickness; wine goblets were often carved of this stone.

Amethysts are also a perfect way to make your woman feel like a queen on Valentine’s! February’s birthstone was associated with royalty by the Europeans – this stone is featured in the British Crown Jewels.

Mythology of Love
Shop local! These gorgeous amethyst earrings are set with
24kt gold vermeil by local designer Via Vandi. Earrings: $280. Members: $252.
See more amethyst selections.

DIAMONDS

Give the stars: in Roman mythology, diamonds are splinters of stars that the god Eros used as arrow tips. You can put them to a much more romantic use.

Mythology of Love
Handmade by Houston designer Rebecca Lankford, this 14kt gold necklace features
two sweet details: a lovely heart, and 3 multi-color raw Indian diamonds.
Necklace: $430.  Members: $387.
See more diamond selections.

VENUS

Venus is the Roman goddess of love – and also the brightest natural object in the night sky. Show your significant other how much they brighten your life.

Mythology of Love
Washington glassblowers Glass Eye Studio create this stunning recreation of the galaxy’s
most romantic planet from Handblown and dichroic glass. Paperweight: $135. Members: $121.50
See our other Valentine’s gift ideas.

BUTTERFLIES

Butterflies flirt. In their courting dance, each partner moves away in various directions yet always comes back to the other. This behavior has made these insects symbols of love, especially in Japan.

Late Roman artifacts often portrayed Prometheus making humankind while Minerva stood nearby holding aloft a butterfly, which represented the soul.

Show your soul mate how much they mean to you with these naturally collected butterflies – which come from butterfly ranches that support rain forest conservation.

Mythology of Love

“Purple haze” butterfly specimen box by Houston artist Todd McKamy. $145.00. Members: $130.50.
“Ascia buniae” butterfly specimen $25.00. Members: $22.50.
See more butterfly selections.

PEARLS

Pearls are associated with Greek Aphrodite, goddess of love – you can’t get much more romantic than that.

Or maybe you can: according to Arabic mythology, the pearl was created when a moonlight-filled dew drop fell into the sea.

Pearls were also associated with the Moon in Hindu culture, where they were symbols of love and purity. Hindu texts say that Krishna discovered the first pearl, which he presented to his daughter on her wedding day.

Mythology of Love
Handmade in Thailand, this stunning bracelet features freshwater pearl and leather.
From Nakamol Design. Bracelet: $46. Members: $41.40.
See more pearl selections.

SEASHELLS

Imagine that you’ve been parted from your true love, stuck on a long sea voyage, thinking of nothing but her – and fish – for months. You’re heading home, and you want to bring her something that will express the depth of your long-held affection.  it might look something like this:

Mythology of Love: Sailor's Valentine
Evoke old-style romance with a mirror inspired by traditional Sailor’s Valentines!
“Sailor’s valentine” style mirror: $24. Members: $21.60.
See our other gift selections for Valentine’s Day!

RUBIES

She’s the center of your universe – why not give her something associated with the Sun? Rubies belong to the Sun according to the Jyotish, an ancient Asian Indian classification of gems and astrology. They are also said to grant the bearer great success in love.

Mythology of Love

Rubies, oxidized sterling silver chain, 14kt gold. Handmade by Houston designer Rebecca Lankford.
Earrings: $380. Members: $342.
See more selections in ruby.

Much more is available in store!

Check out our full list of Valentine’s Selections – and Get 10% Off!

A Valentine’s Day Suprise, A Pink Grasshopper!

Feb2010 100
Val!
Creative Commons License photo credit: emills1

Tuesday morning, I came into work, turned on my computer, started to eat my morning snack, and checked my messages. I just about choked and went through the roof when I heard a message from a woman named Kelly McLaughlin, who said that her son Ronnie had found a pink grasshopper in their backyard! I was so excited!! She was so sweet to drive here from Santa Fe, Texas to donate this amazing little creature to the Butterfly Center.

Now I’m sure you’re wondering, what’s so special about a pink grasshopper? Well, have YOU ever seen one? A pink grasshopper should not really exist! It has an unusual genetic mutation known as erythrism. This is when an animal has either too much of one pigment, or not enough of another, causing it to be red or some variation of red such as pink or purple. It can be found in a wide variety of animals, including several types of insects.  There are several theories about why this happens but no one is completely sure. Erythrism has been observed in certain species of katydids, in fact, the Audubon Insectarium in New Orleans has been able to breed pink katydids and put them on display. I have always been so jealous! When I heard this phone message, I actually expected to see a pink katydid and I was shocked that it was actually a grasshopper instead! If everything goes well, I may be able to breed pink grasshoppers for display, how cool would that be?

What did Katy do?
A pink katydid
Creative Commons License photo credit: frankcheez

Since Ronnie found this grasshopper on Valentine’s Day, her name is Val. We have identified Val as a Northern Green Striped Grasshopper (Chortophaga viridifasciata). This species is very common in Texas. They are small, only reaching a little over an inch as adults. They mostly feed on grasses and prefer wet areas. They usually have two forms, green or brown, but occasionally a pink mutant pops up! I’m not sure how rare they really are, but I don’t think anyone in this area has seen one. This is very exciting! Val has a little more growing to do and hopefully in a few weeks she will be ready for display. She will certainly receive some TLC here so we can make sure she makes it to adulthood. So, remember to keep your eyes open for pink bugs. If you find any, we’d love to hear about them! Happy Bug Watching!

Hug-A-Bug, This Saturday!

Spring is almost here (thank goodness!) and soon Houstonians will be working in their gardens like busy little bees. You can fill your garden with some wonderful plants from our annual spring plant sale, which will be held on April 10th. Before then, however, you can take the opportunity on Valentine’s Day weekend to learn about the world of beneficial insects at Hug-a-Bug! Put those pesticides down because your garden will love you, if you love bugs!

Stop And Smell The Flowers
Creative Commons License photo credit: I Shutter

Pests can be a pain in your garden, but Mother Nature has a plan. This is where beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, come into play. Pesticides can harm creatures of all walks of life, not only targeting the pests, but beneficials such as butterflies and bees, not to mention defenseless animals such as frogs, toads, and lizards. They can also leave residue on your plants. Biological control is the most eco-friendly and effective method. Here are a few beneficial insects you’ll meet at Hug-a-Bug, and you can even purchase for your own garden.

LadybugsAhh ladybugs – beautiful, peaceful, and fierce predators! Most people are under the impression that these cuties of the bug world feed on nectar, but they are actually hungry for blood – aphid blood! Ladybug larvae and adults feed on plants pests, especially aphids. If aphids are in short supply, they will go after other soft-bodied pests such as whiteflies. At Hug-a-Bug, we will be giving away vials of ladybugs for you to release in the butterfly center or even in your garden at home!

Green Lacewing - Chrysoperla carnea
Creative Commons License photo credit: yaybiscuits123
Green Lacewing

Green Lacewings - Not familiar with these guys? Well, pay attention to your front porch light at night and you might notice these dainty little bugs flying around. The adults have a green body with large, lacy looking wings – hence the name! The adults are harmless pollen and nectar feeders while the larvae, like ladybugs, munch on soft-bodied plant pests.

Parasitic Wasps - When most people hear the word wasp they think of red wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets. These are of course not favorable to people because of their nasty stings. But the vast majority of wasps go completely unnoticed by people. They are tiny and parasitic on other arthropods. Each species has a specific host, whether it is a type of caterpillar, aphid, mealy bug, scale, or whitefly. These tiny wasps have no stinger and buzz about protecting our plants from pests.

Afican Praying Mantis
Creative Commons License photo credit: SMB(spidermanbryce)

Praying Mantis - You know this is one of my favorite bugs! Highly intelligent, expressive and thoughtful, they are just fascinating! Most people know the praying mantis because of its distinct appearance. They may not be quite as beneficial as some of the more specialized predators, but they are a friend to your garden none-the-less. If you don’t like larger bugs such as caterpillars or grasshoppers munching on your foliage, these are for you!

Mother Nature is truly incredible! For every plant’s pest, there is a predator or parasite out there to keep them in check. If you let nature run its course in your yard, you will have a very healthy little ecosystem to observe and admire.

If you need any help, all of these bugs can be purchased in large quantities from many places including Rincon Vitova, a pioneer in biological control.

I hope you will come join us at  Hug-a-Bug this Saturday, February 13 in the Cockrell Butterfly Center from 11 to 2 to learn more about these fascinating beneficial insects and see them up close and personal. There will also be fun crafts and games for the kids and a chance to talk to the butterfly center’s very own staff of entomologists and horticulturalists. We hope to see you there!