Tales From The Bug Whisperer


No! No!….Bugs!…..Big Bugs! Don’t eat me! Not in the face! Ahh! Ah! Ahhh! Oh thank God! My favorite show is on Hello Ladies and Gentlemen! And welcome to another addition of “Who Wants to be an Entomologist?!?” [Theme song] What do you call the study of insects? Once again: What do you call the study of insects? Hi and welcome to Tony’s Creepy Crawly Zoo, the only show dedicated to all that creeps and crawls. And you guessed it, I’m Tony. Now by trade, I’m what’s called an Entomologist. I love creepy crawly things! My dad used to read to me about them when I was a kid and I could just never get enough. I hunted for them every chance that I got And you never had to go far to find something interesting. My real world as a kid was more bazaar than science fiction though I do remember having kind of a vivid imagination. What is an insect? An insect is a class of animals in the phylum Arthropoda. Arthro…. pla pla pla… [laugh] When classifying animals, it goes like this: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species I spit it out! I got it! The word “Arthropod” comes from two Greek words The word “arthros” and “podos” Arthros means jointed. Podos means leg or foot. Put them together and you’ve got “jointed leg or foot” That’s what the word Arthropod means. “Jointed leg or foot”. There’s one other feature that all arthropods have that the name doesn’t tell you And that is an exoskeleton. An exoskeleton is a skeleton on the outside, like a hard shell. No, a turtle is not an arthropod. We have a skeleton on the inside And insects have a skeleton on the outside. But there are other arthropods besides insects We have the arachnids, which include creatures like the spider, the scorpion, ticks and mites. Crustaceans. Crabs. Lobsters. Shrimp. MMM. Yummy. And then we have the myriapods, animals with a myriad of legs like the centipedes and millipedes. An insect is an arthropod. That is to say that it does have jointed legs and an exoskeleton. But it’s different from all the other arthropods in that it has three separate body parts and six legs. It’s the only arthropod with that! The body parts include the head, the thorax, and the abdomen. Insects include such creatures as Beetles, bees, ants, wasps, praying mantises, cockroaches, flies, butterflies, dragonflies, walking sticks and the list goes on and on and on and on. Insects are the most successful creatures on earth. Ever. There are more species of insects than any other animal. Settle down, settle down. Thank you! Thank you! Wow, great crowd tonight. Fantastic. We’ve got a great show for you tonight. I’m here. [booing] What’s the last thing that goes through the mind of a mosquito as it hits the windshield of a car? The windshield of a car? His butt! Their success is no accident. Insects were among the first animals to evolve onto land. Not only that, they were the first animals with wings. This gave them an evolutionary head start over everybody And they were able to scatter all the planet and establish themselves with plants before any other animals were able to do that. Now size. Size is another reason for insect success. Most insects are small. Small is great when it comes to terms of survival. You don’t need a lot of food and you don’t need a lot of space to thrive. Another huge factor in the success of insects is reproduction. Reproduction. Insects reproduce in enormous numbers. There’s millions and millions of them. So that means no matter how many get eaten… Being a world famous Entomologist, I just can’t start my day without my Mealeos. Wholesome goodness! Mmm, Mealeos. [crunch! crunch! crunch] Mmmm! Freshly molted! [crunch! crunch! crunch] [crunch! crunch! crunch] Mealeos. The breakfast of world famous entomologists everywhere! … Or splatter on the windshield of your car… There’s always more insects left over to make more insects. And now time for one of my favorite words in entomology, and that is Metamorphosis. Metamorphosis. Metamorphosis means “to change shape” And insects are divided into two categories Insects with complete metamorphosis and incomplete metamorphosis. Incomplete metamorphosis is called “Hemimetabolous” Complete metamorphosis is called “Holometabolous” Weird words, I know, but that’s science for you. Insects that are hemimetabolous don’t go through a lot of changes When they’re born, they look a lot like little adults And then they get bigger and they fly away. Holometabolous insects look completely different from the adult When they’re born, they look like something alien, really. We can best explain this like butterflies. We have an egg and then we have a caterpillar. And then we have a cocoon or a chrysalis which is the pupal stage. And then they become adults and they fly away. Oh! That sound means it’s the Lightning Round! Contestants will shout out the answers and our judges will keep score! The question is, “Why do people study insects?” Once again, listen, “Why do people study insects?” Insects are the most dominant life form on the planet. They do all kinds of different jobs and they affect everything, I mean, everything! And, quite honestly, they keep us alive. Three fourths of all known animal species on the planet are insects This is great for anyone who loves nature. Because they’re everywhere There’s no other life form on the planet that’s so abundant. The majority of us only recognize insects when they bother us and we call them pests But an insect is really only a pest when they do bother us and the total number of insects that fall into that category are far less than one percent of all known species. I mean, sure, there’s always the pesky fly and the mosquito and the insects that eat our crops And our clothes and damage our lawns, and blah blah blah And yes, it could be argued that worldwide, at any given time, One in six people are currently affected by an insect-born disease But really, it still only counts for a very small number of species. Crunchy Pillow? Moving blankets? Pinching sheets? Try Dr. Blastos fabulous Bed Bug Bombz. Sleep better tonight! Our next question: Jobs an entomologist might do… Jobs an entomologist might do Is it A) Become a Starship Trooper Or B) A Chef Or C) Learn all the secrets and take over the planet earth Or D) Be unemployed well into their forties, and live in their parents’ basement watching reruns of ‘Star Trek’. Or E) CSI Investigator Our judges said this is a trick question! All the answers are correct! One of the coolest jobs I’ve ever done as an entomologist was Killer Bee removal First you put on your killer bee suit Then you go look for any killer bees These killer bees were on the side of somebody’s house This colony was huge. Sixty to eighty thousand killer bees And I had to dig into the house to get a lot of them out They paid me for that All bee keepers use smoke. There are two schools of thought in this One is that they bees think that the forest is on fire and they load up with honey and this slows them down The other is that the smoke ruins their attack pheromone so they think there’s nothing wrong and then they don’t attack anything This was so huge that I removed twenty five gallons of wax and honey and a whole lot of killer bees Just look at that! This is amazing Now more smoke for the bees cuz the bees, they cant hold the smoke, that’s what it is Yea, I suppose there are better jobs that I could’ve gotten Ah, who am I kidding? I love this job! Sure are a lot of bees though Or you could be a CSI Investigator Yep, going to have to rule this one a suicide A tree surgeon Cough, please. Another industry that entomologists are important to is the lumber industry Insects do billions of dollars of damage to lumber every single year Just look at that As long as there’s a need for lumber and trees, there’s always going to be a need for entomologists. Ok, ok. So the question then becomes, ‘What do you need to do to start studying insects?’ Well, you don’t really need any equipment to simply observe and appreciate insects. All you really need is an observant eye and a passion for nature and things that are odd and unusual and strange. The odd. Unusual. Strange. Things that creep and crawl. And it also helps if you’re a sci-fi fan. Larvae. I am your father. However, if you are interested in pursuing creepy crawlies a little bit further, there are some tools that will help you in your quest. Tools! [grunts] [Grunts]There are some things that are going to make your life a whole lot easier if you want to start catching insects. First thing, always, your butterfly net. There are several kinds of insect nets and were going to get into that in a minute. Your classic is your simple aerial net. It doesn’t have to be a professional one. It could be a little one like this that costs about two dollars at any given discount store. [grunts?] And then we have our jar. Our jar is the flagship of our insect catching experience. There are lots of kinds of jars – many different kinds of jars. Small jars. Medium jars. And really big jars. It doesn’t matter. A jar’s a jar. It can be used to hold all of our insects, keep them alive and Catch some of them. We have tweezers. Tweeeezeeerss’ Tweezers. You can pick up small insects without hurting them And you can pick up dangerous insects without them hurting you. That’s a good thing. Safety is first and foremost. Next, we have a very common and inexpensive magnifying glass. A magnifying glass can help us when we’re looking at small insects. Now remember, a magnifying glass is for making small things bigger. It’s not for burning things. Just for looking through. Knowledge is a tool – your most important tool. Reading field guides and books about your insects Before you go looking for them will help you appreciate what you see in the moment It’ll tell you where to find them And it will also tell you how to take care of them when you bring them home to your mom! [gunts] Ok, so now we’re at a new point. We’ve learned about insects. We’ve learned about their cousins. We’ve learned about our tools that we’re going to use. And the question is, “What do we do next?” Well, we go find them. When I was a kid, My favorite place to look for insects was right in my parents garden. “Come on Tony! Come in for lunch!” Now Tony, you didn’t bring anything in, did you? I hope not, for your sake. What are you hiding? [hysterical screaming] He he he. And then the fly says to the bee, “I’m not an Apidae, I’m a Syrphidae.” [crickets chirping] “Syrphidae…” [crickets chirping] Tough crowd. Tough crowd. When observing nature in general, remember this: Nearly all things that animals do Can be traced back to three different things: Finding food Reproducing And trying not to be somebody else’s lunch Run, beetle, run! So when you are out in the field looking, ask yourself questions. Was it eating? Was it trying to find a mate? Or was it trying not to be someone’s lunch? I mean, there are exceptions. This beetle was just pooping. Ewww Being out in nature, you don’t just get to see insects You get to see all nature has to offer. What’s that? Oh! A coati! Awesome! What else… oh! A tortoise right behind him! Look at that! Amazing What else is there? Oh the gila monster The world’s only poisonous lizard Is there anything else? Yes! Look! A bobcat! Awesome Man, all that from one rock Bugs are everywhere But you got to keep your eyes open Cuz sometimes they’re right in front of you and you wont even notice them The first place you can always start your bug safari Is right in your own backyard. For most of us that love insects Our first love was butterflies They’re delicate. They’re beautiful. They’re easy to see flying through the air And a lot of fun to catch Sometimes, they’re just passing through. But if you have flowers, a garden, or fruit trees Butterflies will be regular visitors to your backyard And they’ll come right to you Like I said, they’re delicate So if you see one, don’t go getting all crazy now And losing your mind You might hurt one. If you grew up in the Midwest like I did, You’re never far from a park or a field In those fields, there was always one plant That never let me down A really neat plant You could always find something on it I’m speaking of none other Than the mighty Milkweed. Milkweeds are easy to spot They grow anywhere from two to six feet tall They have broad leaves Purple or white flowers And are known for their big seed pods which produce big, fluffy, white seeds. Fluffy! This is why they’re called Milkweed plants Cuz they’re a milky weed The early pioneers and Native Americans used to use this sap as medicine As a cure for warts. I don’t know if it works. I don’t have any warts on me right now. Milkweed is actually a plant with a very interesting history. Native Americans used the flowers is a source of sugar In World War two, the United States Army Used the fluffy, white seeds as insulation for life jackets. In fact, Native Americans used to use the fluffy, white seeds As insulation for moccasins. Bet ya didn’t know that There are a number of insects that depend on the milkweed exclusively And you can always find at least one of them on it. There’s the Milkweed Beetle, The Milkweed bug, Dogbane beetles, Ants and aphids, And the most famous insect of all, the Monarch Butterfly What makes the Milkweed so important as a food plant is the fact that it’s poisonous. And the insects that feed on it are also poisonous. Milkweed beetles, Milkweed bugs and Monarchs are very brightly colored in orange and red. This is nature’s way of telling would-be predators that ‘I’m so easy to see, that must mean that I don’t have anything to worry about.’ And it kind of makes other predators go away. A bird might eat a monarch caterpillar once… When the bird eats the caterpillar, pukes its guts out and gets really sick Then it tells all the other birds, “Ugh, you don’t want to eat one of these things. They’re awful!” That’s not really true. But the bird does get sick and It wont eat a monarch caterpillar twice. To the benefit of the monarch. Some milkweeds you will find covered with ants and aphids. Ants and aphids have a symbiotic relationship. Aphids produce a liquid called “honey dew”. Honey dew is a liquid that comes out of their butt And the ants eat it. They like it so much that they spend the whole day protecting the aphids Which would normally be easy prey for things like, well, lady bugs. Milkweed plants are a busy place. Aside from the insects we just talked about, there are many other insects that like the flowers. And then there are insects like this Preying Mantis that Like the insects that like the flowers. One of my favorite places to find insects is here Or, actually, rather there, in water Aquatic insects are awesome! Let’s go find some! Whoa, a predacious diving beetle. Don’t want to be an injured animal around these guys. Uh oh, this one’s found a worm. Predacious diving beetles are relentless and this worm is finished Predacious diving beetles are the insect version of piranhas and This is just awesome! They’re just ripping it apart In just a few seconds, they’ve reduced this worm to bits and pieces And now they’re fighting over it! This is absolutely incredible! Unless, of course, you’re a worm. Predacious diving beetles are in a family called Dytiscidae They get their name from the Greek word “dytiskos” Which is Greek for “diver”. Water’s one of the greatest places to find insects, even here In the desert! In the desert, water is precious and usually temporary. All life forms take full advantage of it when they have it After the rains here in Arizona, these pools are just teeming with creepy crawlies. But no one, and I mean no one, takes full advantage of these pools like insects do. Some insects, like dragonflies, only spend half their lives in water. Dragonflies are one of those insects that are hemi-metabolous And lay their eggs in water. The immature stages are called “naiads”, When they crawl out of the water for their final molt, They don’t have a pupal stage. Now watch, as this one goes from one of the fiercest predators in water, to one of the fiercest predators of the sky. You don’t know what amazing things you’re going to see under water. Of course, when catching aquatic insects, we get to use our aquatic nets. You don’t need a big net and you don’t need a lot of water You just need a net with holes small enough that the insects you’re looking for wont get through. And of course you’ll also need a container that’s going to hold some water. Aquatic insects are an excellent addition to your own creepy crawly zoo. In looking for insects, one of the things that you want to consider Is not just where, but when [Howling] Night time is an awesome time to find insects Even though the days seem filled with insects, Nighttime is a whole new world. In fact, I have to admit that nighttime is my favorite time to find insects and other creepy crawlies Many insects are nocturnal. Nocturnal means they mostly come out at night. Mostly There are two ways to find insects at night One is to take a flashlight or headlamp and go looking for them You don’t need expensive lights. Even my Energizer headlamp costs about ten bucks. You can find it at any given sporting goods section. When looking for creatures at night, you can find them By simply walking around. Many nocturnal animals feel safe at night So they’re out in the open and you never know what you’re going to run into. Walking around and looking for insects was a total blast But let me show you another way. The best and easiest way to find insects at night is to let them come to you. We’ve all seen how insects are attracted to lights at night. For the most part, any light will work except those yellow bug lights. But some are better than others and lights that have more of a bluish color work the best. This is the Bug Napper and it is so blue that the light it gives off is called Ultra Violet, also known as Black Light. Ultra violet is the color of light that insects are attracted to most. The Bug Napper is a ready-to-go bug light and I highly recommend it. Why? Because it’s available for purchase at CreepyCrawlyZoo.com That’s right, folks. The Bug Napper can be yours for only $49.99 at CreepyCrawlyZoo.com. This amazing bug light is the perfect gift for that young entomologist at home. It comes in this decorative box. The Bug Napper is a bug light. It brings bugs in from all around. It comes with this decorative power cord. Oh, look at that! It runs an eleven-watt black light bulb. It comes with this beautiful, metallic hanging hook. The Bug Napper comes with its own built in trap. That’s right folks, its own trap. You don’t need to do anything, however, the trap comes off! Oh! Look at that! That’s right! You can hang the Bug Napper without the trap and simply hang it above a white sheet. The trap is not useless it has another feature. It has a cover. This cover comes complete with air holes so you can keep your bugs alive. It has a little handle where you can take them home to your mom! Look at that! What a Christmas gift! Now that you’ve got your Bug Napper set up, you’re going to be the most popular person around and all the insects are going to want to come and hang out with you. [Tony! Tony!Tony!] All you have to do is grab a chair, a drink, some snacks and watch what comes in. Oh yea, and cover your snacks or you will be sharing them. Some animals come in just because they know lights mean food. This is my friend Tom Kessenich of Snakes Alive. He’s a Herpetologist, which means that he studies reptiles and amphibians. His animals eat my animals but we’re friends anyway. We were out last summer black lighting and we had a really good night with lots of predators that came in. We saw wolf spiders, tarantulas, centipedes, praying mantids… When you’re out black lighting, if you ever take the time to look up, you’re probably going to notice that the local bat population is doing a little feeding frenzy above your light. Insects you see at night vary depending on the time of year and what part of the country you live in. But make no mistake about it, black lighting for insects is never boring. If you’re at the point where you’ve decided to start your own creepy crawly zoo, you’re going to end up right back here again. At the library. Knowledge is the most important thing to keeping your pets alive. And on the subject of pets, I would like to share a word with you… There are a few things that I want to say to you today First of all, we like to refer to animals we take care of as ‘pets’. When I say ‘pet’, I mean ‘Animal who’s welfare you are now responsible for!!’ Just because they’re small and a little creepy does not give you the right to neglect them. They deserve respect. And if you’re going to take it in to your care, by golly! Take care of it! Up until now, we’ve been talking about catching our own animals for our creepy crawly zoo. That’s fine with me. There’s much to be gained from the experience. I do want you to practice some responsibility through common courtesy, though. First of all, imagine you are an insect looking at us. Remember, they’re small. Now, just imagine… [godzilla roar] Two: your net is not a sword so don’t use it as one! Three: Tweezers are made of metal! Try not to squish things with them. Four: When you turn over a rock or a log, put it back. You never know what’s going to be under there the next time you come back here. The next thing you can do is be prepared! Prepare your jars before you go out into the field. The first thing you’re going to want to do is make sure that your jar has air holes. Air holes are important to breathing. How you get the air holes in the jar is between you and your parents. There are a number of different ways and it depends on the kind of jar you have. The other thing you can do is just take a t-shirt or a piece of cloth and take a rubber band and put it right over the top. That adds plenty of air for the insects you’re going to catch. The other thing you’re going to want to do is get a damp paper towel. I said ‘damp’, not wet. There’s a difference. Get your paper towel, get a squirt bottle, give it a couple squirts, and put it inside your jar. This adds places for your insects to hide, something for them to crawl on, and the moisture gives them something to drink. Now, all you have to do is get your lid on and Bam! We’re ready to go out into the field! Groovy. Our next common courtesy is: Never leave your jars in the sun. If you leave them in the sun, bad things will happen. As I’ve said, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with catching an insect to simply observe it closer. That’s fantastic! You’re going to learn something from it. However, if it’s something that’s not going to make a good pet, you can’t take care of it, or simply don’t know how, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with letting it go. Through this whole video, we’ve been talking about catching our own insects for your creepy crawly zoo. There are some common things that are around most parts of the country that are very easy to take care of. Number one, caterpillars. Caterpillars are awesome. The best example that I can think of is the monarch caterpillar. Because, if you’ve been paying attention to this entire video, you already know how to find them, what they eat and how to take care of them. There are hundreds and hundreds of different kinds of caterpillars. What lives in your area, you’re going to have to look up. There’s plenty of information on the internet that has pictures that can tell you what you have. You can also go to your local library and find out how to take care of it. There are few things more gratifying than raising a caterpillar into a butterfly and letting it go back into the wild. [Can I have a millipede? Mom! Pretty Please. Come on, Mom!] Another animal that makes an absolutely excellent pet that’s available in the pet trade is not an insect. It’s one of the myriapods. Here we have the African Millipede. African millipedes can get up to almost 12 inches in length. They live for about five to eight years and they’re also very low maintenance. They’ll eat tomatoes. They’ll eat cat food. They’ll eat bananas. They’ll eat lettuce – whatever you give them, they’re vegetarians. They don’t bite and they don’t run fast but millipedes do have almost three hundred legs. and they tickle quite a bit. When you first pick up a millipede they usually curl up into a ball like this. They do that because they’re scared. But if you keep your hand still long enough, they will unwind and crawl across your skin. Kind of a unique feeling, got to be prepared for that one, too. Now the part that most of you have been waiting for, tarantulas and scorpions. If you want to know about tarantulas an scorpions, you’re going to have to wait until the sequel. But when it comes to keeping animals that are dangerous or can hurt you, I have some strong opinions… Another thing I wanted to tell you: It may sound like I’m preaching to you and I am! Because I have something to say. I am not a fan of people who do stupid things with dangerous animals. It drives me crazy. If an animal is that dangerous, that’s its way of telling you it doesn’t want to be touched in the first place! And if you do so, afterward, it’s your own fault. There is never a reason good enough to get yourself hurt. And we’ve all seen where that will lead to… If an animal bites and stings, they only do so for two reasons. One: They think you’re food. That’s usually a mistake. Two: They’re scared of you and they’re defending themselves the only way that they know how. Some animals just get scared more easily than others. That’s all there is to it, you can’t blame them for that. In the 20 years that I have been running the Creepy Crawly Zoo, I have personally never been bitten or stung by anything in my zoo and that is no accident. I know what my animals are. We’re not friends. We have a business relationship. I don’t touch the ones that don’t want to be touched. They don’t bite me. It’s simple. That’s how it works. If you get bit, that means that you made a mistake. That you put yourself in a position to get hurt, and you also put that animal in a position to get hurt. That’s not fair. You’re evolved. You’re supposed to know better. So there isn’t a reason to do that. People ask me all the time: “Tony, how do you touch dangerous things?” Well, there’s a very simple answer to that: I don’t. They’re dangerous. Why would you touch them? Yes, accidents do happen. It’s true. But we can prevent that with a little bit of Knowledge Knowledge [grunt] If I have to move an animal that doesn’t want to be touched, this is how I do it: Alright, now I’m going to show you an ancient technique passed down from generation of entomologist to entomologist. Watch this: this is a technique we use for removing harmful creatures, offensive creatures from our domain without actually hurting them. Here’s our situation: We’re in our kitchen. Oh, a cockroach! What should I do, Tony save me! This is it: First we take our cup and we… [Karate – haya!] Did you see that? I put the cup right over the top Watch, we’ll show it to you again. [slowmo Karate – haya! (this is damn funny)] There you go! That was it. Now we take a stiff piece of cardboard or paper, we slide it underneath and we go… Did you see that? Our animal was captured with absolutely no harm to us or it. Nobody was in danger at any time. This can be passed on from cockroach to scorpion, tarantula, inside a cage or outside of a cage. You can either move it from one cage to another or take it outside and let it go. You don’t touch it and it doesn’t touch you. Isn’t that wonderful? Oh, hi! We’re at the end of my first No Budget Production. I hope you learned something and we made you laugh a little bit along the way. Learning’s supposed to be fun. It’s my sincerest wish that I’ve given you enough knowledge to enjoy many future adventures, keep your animals alive, and yourself safe because I do look forward to seeing you again in the sequel. If you want to know more about insects and other creepy crawly things, you can always visit me at www.creepycrawlyzoo.com. Check out my calendar of events page see if I’ll be bringing my creepy crawly zoo into your area. I’ve got lots of good adventure stories. Like… And then there was this one time, at bug camp… Ok, end of story. Hey, that’s all for the day, fans. But join us next time for “Who Wants To Be An Entomologist?”

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