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Beach Bugs (That’s an Arthropod???)

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**This post is part of a PNW Blogger Scavenger Hunt! For more information on how to play and win prizes read the details here: http://www.metrofieldguide.com/2015-pnw-nature-blog-scavenger-hunt

 

When we tell people that we make videos about insects, spiders and other arthropods people get really excited. Ladybugs! they say. Bees! they exclaim. Butterflies! they scream. Yes, Yes, Yes! we concur. And also…

We strive to teach people about the amazing diversity of the arthropod world and help people to see that the ‘bug’ world is much larger and more varied than they ever imagined. And whoa! we proclaim- Oregon has some REALLY COOL ARTHROPODS!

In September of 2013, we drove a green couch across the country to inspire kids to get off the couch and explore America’s wilderness. We filmed the whole trip (in post-production now). Our show starts on the Oregon Coast to explore some ancient (and very distant) relatives of the bugs we see everyday.

OREGON COAST

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Our green couch, lounging at Bandon Beach, OR. The site of our first stop to explore America’s awesome arthropods. Beach bugs are the best! Photo: Peter C. Blanchard, 2013

Oregon’s coastline is gorgeous and with so many large rocks at the shoreline, it makes for great tide pooling. People know about crabs and small shrimp but when you walk across the sand there are thousands of these little animals that hop, skip and jump out of your way. People call them all sorts of names, like sandhoppers or sand fleas but they are actually little crustaceans called amphipods.

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An amphipod found at Bandon Beach, OR.  Can you see the two pairs of antennae? Photo: The Bug Chicks, 2013

First things first. Crustaceans are arthropods that have 5-7 pairs of legs and 2 pairs of antennae. They are found all over the world, can live in fresh- or saltwater and on land. The little animal to the right is easy to identify as an amphipod because it is  laterally compressed, meaning it looks like someone picked it up and pinched it a bit between a thumb and a forefinger. That is the scientific definition of laterally compressed. Swear.

We found thousands of these amphipods just up from the surf on the wet sand. Many species  are detritivores, which means they eat decomposing matter. They are little scavengers (Hey! You’re scavengers!) looking for an opportunity. They hop and jump as you approach them so getting this picture was difficult. Amphipods are found all over the world in marine and freshwater alike. Some species are terrestrial but live in moist or damp areas.

Another arthropod that people overlook when at the beach is a barnacle. Huh? Barnacles are arthropods? Aren’t arthropods supposed to have segmented appendages (like legs & antennae), exoskeletons and bilateral symmetry? (See how I did that there? Taught you about the key characteristics of arthropods…)

Yup. Barnacles are arthropods. They are just a little different looking. After a free-living larval stage they attach themselves head-down using a cement gland at the base of their antennae. You can find these kinds of barnacles on rocks, boat hulls and even whales! Once attached they become sessile arthropods, or non-motile. (**Non-motile is a bit confusing because it means non-moving but barnacles can move their bodies, they just don’t change location.)  Their legs are modified into feeding appendages and they catch tiny plankton that drift by on the tides.

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These are acorn, or volcano barnacles. These animals will remain attached to this rock for the rest of their lives. That’s one long head stand, folks. Photo: The Bug Chicks, 2013

 

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A close-up view of an acorn barnacle. They create 6 hard plates that surround the body for protection. The central part (that looks like a clam shell) is called the operculum. They also called moveable plates. Plates are not molted, but barnacles do have internal exoskeleton that is molted just like other arthropods! Photo: The Bug Chicks, 2013

Some barnacles are parasitic. So instead of attaching themselves to rocks or structures, they attach themselves to living organisms like crabs. (There’s one that lives on the reproductive system in crabs, effectively sterilizing them and preventing them from mating!)

We hope you learned a bit about other-a-pods in this post. Next time you’re at the beach take a look at the hoppy, jumpy things and the look-like-part-of-the-rocks things and try to determine if they are arthropods!

GOOD LUCK SCAVENGERS!

A Cool Find in Oregon

After Thanksgiving I was in Eugene, Oregon visiting friends. We went on a forest ecology walk at the Arboretum on Mt. Pisgah.

You read that right. Thanksgiving weekend in Oregon.

It was cold. Windy. It even hailed a little. (Or was it freezing rain? I always get those confused. Little balls of ice. They hit me on my face.)

Now don’t get me wrong- forest ecology is cool. I just prefer it if my nature walks can promise some exoskeleton along with the lichen, you know?

So I’m bumbling along behind the group, trying to feel my toes and I see a black beetle on a fence post.

In the Pacific Northwest, there are lots of insects that are adapted to the colder months. We’ve even written about a few. But I’m still surprised when I find one.

Back to the beetle. As I look closer, I’m shocked. It looks like a lampyrid; known as lightning bugs or fireflies where I’m from. I think, “it can’t be! There are no fireflies out west!”

Ellychnia

I had stumbled upon a diurnal firefly, genus Ellychnia, one of two species found in Oregon. They don’t glow as adults, and larvae live in rotting logs. It’s not known if the larvae of this genus exhibit bioluminescence, as some others do (as glowworms).

Ellychnia pronotum

Forgotten were my frozen fingers, the hail-sleet in my hair, my purple chapped lips. I Found An Insect!!!!! And it was one I’d never seen before. That’s a double score.

For a much better picture that wasn’t taken with an icy iPhone check out Alex Wild’s here.

We’re Back: Chronicle of a Lost Year

**This post was difficult to write. I’m known as the funny one. I make silly faces and do insect impersonations. I give inspirational speeches in workshops that make moms cry. I help scared kids to hold roaches and see that they are capable of more than they believe. They look at me like I am invincible.

I also tell each person we teach to Be Brave. So here goes…

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We have not posted on this site for over a year. The last people heard, we were embarking on an incredible journey to film America’s arthropods for a new series in partnership with Project Noah. Our trip was sponsored by so many wonderful organizations and funders on Indigogo. The month we spent on the road filming ranks among the best times of our lives. It was it was supposed to be the beginning of a dream– our own show.

When we returned home, my life imploded. I went through a divorce.  I’m not here to tell you all about it– that is not the nature of our blog. Doesn’t matter who or what or why or how. But as a small business owner I need to be honest; it tore my world apart in every way. I didn’t think Jess and I and The Bug Chicks would make it through the last year intact. I certainly almost didn’t.

When you go through a divorce, you grieve the loss of a dream. In the darkest moments, you fear you will be incapable of dreaming ever again. So what happens if your work is also based on the currency of dreams? You get a little lost.

For TBC, it was supposed to be a year filled with opportunity, connections and getting to the ever-elusive “next level” (you know, the one where you can eat and start to pay your student loans). The tectonic shift in my personal life had serious repercussions for our business, our reach and our goals.  Some chances will never come again.  Others, hopefully, can be picked up and dusted off.  More opportunities greet us each week and we are grateful for that.

As a result of our lost year, we have had to make some serious decisions about how and if we should continue with our business. We’ve made a lot of poor choices. We’ve been overwhelmed, naive and in some ways ignorant. We’ve been small business owners who are learning our way through the maze of creating a life we love and shaping it as we go. We have learned that we are a creative force and that we need a business manager to truly succeed.

Small businesses fail every day. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you try harder, work smarter, cut the fat, milk a purple cow or bounce ideas off walls until one sticks. (More often they bounce and bean you between your eyes which are already hurting due to computer strain.)

From here on out, I could focus all of my energy on how we could be better. I’m a professional “be better-er.” But if it all goes down the tubes as we try to rebuild I need to remember and recognize that in 3 years of actual business and 4 years of hobby before that, we have accomplished some amazing things. It’s healthy to see where you could do better in the future. It is also incredibly valuable to be able to nod your head and say, “Yes, we did that. And it was good.”  So before we jump back in to see if there’s still life in The Bug Chicks, let’s reflect shall we?

 

Some Past Accomplishments:

  • Consultants for the Norman Borlaug Institute (4 trips to Guatemala)
  • 51 videos written & produced for organizations including-
    • Texas A&M University
    • US Forest Service
    • National Ag Science Center
    • Junior Master Gardener
    • WormWatcher
    • Renaissance School of Arts & Sciences
    • Entomological Society of America
  • Featured bloggers for Science Friday
  • Semi-successful Indigogo Campaign and a 5-week cross country filming trip in a new minivan loaned to us by Honda
  • Opened BUGS! museum exhibit at Sam Noble Museum
  • Taught over 50,000 people in interactive workshops/appearances
  • Filmed a television pre-pilot
  • 2 bug video camps with Leach Botanical Gardens
  • Renovated museum exhibit at National Museums of Kenya
  • Bug Bytes podcast with over 80,000 subscribers
  • Self-published coloring book
  • Full-time Bug Chicks for 2 years
  • Featured on PBS’ EarthFix and get regular airplay on Oregon Public Broadcasting
  • Filmed in US, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Kenya, Australia
  • some AWESOME press

Work to do:

  • Raise $40,000 to edit & distribute the Sofa Safari
  • Find a business manager
  • Step into our destiny as female role models in media
  • Blog each week
  • convert from primarily service based business to product based brand
  • Write people back who have written or called
  • Manage our money/expenses better
  • Get involved in Girl Education Campaign
  • Pick up dropped connections
  • Publish children’s science book series, Actual Factuals
  • Pitch 2 television shows (Bug Chicks kids series) (Cultural Entomology history show)
  • Time management
  • Pay off our business debt
  • Add income streams
  • Streamline business process
  • Get paid what we are worth
  • Get our mojo back and use our voices

 

It’s going to be difficult.  If going through divorce has taught me anything, it is how to be brutally honest with myself. We might not make it. But I am proud of the work we have done, of the dreams we have dared and the path we have hacked to get here, no matter the outcome.

Before I sign off, I would like to take this opportunity to thank our sponsors and Indiegogo funders on the Sofa Safari for their patience as we rebuild, the schools and libraries who hire us to teach children and the many, many bugdorks who take the time to write to us. We are getting back to you.

Think of this last year like we were in the pupal stage. We just emerged and our wings are drying out. It’s time to see if we can fly.

Had to get a bad insect analogy in here somewhere.

–Kristie

 

 

 

 

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The Insects! VIDEO SERIES

 

  1. Solpugid Productions LLC, doing business as The Bug Chicks, owns and reserves all rights in and arising from the The Insects! Video Series.  Only the Bug Chicks may publish, disseminate, use, license, modify, or alter the Insects Series.
  1. In exchange for Purchaser’s non-refundable payment as part of this transaction, The Bug Chicks license to Purchaser the limited right to access and display – through a year-long membership that is gifted to either: one K-12 school, one homeschool group, or one individual/family for PRIVAYE USE ONLY – the series for a period of one year from the purchase date.
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  1. Purchaser and its administrator are responsible for arranging and trouble shooting access and display of the Insect Series on-site, however, any questions/support needed can an should be directed to The Bug Chicks at contactus @ thebugchicks dot com.
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SPECIAL NOTE: Thank you so much for your cooperation on this! We are a small business dedicated to providing teachers, students and awesome parents with excellent science programming. Help us by spreading the word about our work, so that we can create more for you!

Sincerely,

Kristie and Jessica

The Bug Chicks

 

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