Throw an unusual party with bugs

March 11, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Want to throw a truly unique cocktail party or birthday party??Have the insect discovery lab drop by!

Darkling beetles: First off there are more than 400,000 beetles that have been identified on the planet (keep in mind 1.7 million species have been discovered and named) thus, this means that basically every fourth you run into is a beetle!

Darkling beetles eat both fresh and decaying vegetation. Major predators include birds, rodents, sunspiders, and lizards. The larval stages of several species are cultured as feeder insects for captive insectivores , and include the very commonly known mealworms. Some species live in the dry Namib desert and have evolved modifications that help them collect water from the fog that condenses.

This species and its relatives are found right here in the Bay Area, they are mistakenly called "stink bugs" (WRONG) due to their behavior of lifting the rear end into the air and releasing a foul smelling chemical defense.

Eastern lubber grasshopper: This exotic beauty appears to be from the tropical rainforest due to its wild coloration of red, yellow, orange and black. It is found in southeastern and central portion of the U.S. Our lubbers come from the Everglades in Florida. The wings offer little help with mobility for they are rarely more than half the length of the abdomen. This species is incapable of flight and can jump only short distances. Mostly the lubber is quite clumsy and slow in movement and travels by walking and crawling feebly over the substrate.

The immature eastern lubber grasshopper differs dramatically in appearance from the adults. Nymphs (immature grasshoppers) typically are completely black with one or more distinctive yellow, orange or red stripes. The front legs and sides of the head are often red. Sometimes the nymph is brownish rer, but also displays the colorful stripes. The wings offer little help with mobility for they are rarely more than half the length of the abdomen. This species is incapable of flight and can jump only short distances. Mostly the lubber is quite clumsy and slow in movement and travels by walking and crawling feebly over the substrate. Their bright color pattern is a warning to predators that the lubber contains toxic substances.

Giant African millipede: Our millipede comes from Kenya. The name "millipede" is a compound word formed from the Latin roots milli ("thousand") and ped ("foot"). Despite their name, millipedes do not have 1,000 legs. Millipedes can be easily distinguished from the somewhat similar and related centipedes (Class Chilopoda), which move rapidly, and have a single pair of legs for each body segment. The giant African millipede (Archispirostreptus gigas), known as shongololos, is the largest species of millipede. Millipedes are detritivores and slow moving. Most millipedes eat decaying leaves and other dead plant matter, moisturising the food with secretions and then scraping it in with the jaws.

Australian walking stick: Looking more like a dried leaf than a stick (there are more than 3,000 species of walking sticks) the Australian stick is found in the rainforest of northern Australia. The key form of protection is camouflage, but, additionally, it can protect itself my mimicking a scorpion by rolling up its abdomen! The walking stick female is interestingt because it does not depend on the male for its survival. Females can have the unique capability of parthenogenesis, a form of asexual reproduction, and only males are needed to create more males. There are even some breeds of walking stick where a male in the species is unheard of. In our lab they feed on blackberry bramble.

Giant thorny phasmid (Malaysian walking stick): This animal is one of the most incredible creatures in the world. Its brilliant color green makes it impossible to find in the rainforest of the Malaysia. And, is it endangered?? No one knows, but what they do know is the rainforest where it lives is.

This animal inspired George Lucas and his creative team during the making of the first Star Wars - they used the females face to help them design aliens in the bar scene.

Madagascar Hissing Cockroach: Found only on the island of Madagascar these flightless roaches are capable of producing a hissing sound. Not from their mouth but from tiny holes on the under surface of their abdomen. The hissing sound produced is used for protection and, more than likely, for sexual communication.


Please join Norm on March 13th at Bowl-The-Planet, from 3 p.m. - 6 p.m. at Serra Bowl in Daly City.

About Norm Gershenz, Director of

Norman Gershenz is the director and CEO of SaveNature.Org and co-founder of the Insect Discovery Lab. SaveNature.Org has raised more than $3.9 million to help preserve thousands of acres of rainforest and coral reef habitat around the world. Norm created and developed the first Adopt An Acre program in the United States as well as the award winning Conservation Parking Meter; both raise funds for international conservation. SaveNature.Orgswork's has been highlighted in National Geographic, Time Magazine, and ABC's World News Tonight.

Norm was affiliated with the San Francisco Zoo for more than 18 years as an educator, member of the animal care staff, fundraiser, and researcher. Norm has tracked black rhinos in Zimbabwe, chased orangutans in Borneo, and stalked the elusive platypus in Australia. He has handled boas and bobcats, pandas and elephants, snow leopards and koalas, hippos and hornbills. He has worked as a field biologist and naturalist in Borneo, Malaysia, India, Nepal, Peru, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Belize, Ecuador, Panama and Namibia.

Norm has made hundreds of presentations, mentored and trained more than 30 educational specialists and team-taught Our Endangered Planet at the university level

Norm is also a noted gourmet insect chef, a lecturer in biology, an expert birder and can spot a beetle at 50 mph.