Monday, September 22, 2008

Insectarium Grand Opening Gala - June 3rd

Dave's Bugstock #3 Report

      In case you’re up for the long version: as soon as I got even the most preliminary word about the show, I started compiling notes about everything I knew in the insect scene in this country. I had grand ideas of a tour through several states in different regions. A lot of those notes centered in Louisiana, and the three items that most interested the TV decision-makers were: Bugstock, the Audubon Insectarium, and Fluker Farms. Zack had first told me about Bugstock and maybe even sent me the link, or maybe I’d learned about it through reading Bugguide, or even somewhere else like Insectnet; doesn’t matter. What matters is that I really wanted to go.
      We’d pulled into a hotel about 20 miles away just after sunset on Thursday. The next day was the official start of Bugstock, but I was eager to have a look as soon as I could. One phone call later and I was on my way, though I got lost soon after leaving the highway. I called Steven, who with typical graciousness came out to get me. Travis was there as well, and we met at the local gas station before proceeding through ever-more-modest roads, leading to the grassy hills above the pond and the lights, where I met Shane, Linda, Dorothea and a bunch of others.
      The first other thing I remember was Michael throwing bits of bread or crackers into the pond. I asked him what he was feeding: “Gambusia,” he said, and I knew that that meant Killifish and that there might not be so many mosquitoes around, which sounded pretty good. The lights were doing well: beetles mostly, some big moths, and a whole lot of random insect life. There were also a few bins full of empty plastic containers that were filling up, as Linda’s collection of future kids’ insect specimen boxes came into being. Cha ching!!
      I realized pretty quickly that filming the next night, with bright, mobile lights necessary for the cameras, would be problematic for the crew but kind of amusing for me… after all, they’d had a few laughs at my expense about my insect diet, which had kept me from enjoying the local cuisine.
      I stayed until tiredness took over then managed to get back to the hotel. I returned with the crew in morning’s light, and was able to appreciate that wonderful place: a circular pond framed by virgin-looking forest; a house skeleton reigning over; and a scattering of amenities – sculpture, food pit, music, coolers. The day was warm but not hot. I caught a gorgeous water snake, snared tiger beetle larvae, hung out with Emma, talked with a lot of people, and generally had a fantastic time.
      BS3 was one of the highlights of last summer, during a trip that was full of highlights. You all were wonderful hosts, and there is something about that pond and the circle of land around it that was perfect for the festivities. There is such a particular energy about your place, and the way it sits in Nature, that even now [it feels as though it’s been three years since I was there, but it’s been about four months] I get a little warm thinking about it. I’d never seen an Imperial moth alive before nor had I ever seen such a blizzard of insects coming into a light – and yeah, I know that what had come might not have been nearly as good as some of the other nights you folks have been out after the bugs, but you don’t need to rub that in. I also enjoyed the beetle grub hunt; though it didn’t yield a lot of booty, it let me see a bit more of your landscape.
      But as great as all that was, the part I’ll probably remember until I die were those frogs. Some of them acted as though they liked us, or at least didn’t fear us at all. I figure that it was the rainstorm that triggered them to come down in such numbers, but that doesn’t quite explain their friendliness. It’s not just that I think tree frogs are cool because I hardly ever see them. It’s a lot ore than that. They were willing to hang out with us, as though they’d picked up the spirit of Bugstock themselves, it was magic. I’d imagine that some who read this wouldn’t think it’s such a big deal, the way that I do, but that’s because you have that wealth and diversity of life, a kind of environmental generosity around you, that’s just not here in Providence, where it’s already getting cold out.
      Then there was the mealtime, at which my own edible bugs were a somewhat bigger hit than I’d expected they’d be; that was very cool. My main regret is that I left with the crew, pretty early in the evening, so I missed just about all of the music. But I was dog tired by then. I would absolutely love to come back and do it all again… the right way.

David Gracer

Bugstock #3 Report - May 30th - June 1st, 2008

May 30th - June 1st

      The last weekend in May was another great weekend at the farm. This was the third Bugstock and the first one of 2008. We left the house at around 11 on Friday and drove north. When we rounded the corner after the bridge we came across the Stricklands collecting by roadside. We said hello and continued on to the farm. The cabin now had electricity, AC units and a working toilet, which were all wondrous things compared to Bugstock last year. The rest of the day was spent mowing grass and getting things ready around the cabin. Most of the core group showed up and a few groups went out on hikes before dark.
      That night we had three light rigs burning. Collecting was enjoyable and Dave came out for a while to meet us. There were tons of frogs calling and Shane was able to snag a huge bull frog (which we kept in a tub for everyone to see, then released). A few groups went on night hikes and James searched for snakes around the pond. We walked around and visited far into the night until we were no longer able to move (probably around 2 AM). Four of us slept in the cabin that night.
      I woke up early and got the tables ready for breakfast. Nicki and Emma drove up with some goodies and Travis brought donuts. After we ate and visited for a while I mowed more of the camping area and a few other spots on the other side of the pond.
      Although the Magnolia Mound trail was not 100% complete we were happy to unveil the new section of the Lost Tooth trail which makes it much easier to get from the cabin to the RRRS Pecan Bridge.
      Saturday was a busy day. We had a lot of new folks that had never been to Bugstock before, like: Eric, Jayme, Andrew, Billy and Brian from New Orleans / Thibodaux area. Dave and crew set a new record for distance traveled to attend Bugstock. They came down from New York and Rhode Island to film for an upcoming TV show for Animal Planet (more info after the release).
      Most of the day was spent hiking. Michael collected the first Euphoria fulgida we had ever seen at the farm. The weather had been wonderful but it did rain for a bit that afternoon.
      We had two light rigs going that night: Linda's was near the pond and I set mine up in the field to try to attract stink bugs for Dave. Paul (of: "La Haye's All The Way Cajun Seasoning"!) cooked wonderful gumbo for everyone over an open fire. The food didn't last long as we had all worked up an appetite walking around all day.
      There was a smaller pot made for Dave to add insects to (he was on a strict, insect-protein-only diet). Dave also brought other things for us to taste including crickets and leaf-cutter ants.
      I had some friends from work show up (Josh, Sam and Kellie's group) as did Michael (Faren, Anik, Paul and Pete). We spent the rest of the evening checking the lights. Shane found the first Dynastes (a male) ever spotted at the farm at the lights that night. Travis and Michael took a trip up to the beetle hunting area 30 minutes north of Bugstock but didn’t find very much (still too early in the year). We also had a very late jam session on the porch. It included two guitars, a banjo, bodhran, darbuka and a plastic bucket. When Michael and Travis got back Michael broke out the bagpipes and joined the jam.
      On Sunday we had more hiking excursions. Andrew gave a nice presentation on flint knapping and the use of the atlatl which everyone loved. We also started to clean things up around the cabin. Slowly the party broke up as the groups started heading back to their homes and another successful Bugstock came to a close.