Sunday, May 31, 2020
Bug Zoo Offers Close-up Looks at Tarantulas and Scorpions
Sharon Arms says she’s fallen in love with this bearded dragon.
Friday, April 26, 2019


It’s safe to say the bearded dragon draped over Sharon Arms’ shoulder likes it there.

The Australian dragon, who likes to burrow underground when scared, hasn’t puffed out his beard to make himself seem bigger in a sign of defense. And his beard hasn’t turned black—something that might scare predators away.

That’s a good thing because this bearded dragon will be doing a lot of meet-and-greets on Saturday as the Sawtooth Botanical Garden stages its 15th annual Bug Zoo Festival.

The giant desert hairy scorpion likes to hang out with the blue death feigning beetles both in the wild and at the Sawtooth Botanical Garden.

The Bug Zoo Festival will kick off from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at the garden, which is four miles south of Ketchum at Highway 75 and Gimlet Road.

This year’s festival has plenty of critters, including insects and reptiles sure to captivate the imagination of young’uns.

Among them:

  • A blue death feigning beetle common to the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. Though tiny, they can eat apples, carrots and dog and cat food.
  • A giant desert hairy scorpion whose pincers are like crabs’ pincers. Only mildly venomous, they like to buddy up to the blue death feigning beetles. “If you went camping in the desert, you could use a black light to see these guys in the dark and show you where not to put your sleeping bag,” said Kim Chaplin, the garden’s AmeriCorps education assistant.
  • A Himalayan hissing cockroach on loan from Thunderpaws that hails from the Himalaya and hisses when frightened.
  • Hildegard, a Chilean rose hair tarantula on loan from Ann Christensen. These tarantulas, also known as the Chilean fire tarantula, can live 20 years dining on grasshoppers, crickets, moths, beetles and even small lizards and mammals.
  • A box turtle named Boxy Lady on loan from the Stroebel family. Box turtles are characterized by a domed shell that is hinged at the bottom so they can close it tightly to escape predators.
  • A desert tortoise commonly found in the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts. They live as long as 80 years, spending most of their time in burrows and rock shelters to regulate body temperature and reduce water loss. They’re active during seasonal rains and inactive the rest of the year.

Sonoran desert tortoises are flat and pear-shaped, while the Western Mojave tortoises are more butterball shaped.

In addition, there’ll be face painting, arts and crafts, stick races on the stream with sticks made to look like bugs, a chance to see all the parts of a butterfly, including their eggs, and a scavenger hunt looking for rocks that have been painted with lady bugs, butterflies and frogs. 

There’s plenty for adults, as well.

Local contractor Steve Hobbs has installed an indoor beehive, recycled from a BIG IDEA project on pollinators at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts. The hive in the southeast corner of the greenhouse has an entrance/exit tube for bees to seek pollen outdoors.

And they’re already making pollen so visitors will be able to watch them in action.

Most wild box turtles can’t survive their first winter.

“Steve has generously offered to train garden staff on beekeeping techniques so that we can keep the hive going for years to come,” said the garden’s executive director Jen Smith.

Additionally, the Festival will include an Idaho native hummingbird display hosted by Fred Bassett, a beaver display with items loaned by the Environmental Resource Center and booths staffed by girls Scouts and the University of Idaho Extension Service’s Blaine County 4H.

There also will be an exhibit on Integrated Pest Management, which will offer information to help gardeners make decisions about how to deal with pests. It will offer tips about cleaning out underneath a tree where pine beetles have been, how to make sure plants are healthy when you select them, how to make sure the plant is right for the environment and what is the least toxic way to deal with pests.

“It’ll look at the life cycles of various pests so you can figure out how much impact they might have,” said Chaplin.

Jen Smith says the bee hive will be a permanent fixture at the Sawtooth Botanical Garden.

“It’ll offer information on all the controls: biological, botanical, cultural and chemical,” added Smith.

There will not be a Bug Zoo U with experts offering mini-courses on various critters this year. Instead there will be Bug Zoo Festival II from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 4. A tree will be planted on that day in honor of Arbor Day. And there will be an “Ask an Arborist” display staffed by local certified arborists from ArborCare Resources and Jen Smith, who is a certified arborist.

Last year, more than 1,500 people took part in Bug Zoo, which includes school field trips Monday through Friday. Public viewing on those days is encouraged from 3 to 5 p.m.

This year’s theme is Survival so school kids will be looking at strategies animals and plants use to survive, including migrating, cooperating and adapting.

“The kids like to see the bugs and reptiles up close,” said Chaplin. “And we teach them how to handle the bugs and critters in ways that are comfortable for them. For instance, we teach them to touch the Bess beetles with one finger.”

Admission to the Saturday festivals is $5 for adults, $3 for kids 5 through 18. It’s free for kids under five. Se habla spanol. Admission is free on weekdays.

For more information, visit or call 208-726-9358.



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