Archives for September 2015


Bugging Out at Arizona Insect Festival

Insects. Arizona is full of them, and though we often consider them pests, they actually constitute an important part of our ecosystem.

That’s what the staff at the University of Arizona’s annual Insect Festival want people to see. All day on Sunday September 20, the Univesity’s Student Union Grand Ballroom will be filled with interactive booths displaying the state’s most extraordinary critters. The event is in its fifth year and will feature 25 booths.

The faculty and student body putting together the event come from a wide variety of scientific disciplines, including ecoloy, entomology, evolutionary biology, and neurobiology. The researchers present are the among the leaders in their respective fields. They’re joined together by a love for insects and a desire to showcase to Arizona citizens the state’s rich ecological heritage.

Some of the local insects on display include the Apache cicada, the noisy bug selected as this year’s mascot; butterflies; rhinoceros beetles; praying mantises; and vinegaroons. There are also notable related arthopods like scorpions and spiders.

The Insect Festival is designed to be a fun and hands-on learning experience for the entire family—including the kids. The organizing staff has gone beyond putting up mere displays. In the petting zoo, visitors get to touch and feel the six-legged creatures.

Children can also express themselves creatively at the crafts booths. These include the Build-a-Bug workshop. As the name suggests, kids are given materials and allows to create an insect according to their own imagination. These are sure to become a favorite stuffed animal at home!

At the food both, you actually get to taste insects used as food. Delectable treats include mealworm tacos, cricket cookies and chips, and cricket protein bars.

There’s also some real fast-paced excitement to be had at the cockroach races. Place your bets and see which of these crawly athletes makes it across the finish line first!

For lovers of butterflies (perhaps the most aesthetically agreeable guests at the event) there are several booths dedicated to them. The multi-booth display is created by a collaboration between Tucson Botanical Gardens Butterfly Magic, e-Butterfly, Southeast Arizona Butterfly Association, and Meet & Pet a Caterpillar.

For those struggling with insects ruining their property, there’s also useful advice in the form of several pest control booths, including Home Pest Solutions, Backyard Vampires, and Stings N’Things.

There are also a number of booths dedicated to showcasing the research performed by the many scientists present.

The Arizona Insect Festival helps people appreciate a unique part of our state heritage that often goes unnoticed. The State of Arizona, in fact, has some of the most diverse insect life in the world. For instance, the world’s highest diversity of solitary bees lives in our very own Tucson Mountains. A lot of insect life comes out during the summer Monsoon.

Many consider insects nothing more than a nuisance. But they actually contribute in important ways to the overall health of the ecosystem.

Just take the Insect Festival’s mascot—the Apache Cicada. These critters spend much of their time underground digging and eating roots. Their activities help move water from deep plant roots to more shallow layers of soil. This helps keep soil healthy and capable of promoting growth.

To fully enjoy the beauty of bugs, come to the Arizona Insect Festival on Sunday, September 20 from 11am to 4pm.!


How Do We Feel About a Border Fence?

Arizonans are affected by the U.S. immigration policies – that’s a fact. They are more affected than a midwestern or northern state simply because of geography. When illegal immigrants make their way across the Mexican border, they’re quite likely to end up in this state. No one disagrees that conditions are terrible in Mexico and no one blames parents for wanting a better life for their children. But the immigrants crossing over aren’t always those in need of help – they might be criminals, drug runners and weapon smugglers. There’s two ways to enter the U.S., the legal way or the illegal way. Is a border fence the correct method of preventing illegal crossings on the Arizona Mexico line?

Is a Fence Effective and Worth the Money?

It might be the federal government financing the border wall, but that comes from Arizona citizen’s tax dollars too, and they have to live with the results which is why car title loans have become so popular in the state – does a border wall work or not? There is significant debate about the effectiveness of a wall along the border. The common argument against a border wall is that it is only a bump in the road for determined illegal immigrants who will not be deterred from their goal. They may climb the wall. They may tunnel beneath the wall. Another concern is the length of the wall, which would have to cover over 1,900 miles to secure the entire length of the state’s border. Besides the immense cost of initial building, the government would have to acquire vast sections of private land from Arizona property owners before the wall is built. They must design the wall and build it in such a way that it does not disrupt or harm the environment.

Then there’s the question of patrols. How will the wall be monitored throughout the day and night, throughout the years and the decades? Will the manpower required to enforce the wall’s symbolism be too costly to sustain? What about when the wall needs repairs? Arizonans know more than other states that unless the measure is going to actually be effective the cost will be much to excessive – the desert is too vast and wide to possibly police every square inch of wall without a regular, ongoing billion dollar budget.

Are There Other Solutions?

If building and enforcing a wall is out of the question due to the lack of money and/or effectiveness, what other options are left? Some Presidential candidates talk about forming a path to citizenship program for current illegal immigrants located within our borders. Some politicians say deportation is the only option. But the question remains – how can we prevent future illegal immigrants from using the border as a drug smuggling operation that harms individuals, families and whole communities? Not every illegal immigrant is acting from this motivation, but border security is still an issue that must be addressed. The American economy is struggling to support those who have been here for generations, never mind thousands of new immigrants sneaking in without permission.

Simply put, Arizonans are tired of living through the results of failed experiments. What’s going to work most effectively to keep communities safe, keep drug activity low and keep the economy functioning at a high level? Is an illegal immigrant transition program the answer? Is a wall going to help in the least? Stop wasting tax dollars on unstudied efforts and make a comprehensive plan for change that all Arizonans can get behind.