A fun and educational live animal zoology presentation available for parties, schools, camps, scouts and special events in the Los Angeles, California area. We specialize in reptiles, amphibians, arthropods and other misunderstood but friendly critters.

Neighborhood Spotlight: Kathy Burkholder

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Kathy was featured in the Weber Accetta Weekly on March 21, 2016 by Cathy Strini.
The following is a copy from the article:

After meeting Kathy while out in the Golden Hills neighborhood, we were intrigued by both her and her line of work. Kathy’s Critters offers fun and educational zoology presentations for schools, birthday parties and other special events. From snakes to tarantulas to Madagascar hissing cockroaches, Kathy and her crew specialize in “misunderstood, but friendly critters”. Former “Zookeeper” at the Insect Zoo, Los Angeles County Natural History Museum and Nature and Science Instructor for the City of Manhattan Beach, Kathy has years of experience working with reptiles, amphibians, arthropods. She has a degree in horticulture, but is always looking to learn more! Through conferences and research, Kathy works continuously to stay on the forefront of Entomology and to connect with other educated enthusiasts.

Kathy’s connection with her critters goes beyond the knowledge she has acquired through work and study. Even as a young girl she had a love for all bugs and reptiles! When she was not out searching the gardens, she was inside teasing her siblings (and mother!) with her newly found “pets”. It was inspiring to hear first-hand how Kathy was able to create and grow a thriving business centered around her life-long passion. A true entrepreneur, Kathy has created a space to share her enthusiasm while educating others. As a lifelong South Bay resident, Kathy has seen the area change tremendously and was able to share both some of her favorite memories and also how the community has helped foster the growth of her business. We love that we have neighbors who are actively working towards their dream careers, but still maintain a community-based mentality!

We had a chance to meet some of Kathy’s little friends and to see her in action with them!

Kathy was kind enough to participate in a little Q&A session with us so continue reading to learn more about her:

1. Tell us about your experience in the “critter world” and how it led to starting your business.
I have always been interested in the life sciences. In college (El Camino), I received my A.S. in Horticulture and took every Entomology class they offered.

I continue my education constantly by conducting my own research and attending annual educational Entomological conferences along with educators and scientists associated with institutions, universities, museums and butterfly houses from around the U.S. and abroad.

When I was a single mom with two children, I worked many jobs, sometimes two or three at a time. One of my favorites was as an Animal Control Officer at the Humane Society. I also worked at the Agriculture Department in pest control for projects such as the Mediterranean Fruit Fly and Japanese Beetle. While there (about 25 years ago), I was offered a position at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum as the Insect Zoo Technician (“Zookeeper”) for the Insect Zoo. Part of my job required that I do outreach programs, travel to schools throughout the county, and give lessons and assembly programs on the live insects we brought to them. After one of my programs, a teacher asked me if I knew anyone who did the same type of program only with reptiles. I thought to myself, I have enough of my own, so I offered to bring some. Word-of-mouth spread, and Kathy’s Critters began.

Eventually, Kathy’s Critters became my only job and I’ve been doing it ever since (over 20+ years).

2. Introduce and tell us a little bit about three of your favorite critters.
As everyone knows, a mother loves all of her children equally. With that said, I have a fondness for the animals I’ve had the longest time, and they hold a special place in my heart. They include two of my corn snakes, Ophelia and Portia, who are over 20 years old; Blue, my blue-tounged skink (a lizard from Australia) who is almost 20; and Worf, a California Desert Tortoise around the same age.

3. Give us a brief run-down of the experience that “Kathy’s Critters” provides at birthday parties.
The birthday child will be the center of attention as he or she shakes hands with a tarantula, caresses a cockroach, “trains” a stink beetle to “play dead” and “roll over”, becomes a habitat for a tree frog, gets kissed by a lizard, wears a snake necklace (or necktie) and much more. He or she will be the “Zookeeper and Animal Handler for a day”.
The birthday child will carry the animals and show them off to his or her friends. Everyone will get to touch, hold or pet most of the animals (if they so desire). Free toy souvenirs are included for the kids and the birthday child will receive a nice gift.

4. Do you have any plans for further expansion of your business?
I am working on a traveling walk-in butterfly house, which can be brought to events such as spring extravaganzas, garden parties, butterfly parties. I’m also going to offer Butterfly Gardening lectures to local nurseries and Garden Clubs. I can include the butterfly house with these lectures. I’ve been growing a butterfly yard for many years at our house in Redondo Beach (Golden Hills area) and neighbors will often stop in front of our house and comment on the number of butterflies in my yard. I have a lecture entitled “Build It and They Will Come” which I recently presented to the Lorquin Entomological Society. The majority of the photos in this presentation were taken in our yard, which only proves that no matter how small of a yard, you can still successfully build a butterfly garden. I also do consulting on growing your own butterfly friendly garden.

5. How has living in the South Bay, Redondo Beach in particular, helped aid the expansion of your business?
The people of the South Bay are great. Our neighbors could not be better. We are a very close community and our block gets together annually for a block party, for which we’re always out in the front driveway with the critters for the neighborhood children. The award-winning schools are fabulous and are always welcoming to our critters.
The weather here is perfect. I can do my shows year-round without worrying that my critters will get frozen on the way to my car while I pack them. I know other people in different states who cannot do winter shows for that very reason.

6. As a life-long member of the South Bay community, how have you seen the area grow and prosper?
Our family was one of the “early settlers” in the very newly built Bodger Park area of Hawthorne. We were one of the first families on the block. Manhattan Beach was our hangout and only a short drive away down a beautiful two-lane country road lined with eucalyptus trees; I think it was Rosecrans. My early memory is while my dad was driving, the car would fill with the aromatic scent of the eucalyptus seedpods over which we were driving. We would also drive to Dockweiler Beach and look at the farms and horses on the way. I also remember the drive-in A&W Root Beer stand on, what is now, the El Camino parking lot. Across the street was a dairy farm with real cows.

The South Bay has grown a lot since then.

Read original article here.

Los Angeles Environmental Education Fair

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This Saturday I’ll be doing the Los Angeles Environmental Education Fair at the
Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden
301 North Baldwin Avenue
Arcadia, CA 91007-2697
Phone: 626.821.5897

Saturday, March 12th, 2016 from 9am to 3pm at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Arcadia.

It is geared towards teachers, scouts, parents and anyone else interested in the environment. The public is invited. Free with admission to the Arboretum.

You will learn about lifestyle solutions that impact the health of our planet through hands-on workshops and in-booth presentations. Other event activities include sustainable food sampling, tours, multicultural music, drum circles, science scavenger hunts, art activities, eco-friendly demonstrations, and nature games for all ages.
Come for the whole day and enjoy the fair and the Arboretum. Do not miss the specialty food trucks and the Peacock Café for terrific food including $5 kid’s meals.
Workshops for Adults:
“Drought Tolerant Lawn Alternatives” by the Arboretum at the Crescent Farm at 10:00am
“Caring for Trees in the Drought” by Tree People mid-morning
Workshops for kids:
“Art in Nature” by Kidspace mid-morning
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New species of tarantula found

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Article posted on the Washington Post by Rachel Feltman on February 5, 2016

New species of tarantula found near Folsom Prison named for Johnny Cash

A study published Thursday in ZooKeys announced the discovery of a staggering 14 new species of tarantula.

The researchers were trying to clean up the taxonomy of the genus Aphonopelma, a group of tarantula species native to the Americas. Before the new study from Auburn University and Millsaps College, scientists had identified over 50 different species in the genus. But this record was wrong: Many of the species outlined in the scientific literature were based on just one or two spider specimens, and many of them were based on the description of male spiders alone. Because male tarantulas undergo a lot of changes when they reach sexual maturity, that left room for a lot of accidental redundancy.

But after a decade of hunting for spider specimens all across the Southwest – and studying 3,000 specimens in total, including many from the Auburn University Museum of Natural History – the group suggests that only 29 of those original species are actually unique.

Another 14 were identified that were previously unknown to science.

“We often hear about how new species are being discovered from remote corners of the Earth, but what is remarkable is that these spiders are in our own backyard,” Auburn University’s Chris Hamilton, lead author of the study, said in a statement. “With the Earth in the midst of a sixth mass extinction, it is astonishing how little we know about our planet’s biodiversity, even for charismatic groups such as tarantulas.”

Aphonopelma johnnycashi clearly has the best name of the new bunch. “This species can be found near the area of Folsom Prison in California,” the authors write in the study, “and like Cash’s distinctive style of dress (where he was referred to as “the man in black”), mature males of this species are generally black in color.”

Hamilton says that despite their creepy reputation, tarantulas are harmless to humans. They don’t bite, and the researcher calls them “teddy bears with eight legs.” They’re certainly fuzzy enough to fit the bill.

But the researchers don’t want too many folks to fall in love with these eight-legged teddy bears: While many of the new species seem widespread, there are a few that could easily be threatened by climate change and habitat loss. Hobbyists hoping to get one for themselves could make matters even worse.

“Two of the new species are confined to single mountain ranges in southeastern Arizona, one of the United States’ biodiversity hotspots,” co-author Brent Hendrixson of Millsaps College said in a statement. “These fragile habitats are threatened by increased urbanization, recreation, and climate change. There is also some concern that these spiders will become popular in the pet trade due to their rarity, so we need to consider the impact that collectors may have on populations as well.”

Read original article on the Washington Post website.

Praying mantises get fitted with 3D glasses, watch bug movies

Newcastle University research into 3D vision in praying mantises by Dr. Vivek Nityananda.
Pic: Mike Urwin. 151015

Article posted on CNET.com by Eric Mack January 8, 2016

The 3D-video craze may have died down a bit from a few years ago when every other new flat screen or Hollywood blockbuster seemed to be boasting the tech, but scientists may have found a new group that will be more than happy to wear the specs — praying mantises.

Yes, that’s right. Scientists actually outfitted the odd insects with tiny 3D glasses to confirm that they actually see and hunt in 3D vision. I’ve been staring at the below picture for a while now of the green and blue lenses affixed to a praying mantis’ head with beeswax and I still can’t decide if it’s cute or creepy.

Researchers have suspected for years that mantises see in 3D, but scientists from Newcastle University in the U.K. finally hit on the right design of glasses for the insects.

The idea is the same as the old-school red and blue polarized glasses used at 3D movies, but the researchers used green instead of red because the bugs see that color much better. After being fitted with their new custom specs, the creepy-crawly subjects were shown short videos of tasty bugs in 3D, and they struck out at them. When shown the same images in 2D, they didn’t go for the bait.

Read entire article on CNET.com

Hungry Monarch Caterpillar

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Butterfly Gardening at BioQuip

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I will be giving a presentation on Butterfly Gardening at BioQuip https://www.bioquipbugs.com/ on November 20, 8:00 p.m. for the Lorquin Entomological Society.

If you would like more information about the Lorquin Entomological Society, please visit them on Facebook.
https://facebook.com/lorquinsociety

Read about Kathy in the Lorquin Entomological Society Newsletter November 2015

Open to anyone as my guest.

If you would like more information about this event, call Kathy’s Critters or visit BioQuip. THE place to buy all of your entomological supplies. My friends for over 26 years.

https://www.bioquip.com/aboutUs/Events_Calendar.asp

Kathy’s Critters on Yelp

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Click here to read some great reviews on our Yelp page. Thank you for the 5 star ratings!

Worf and Spike enjoying the sunshine!

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Worf (California Desert Tortoise) and Spike (Bearded Dragon) “kissing ” and enjoying the sunshine.

Mama Asian Forest Scorpion just had new babies!!!

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She’s a very protective mother. The babies are a live-birth and they climb onto her back when they are born. They are pure white with dark eyes. Mama will guard them until they molt and get their dark pigmentation and are strong enough to leave her back and fend for themselves.
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Walk-In Butterfly House Coming Soon!

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Kathy’s Critters small traveling butterfly house display. Kathy’s Critters will soon be offering a larger walk-in butterfly house for Garden Parties, Butterfly Parties and other special events. We exhibited this house at our 4th of July Block Party for our neighborhood kids (and adults). What a great party with super neighbors!
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