Gross Science at Phoenix Fan Fest, October 23, 2016

As a followup to the Gross Science panel at Phoenix Fan Fest, here are some noted insects of the Sonoran Desert.

Rainbow Grasshopper

Jay Iwasaki, (CC BY 2.0)

Jay Iwasaki, (CC BY 2.0)

Feeds on snakeweed and desert broom, making it distasteful to predators.

Opuntia Bug

Cactus Bug (Chelinidea vittiger - Opuntia Bug); trail over "Adobe Wall Pass" to Redfield Canyon S of Jackson Canyon, Galiuro Mountains, E of Redington, AZ, Lon&Queta, (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Cactus Bug (Chelinidea vittiger – Opuntia Bug); trail over “Adobe Wall Pass” to Redfield Canyon S of Jackson Canyon, Galiuro Mountains, E of Redington, AZ, Lon&Queta, (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Cause white spots to appear on cacti due to their feeding.


Photo by Eileen Kane

Diceroprocta apache photo by Eileen Kane

Different species emerge at disparate times of the year and males sing distinct songs. Desert cicada life cycles are 3-7 years in contrast with Eastern cicadas’ 13-17 years. Desert species are the only known insects who can sweat.

Palo Verde Beetle

Cobalt123 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Cobalt123 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Larvae feed on roots–sometimes palo verde or mesquite trees–for up to three years.

Jerusalem Cricket

Franco Folini , CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikipedia

Franco Folini , CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikipedia

Sometimes know as Child of the Earth or Skull Insect, they are cousins of katydids and wetas and nocturnal predators.

Iron-Cross Blister Beetle


Blood contains cantharidin which causes blisters. They pupate in native been nests.

Tarantula Hawk

Marc Shandro (CC-SA 3.0)

Marc Shandro (CC-SA 3.0)

Females hunt tarantulas for food for her offspring. Usually nectar feeds and non-aggressive, never swat at them as their sting is very painful.


Carpenter Bee

US Forestry Service

US Forestry Service

From Steve Buchman, The Bee Works:

Along with bumble bee queens, carpenter bees (genus Xylocopa) are the largest native bees in the United States. There are numerous species of carpenter bees that inhabit a broad range of ecosystems from tropical to subtropical to temperate. In the United States carpenters bees can be found across the southern United States from Arizona to Florida and in the eastern United States, north to New York.

These gentle giants get their name from their life history habits of excavating precisely rounded galleries inside wood. Using their broad, strong mandibles (jaws), they chew into dead but non-decayed limbs or trunks of standing dead trees. Some species, like the eastern Xylocopa virginica, occasionally take up residence in fence posts or structural timbers, especially redwood, and become a minor nuisance. Inside their rounded branched galleries, they form pollen/nectar loaves upon which they lay their giant eggs (up to 15 mm long). The female forms partitions between each egg cell by mixing sawdust and her saliva together. These partition walls are very similar to particle board.

More Resources

50 Common In50-common-insectssects of the Southwest by Carl E. Olson. “Olson’s love for insects began when he and his older brother collected caterpillars and silk moths in the Ohio countryside. While terminating insects with Raid is the initial instinct of many people, Olson has dedicated his career to using alternative ways to solve the insect problems people face. He is a believer in programs promoting ‘integrated pest management,’ or IPM.”

Learning About and Living With Insects of the Southwest: How to Identify Helpful, Harmful and Venomous Insects by Floyd G. Werner Carl Olson. Excerpt, The Bugman’s Philosophy by Carl Olson:

insects-southwestAs I wander about this desert, I now try to figure out what insects are around making this world so delightful to me. I may become an oasis in the desert to the creatures. If that fly comes to my nose and becomes an irritation, I may shoo it away but I know why it comes to me. Life won’t always be as I wish it to be, so maybe I can return a little of me through some other life forms. Peace of mind comes in many ways, but to me it comes in the form of diverse shapes and sizes of all those microcreatures surrounding me in life.

sting-of-the-wildThe Sting of the Wild by Justin Schmidt. The world of stinging insects through their eyes from the author of the Schmidt sting pain index.

onesmall-squareCactus Desert (One Small Square) by Donald Silver & Patricia Wynne. “It’s a sun-scorched world where clouds rarely come and nothing seems to move. That is, until children ages 6 – 9 up look a little closer to find tortoises, toads, and lizards, not to mention the scary rattlesnake and scorpion. Here, plants send their roots deep into the earth to find water, beetles stand on their head and shoot a stinky spray to fight off enemies, and roadrunners whiz by sleepy turtles and nervous desert mice on their way to … where?”

Bugs ‘N Stuff of the Southwest Facebook Group.

Professional Devlopment for K-12 Teachers at Phoenix Comicon

The Professional Devlopment Programming Track at Phoenix Comicon, June 2-5, 2016, Phoenix Convention Center, provides an opportunity for teachers to learn about current research topics, trends, ideas and technologies being developed by Arizona-based, up-and-coming researchers, scientist and engineers. K-12 teachers receive credits for each panel they attend where the Arizona Department of Education has certified the content.

Teachers collect unique stickers from each Phoenix Comicon panel certified for Professional Development credit.

Teachers collect unique stickers from each Phoenix Comicon panel certified for Professional Development credit.

Panels and interactive activities feature Ph.D. STEM research professionals as well as engineers and technologists. With the Every Student Succeeds Act requiring that science assessments be administered once in elementary, middle, and high school, and that schools provide professionaldevelopment in the area of parent and family engagement including collaborating with entities with a record of success in improving and increasing parent and family engagement, Phoenix Comicon Professional Devlopment Programming provides a unique opportunity for teachers to align with current topics in science, industry and engineering with popular culture.

Professional Devlopment Programming also provides access to personalized learning experiences supported by technology and professional development for the effective use of data and technology via the opportunity to interact, ask questions of and develop follow-up with contemporary researchers and innovative engineers.

Highlights from the Science Programming Track eligible for Professional Development include:

Although laboratories are important, scientists often have to travel to their subjects to study them. In this panel, researchers will discuss the exotic and remote places they’ve traveled and their adventures there.

In 1849, Austria bombed the city of Venice with over 100 pilotless balloons. Since then, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles have advanced dramatically, and now include both military and hobbyist devices. In this panel, experts will discuss the science behind drones and where the technology is heading.

X-MEN, MUTATIONS, AND YOU (FRIDAY, 1:30PM – 2:30PM), North 227BC
In the X-Men universe, humans carrying the X-Gene can gain super powers including Telepathy, Super Healing, and Super Senses. In this panel, scientists will discuss where mutations come from, and whether they can ever give us beneficial powers.

(FRIDAY, 7:30PM – 8:30PM), North 227BC
Your guide to basic survival needs in a post-apocalyptic world.

Tony Stark built the first Iron Man suit in a cave with a box of scraps. He’s also created new elements, coded sentient artificial intelligence, and mastered flight. In this panel, engineers will talk about their work and the feasibility of Iron Man’s achievements.

Join the FBI, Dept. of Homeland Security, and Postal Inspection Service to hear how they use science to fight crime and protect vital infrastructure, and what they think of their TV and film counterparts.

In Star Trek, the Tricorder is a versatile device that allows high resolution scanning and analysis of patients to quickly diagnose disease. In this panel, scientists will discuss projects that are attempting to turn this science fiction into science fact.


Phoenix Comicon 2016 Programming Includes Science Interactive Space

pg2016This year, Phoenix Comicon, June 2-5, 2016, at the Phoenix Convention Center, is trying something new with science programming: a science & technology interactive space intended for adults and familiies.

Located all four days of Comicon in Room 231A of the Phoenix Convention Center’s North building, highlights of the Interactive Science space include:

Ever wonder what it would be like to live on Mars? Do you have what it takes to land a Martian rover? Are you an interstellar entrepreneur? Presented by Center for Meteorite Studies, SEDS-ASU.
THURSDAY, 12:00PM – 1:30PM

TechShop‘s hands-on, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) sessions are geared to intrigue and fire up the curiosity. .
THURSDAY, 2:00PM – 5:00PM
SUNDAY, 1:00PM – 5:00PM

Anonymous, The Matrix, Hackers, War Games, Tron… the list goes on. We are in the age of Cyber security- don’t get left behind. Presented by the AZ Cyber Warfare Range.
THURSDAY, 5:30PM – 10:00PM

Visit a team of local hackers, makers and experts to experience live, interactive demos, and awesomely engaging conversations about the future, which is NOW. Organized by Steve Greenberg of ThinClient Computing.

3D Titanium Printing with Joe Manzo of Titan Industries, Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Phoenix Section of The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) will host a dinner event featuring Joe Manzo of Titan Industries and Orbital ATK Thursday, April 28, 2016, 6PM, at The Pink Pony, 3831 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale. Joe will be presenting on Electron Beam Melting Additive Manufacturing, a rapidly emerging technology allowing fully-functional parts to be 3D printed in titanium. The capabilities, development, and future outlook for this technology will be discussed, as well as Titan Industries’ innovative work in design for additive manufacturing that allows the benefits of the process to be maximized.

The event is open to the public. Cost is only $15 for students/educators or $30 for the public for a 3 course plated dinner and networking hour, the presentation itself is free. If you plan to attend, please register.

NASA’s FameLab Returns to Phoenix Comicon, Saturday, May 30, 2015, Phoenix Convention Center

famelab_phxccNASA’s FameLab USA returns to Phoenix Comicon Saturday, May 30, 2015, 6PM at the Phoenix Convention Center, N232. Phoenix Comicon, a ticketed celebration of popular culture with upwards of 80,000 attendees, features FameLab as part of their extensive science programming for attendees.

FameLab at Phoenix Comicon will be the Western regional US heat for early career scientists from numerous disciplines to compete to convey their research or related science concepts. It’s a sort of “American Idol” for scientists. Each contestant has three minutes, no slides, no charts, just the power of words and a prop to convey how the contestant’s science can reshape the face of science exploration and discovery. A panel of experts in both science and science communication conduct the judging.

Winners from the FameLab Exploring Earth and Beyond regional competitions will face off in April, 2016 for a grand prize and the chance to compete with peers from around the world at the FameLab International Final in the UK in June, 2016.

The mission of FameLab is to improve science communication skills. Each preliminary event hosts workshops with training in the principles and practices of good communication.

Science Rocks PHX at Civic Space Park in Downtown Phoenix, Friday, March 27, 2015, 6 PM

Kelly Murray Young, Assistant Agent, Agroecology, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension,Maricopa County. Interests include entomology, soil science, irrigation management, plant sciences, plant pathology and weed science.

Kelly Murray Young, Assistant Agent, Agroecology, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension,Maricopa County. Interests include entomology, soil science, irrigation management, plant sciences, plant pathology and weed science.

Bookmans Entertainment Exchange, ScienceArizona and City of Phoenix present Science Rocks PHX at Civic Space Park in Downtown Phoenix. 

Science Rocks PHX combines the the best and brightest scientific minds in Arizona with talented local rock musicians in one multifaceted event.

This is a chance to engage with Arizona-­‐based scientists who share passion for their field of study in a community setting. Science Rocks PHX is a special engagement of Civic Space’s popular Fridays in the Park series and is co-­‐sponsored by Bookmans Entertainment Exchange, ScienceArizona and The City of Phoenix. This event takes place from 6-­‐10pm on March 27, 2015 at Civic Space Park, located at 424 N. Central Ave. in downtown Phoenix between 1st and Central avenues, just north of Van Buren Street/Central light rail station.

Science Rocks PHX is open to all ages and free to the public. “We are very excited to be a part of this integrative event,” said Katy Spratt, Community Relations for Bookmans. “There is so much talent in Arizona, we cannot wait to hear from the brightest minds and musicians in our community.”

Jekan Thanga, Assistant Professor, ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration. His interests include Evolutionary Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Life.

Jekan Thanga, Assistant Professor, ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration. His interests include Evolutionary Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Life.

Short multimedia presentations by four different scientific speakers will take place inside the A.E. England Building, located in Civic Space Park, from 6:30-­‐7:30pm. Featured presenters are  Jekan Thanga, Assistant Professor, ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration; Subir Sabharwal, Researcher, ASU School of Earth and Space; and Kelly Murray Young, Assistant Agent, Agroecology, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension.

DJ WF Rani “g” of World Life Music will be holding down the beats and spinning live between speaking sets. Local bands, Crossfire Lounge and Venessa Mendez of Sassy & The Sneak Attack will play live on the outside stage from 6-­‐8pm.

Food trucks will be onsite and the Fair Trade Café will be open for dessert and cocktails. Local vendors including Bookmans Entertainment Exchange and The Phoenix Comicon Street Team will provide fun giveaways and prizes. A big screen movie hosted by Arizona State University will play on the grassy lawn at 8pm. Follow the fun: #scirocksphx

SpaceUp Phoenix Brings Together Researchers, Astronauts & Space Exploration Advocates March 7, 2015, Mesa Community College

spaceup-logo-websizeSpaceUp Phoenix, an unconference where all attendees are expected to give a demo, present a talk, or participate in a panel or roundtable, brings together researchers & engineers and local advocates for space exploration for a day with opportunities to meet like-minded people and discuss topics related to spaceflight, exploration, satellites, space tourism and more.

SpaceUp Phoenix happens Saturday, March 7, 2015, 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM, at the Mesa Community College
(Dobson Road south of Southern Ave) Physical Science Building, (West side of campus on Dobson Road where it says “Planetarium”), Mesa, AZ 85202. Pre-registration is $5, follow this link. 

Guests at 2015 SpaceUp Phoenix include Astronaut Charles Walker, former President of the National Space Society and a veteran of the Space Shuttle program with 20 days in space and 8.2 million miles traveled; Dr. Peter Swan, President of the International Space Elevator Consortium; and keynote speaker, Jim Bell, Professor, Arizona State University, School of Earth and Space Exploration.

SpaceUp Phoenix is sponsored by Mesa Community College, the Phoenix Chapter of the National Space Society (NSS), and the Phoenix Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and is part of the 2015 Arizona SciTech Festival. Follow SpaceUp Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.


Night of the Open Door: Hands-On Science Fun for all Ages, Saturday, February 28, 2015, ASU Tempe Campus

Saturday evening, February 28, 2015, from 4 to 9 PM, Arizona State University’s Tempe Campus opens its doors to the public with free events (and parking) featuring the scientific research of ASU’s many departments. Night of the Open Door is a hands-on chance to become acquainted with the many far-ranging and important science being done at ASU.

ASU’s Biodesign Institute, home to some 500 scientists, students and others work on tough societal problems, including studying the cause, diagnosis and treatment of nearly 100 diseases, hands-on activities, games and prizes during Night of the Open Door include:

• “Science trading cards” featuring some of Biodesign’s leading scientists and engage in more than 30 activities, including:

• Donning a space suit, designing an experiment and send it into space.

• Making slime and using a smartphone and seeing how proteins behave in the slime

• Playing a motion-sensitive video game designed by student researchers to role-play saving the planet from pollution

• Watching how plants can make glow-in-the-dark leaves similar to the way they produce disease-fighting proteins for therapies and vaccines, like Biodesign scientists did to make a serum used to fight Ebola

• Observing 3-D printing in action

• Learning how to clean water using bacteria to remove uranium, nitrates and other contaminants

• Measuring fake whale poop to learn what it can tell us about Moby’s stress levels

“Our Biodesign employees truly enjoy this opportunity to show their work,” said Biodesign Executive Director Raymond DuBois, M.D., Ph.D. “If last year’s event is any indication, we expect to welcome about 2,000 children and their families into our building for the day. My hope is that they become entranced by the magic of science and decide to join the next generation of people who will work to make our world a better place.”

The Biodesign Institute at ASU is located at 727 E. Tyler St., ASU Tempe Campus. Major cross streets are Rural Road and University Drive, southwest of the light rail stop at Rural.

You can also follow the evening’s activities on Twitter and Facebook, using #BiodesignOpenDoor and #OpenDoor.


Orbital Sciences at Chandler’s Sunset Library, February 15, 2014

How one company with a long history in Chandler continues to reach for the stars is the topic of the next Our Stories guest speaker presentation from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, February 15 at the Sunset Library, 4930 W. Ray Road. The free event will celebrate science, invention and technology in advance of the Chandler Science Spectacular, Feb. 20-22, 2014.

The design, manufacture and test of Antares occurs at Orbital locations in Dulles, VA and Chandler, AZ.

Orbital Sciences Corporation has a 50-year history in the East Valley, including a large presence in south Chandler. Mark Ogren, Orbital’s Vice President of Business Development, will talk about the unique work performed by more than 1,500 employees at the company’s Launch Systems Group. The group, located on Price Road south of Queen Creek Road, launches missiles and rockets from launch sites around the world. Ogren will talk about how Orbital designs and builds launch vehicles for missile defense interceptors, target missiles, experimental testbeds and satellite launches, including its newest rocket which services the international space station.

Our Stories is hosted by the Chandler Museum, Chandler Historical Society and the Chandler Public Library. The March 15 Our Stories session will include a presentation on Arizona’s baseball history, Arizona music history will be featured in April, and the May topic will be the history of the Ocotillo area of south Chandler. For more information on these and other Museum events, call 480-782-2751 or visit

Details on the Chandler Science Spectacular are at