Mark Your Calendars: First Annual Santa Monica Mountains Science Festival

Brent ‘The Bug Guy’ Karner from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County will be showing off bugs at the first Santa Monica Mountains Science Festival.

Want to figure out a way to get over your squeamishness about bugs? Then you might want to attend the first science festival at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, as bugs will be on the agenda.

The event is free and open to the public. Hours are 7:00 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, April 16th, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 17th at Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills, California.

Both the evening program on Friday and the day program on Saturday will feature hands-on, family friendly activities for all ages. From owls and bats to mountain lions and fossils, each festival station will involve participants in a variety of engaging scientific practices.

The evening program will feature several events that focus on ‘things that
fly at night’. Among the guest speakers will be Brent ‘The Bug Guy’ Karner from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. He plans to bring his popular insect light show and will attract moths, beetles, and other insects to a viewing area.

Insect collecting at night provides “instant gratification” says Mr. Karner. “The black lights and mercury vapor lights we use will bring in a variety of bugs. It’s like turning on a big porch light in the forest.”

Different insects respond to different types of lights, so participants will be able to examine which bugs are attracted to each light station.

Participants seeking more interaction can temporarily place one of the insects in a vial for closer inspection and identification, before releasing it back into the wild. That too close for comfort? No problem. Those who want to keep their distance from the bugs can inspect the insects on the viewing sheet, without getting too close to the actual critters.

The black and mercury lights often generate a few surprise visits from unexpected creatures. “In 2009,” recalls Mr. Karner, “a similar program saw the arrival of a very large centipede, who came to enjoy the bug show and find a snack.”

The public can expect to identify many of the bugs drawn to the light show, as more than 1.5 million insect species have already been described. Mr. Karner is quick to point out however that “there may be many millions of species still waiting to be described, so there’s a pretty good chance that we’ll draw in something that will be new to science.”

The Santa Monica Mountains Science Festival is co-sponsored by the National Park Service and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.