Friday, February 8, 2013

W~i~l~d times at the library

Pictured are Margaret and Richard Whitten clothed in specimens from their collections. The yellow tailed specimens on the left are Argema Mitrei, comet moths from Madagascar (now known as Malagasy Republic). The brown months are Attacus Atlas moths – the world’s largest moths from the Philippines.

By Alannah Allbrett

Friday, Feb. 15, marks the beginning of an exciting new nature series at the Clearwater Memorial Public Library. Noted entomologist, Richard Whitten, together with his wife and partner Margaret, spent many years of their lives in Central America and Africa. Richard has put together video presentations from his collection of over 300 hours of nature filming he compiled over a 30 year period.

The first video program, entitled Tropical Rainforest Adventures will cover the following topics: 1) bioluminescence featuring the headlight beetle (Cucujo Click Beetle) with headlights and a landing-takeoff light on it’s underbelly; 2) White Lipped Peccaries – dangerous giant, forest pigs that actually attack the people who live by them in Panama and Columbia; 3), black light insect collecting – the art of collecting beetles with a white sheet, illuminated with ultra violet light.

In what Richard calls “a grab bag of tropical adventures,” many diverse species will be discussed in the series’ future meetings – it’s up to YOU the viewer, however, what will be featured, as Richard promises to let people choose the critter in which they are most interested for the following presentation.

Neotropical adventures

Some tropical species which might be included for future programs are: leafcutter ants; army ants; tropical butterflies; tropical flowers; monkeys; snakes, lizards, frogs, sloths; spiders; scorpions; wasps; bees; and others.

The Great Beetle Fight film is something you might request, or you might want to learn more about the Whitten Museums of Costa Rica.

African adventures

Richard has plenty to offer if one is interested in Africa, as he spent time studying alongside Dr. David Roubik, a hymenoptera specialist (bees, wasps, and ants) through a study partially sponsored by The Tropical Research Institute, a branch of the Smithsonian Institute. The topics of interest about Africa include: the bee forest of Gabon; carpets of butterflies; Umbaya, the sun monkey; African driver ants, forest elephants, and a program called the, “Horror in the Jungle Laboratory.”

Richard said that his time spent in the bee forests of Gabon – located near the Belgian Congo, were some of his most memorable and disturbing. It required the scientists wearing special protective equipment just to walk outside of the research facility there. “It was a scary thing” said Richard “to get used to the millions of bees of all types, because they want the salt from your body which is not available to them in the rain forest.” [This video footage may be too disturbing for younger children.]

The programs are scheduled from 2-3 p.m., on Fridays, so that school children may attend. One need not be a child to enjoy these free-of-charge meetings, but a child-like sense of wonder and curiosity will bring greater rewards.

This exciting video presentation will be held in the Annex Building, directly behind the library at 402 Michigan Ave. Seating is available for approximately 15 people. First come; first served. For more information, call: 208-476-5033.

A collared peccary is pictured in this photograph. Wild pigs are a dangerous nuisance to inhabitants of Panama and Columbia. Richard Whitten said at times he was surrounded by many of the “white lipped” peccaries while doing his work in Central America.

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