We’ve been raising triops again.
I wanted to bring some of the prehistoric crustaceans, which have adapted to life in temporary pools by laying eggs which can stay dormant for years, to my first library presentation about my book Discover the Desert. We were running low on eggs and were totally out of triops chow (the dried food pellets that come with triops kits) so I was trying an off-brand kit I found in a clearance bin. Not having a lot of confidence in the kit — the envelope containing the eggs was marked food — I went online to find some triops-raising advice and, as always, came up with something totally unexpected.
Weird Bug Lady is a crafter who makes soft sculpture of critters like triops, planaria, giant tube worms, fossils and even entire “aquariums.” A zoology student at McGill University in Montreal (my alma mater) who will be soon be going on to the University of Connecticut for a Ph.D. in entomology and evolutionary biology, Weird Bug Lady creates plush toys (suitable for older kids) that are both beautiful and anatomically correct. According to her blog, she’s temporarily put a hold on custom orders while she finished up her final semester. But there are plenty of pre-made items for sale though the Weird Bug Lady Etsy store.
Each listing also contains interesting info on the species pictured. For instance, the page featuring the scarab beetle shown above notes that it is a tropical species from Ethiopia and includes a photo of an actual specimen from the McGill campus museum (right).
I haven’t ordered any stuffed invertebrates yet, but since it turns out Weird Bug Lady lives not far from me, maybe I can catch her during summer vacation and convince her to let me see some samples in person.
As for our Brand X triops, they hatched as hoped for and seem to be doing fine. In fact, we currently have two of the scary-looking shrimp in our salad-bar container tank, along with a third inhabitant, a fairy shrimp (also known as sea monkeys), which must have hitchhiked a ride with the triops eggs. One week after hatching, they had grown from eggs the size of a grain of sand to about a quarter of an inch long. They were the hit of the library presentation, along with the mini-cactus planter, the aloe leaf gel, and the Middle Eastern labneh (yogurt cheese) I showed them how to make. Here’s a shot of the three shrimp, playing happily: