The Bugscope

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The weekly #bugscope

Every Tuesday at about 2:30pm ET you can join
Isa Betancourt for a live broadcast about bugs!


Looking forward to Periscoping with you!


betancourt buckeye butterfly milkweed new jersey

Running updates:

September 3rd

Bugscope postponed. I’m out of town and the connection is not great where I am. I’ll likely do a spontaneous broadcast later this week so make sure your Periscope notifications are on!

July 16th
My Department-mate - Bob Conrow (PhD Student) has returned from Fly School in California and will share with us 5 highlights about the experience.

July 9th - No broadcast because I am sick :(

June 30, 2019
The July 2nd Bugscope may be pushed a little earlier to 2pm because I am an avid fan of the women’s national soccer team and they are playing their world cup semi-final match against England this Tuesday at 3pm EST.

We have in the lineup, special guest expert Tatanya Livshultz, PhD who will join us to talk about pollination systems. She will join us either this Tuesday or next Tuesday (July 9). I will update as soon as I confirm with her.

I thought of Tanya and wanted to bring her on after observing the diverse frenzy of insects visiting the milkweed in my grandmother’s garden last weekend. There were monarch butterflies, red admiral butterflies, common buckeye butterflies, the amphion sphinx moth, bumble bees, and various other bees and flies visiting the flowers by day. When the sun set, night shift began and there were so many moths visiting and hovering around the milkweed flowers! It was beautiful to witness.
I noticed that there were blow flies getting their feet trapped in the flowers and remembered the complex pollination system that milkweed has evolved into having. Milkweed has its pollen in packs called pollinea which stick to the legs of flower visitors. Not all visitors are powerful enough to carry the pollen and instead their legs get stuck and they are trapped. This is what was happening with the blow flies.

I’m very excited to chat with Tanya on the bugscope as she brings a wealth of knowledge on the topic of pollination systems. She recently was part of a big review of the Milkweed family. When I chatting with her about joining me on the bugscope, she already started blowing my mind with incredible information like how 30% of the milkweed’s produced sugars (from photosynthesis) goes into the flower’s nectar. That is a really high number. She also reminded me that while the bees are portrayed as beneficial creatures that are happy benefiting humans through pollination, the truth is way more exciting…

I hope to see you at live stream!
Save the dates and if you’d like, in advance you may send me any specific questions you may have that you’d like me to ask her.

A blow fly whose feet got stuck in a milkweed flower.

A blow fly whose feet got stuck in a milkweed flower.

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Would you like to support the bugscope? 
There are many ways to support the bugscope! 

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  • Order an item on the bugscope wishlist

  • Purchase a bug magnet

  • Send a piece of mail (Notes about an insect encounter you had, send an insect specimen, etc! Contact me for address)

  • Contact me if you have something else in mind!

Bugscope Snapshot
bugscope broadcasts 2

Previous Updates:

March 12th, 2019
Hello hello!
Today will be a quick scope because I am at the final stretch of my graduate classes and because I have a presentation tomorrow at the New Jersey Mosquito Control Association that I am working on polishing off.

I am at the end of a two week span that contained 5 presentations! It started off with a presentation for the American Entomological Society on science communication, then a presentation to the Geographical Society of Philadelphia on urban insects and my Swann Fountain project. I got home at 3am this morning from the Eastern Branch Entomological Society of America Meeting in Blacksburg, Virginia where I presented on the entomology collection digitization projects at the Academy. I also did a 5 minute talk there on urban insects and human connection.

Between that and the end of my academic quarter, my schedule will mellow out going forward because I am going from taking two classes to taking one class each quarter. I have been taking two classes in addition to my full-time curatorial duties for the last year and a half!! So I have had little free time. These last couple months I have been feeling burnt out.. It has affected my ability to stretch my wings and carry out some of my creative ideas. (for example, I want to have a 10th birthday party for Saffron, my red rump tarantula!) So yea.. I’m so excited to have free time and to use it to explore buggy projects I’ve had in mind. So stay tuned :)

Beyond today, what’s lined up for the Bugscope?
Tuesday, March 18: Katie, a good friend of mine from when I studied abroad in Costa Rica, will be at the Academy as a visiting researcher. She studies Diatoms. What are diatoms? I didn’t know of their existence until I was working at the Academy!
In preparation for that broadcast, I’m giving you homework! Check these beautiful art pieces made of diatoms in the 19th century.
The exact time of this broadcast is TBD, I’m waiting to hear from Katie about her schedule.
Tuesday, March 26: My coworker, Karen Verderame, who is in-charge of the live-bugs and the annual Bugfest! at the Academy of Natural Sciences will be our special guest. What live bugs we will have on hand is TBD.
This is an episode you’ll want to share with your kids!

Bugscope projects on the horizon:
With classes winding down, I’m going to turn some focus into making a bugscope blog, which will include highlights from the week’s episodes.
• I also plan to upload some bugscope episodes to Youtube.
Finally, A Bugscope Patreon is also in the works! I’m aiming for a launch in April. Stay tuned. Also, let me know what ideas you may have for tier rewards.

Cheers ya’ll and see ya on the bugscope! Shoot me a message if you have any questions or requests.


Jan 16 2019
We are half a month into the new year. I hope your new year is off to a good start!
For the first broadcast of the year (January 8th), Greg, my coworker hopped onto the Bugscope with me and shared his stories from his grasshopper collecting trip in December.

This past week (January 15) we took a look at some Wasp Mimic Tiger Moths (Select tribes in the subfamily Arctiinae). Many have clear wings, iridescent scales, and bright, contrasting colors - like wasps!

Next week’s topic: TBD

Current Aims: I’m currently working on learning the technical route to bringing a remote guest onto the #bugscope through a Periscope live audio broadcast. I spoke with Marc - or Cricket Man of the EntoNation Podcast last week and I think bugscopers will really enjoy chatting with him and hearing his experience with farming crickets.


December 4th update:
Last week: We looked at one or two books and then diverged into talking about Periscope functionality successes and areas for improvement and finally dove into seeing what insect might match up with the insect pin I was wearing. Based on the morphology, it must be some sort of blister beetle (Meloidae).
I will revisit books more thoroughly in a future broadcast!

The December 4th broadcast:
Postponed until 6pm because of a meeting. Topic - Antlions and Owlflies. Also the
Insect Apocalypse article published by the New York Times on Novembr 27th 2018

Also, here is a nice clip about the imagery created and chosen for the article:

The Bugscope lands on CHRISTMAS this and NEW YEARS this year! Stay tuned for specially themed broadcasts.

November 27, 2018 Update:

On this day we will explore the books on the shelves of the Entomology Department
also it is:
Giving Tuesday!

Some organizations that are near and dear to me that I contribute to:
The Academy of Natural Sciences:
The Xerces Society for invertebrate conservation:
The Entomology Collection Network: