Saturday, March 26, 2016

Day 5 - Xunantunich

Happy #NationalAgDay ! Did you know that the Mayans were farmers? About 90% of Maya were involved in farming.  They can be credited with domesticating a specialized, sting-less bee alongside their brilliant architectural accomplishments. God's played an important role in Mayan society. Among these were Yum Caax (one name for the maize, or corn, God) and Chac the rain God.

John imitating Chac the water God

Commoners would have come here to speak with those who were close to the Gods. They would bring offerings and dress according to their requests. 

The royal family would have stayed here.

As the Mayan empire grew, and more people came to live in the plaza, the middle building was added. This was done so that they ruling family may have more privacy. 

Everyone appreciating the beautiful scenery

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Curious Flavor

Nozzle Head Termites
Termite Nest

We saw quite a few termite nests on the way to and from the cave. After Dr. Bundy poked the nest and termites started raining down like candy out of a pinata, we discovered that they were Nozzle Heads. Dr. Bundy caught a few in his hand, and to my sheer horror ate them! He told us that they tasted like pepper. Curiosity got the better of me, and I tried one along with Kirsten, Danielle, Will, Joe, and Dominique. Well what do ya know, they really do taste like pepper that you would put in your scrambled eggs! We collected a few and brought them back to the group that had gone ahead of us. Everyone was a good sport and tried one. Perhaps because Dr. Bundy was jokingly (I think) threatening to fail everybody if they didn't. We fondly refer to the experience as our entomology gang initiation haha. 

So what are Nozzle Head Termites? The soldiers of the colony are able to spray chemicals out of their teardrop shaped head. Though not harmful to us humans, invaders may get a nasty surprise. You may have seen a more animated version of these little guys in the movie Ant when the ant soldiers were sent into battle. 

Day 3 - A.T.M. Cave

Actun Tunichil Muknal means in English, "Cave of the Stone Sepulcher". Though we were unable to take pictures due to former incidents with tourists, I can assure you the views were amazing! Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and kept us all safe and sound.

So why is this Mayan cave so cool anyways? If you keep up with your Mayan history you probably already know, but for those of us who don't, let the dark come to light. The Mayan culture is rich with sacrifices, blood-letting or otherwise. The Maya people believed that the caves were a portal to the underworld where their many God's lived. For us, it was no big deal to take the 30 minute hike to the waterfall, jump in, swim to the rocks, and begin navigating our way to the cool stuff. For the Maya people it was a different mindset entirely. The cave is pitch black, they probably had only torches, they were laden down with heavy pots, food, and the occasional human sacrifice. They would spend DAYS inside the cave and trek several miles to their destinations. Oh, and did I mention that they were [in their minds] traveling to the underworld so that they could reach out to unhappy Gods? I get scared walking around town at night by myself sometimes, so I can only imagine how brave these guys had to be to venture into the caves.

What was inside the cave? As the cave is where sacrifices were conducted, there were remnants of pottery where food was cooked and prepared (the smell of food was thought to attract the God's). Most of the pottery was broken. The Mayas believed that everything had a soul, so the pots were smashed, chipped, or had holes drilled into them to release the soul. There were finger bones strewn throughout. These were probably given by the brave souls who were conducting the sacrifices. Bloodletting was important as the Maya believed blood contained the soul. Sacrificing ones blood was symbolic of giving your soul to the Gods. Further into the cave larger bones started to appear, such as skulls. These human sacrifices were most likely offered to Chaac the Rain God and were thought to be children, mainly young boys. It was believed that Chaac liked children, and the crying of a child would draw him to the cave.

We spent about 3 hours in the cave, but I hardly noticed. Time seems to almost stand still the further back into the cave you venture. It is amazing to literally be able to walk the same paths that people you only read about in historic documents walked over 1,000 years ago. If you are up for an adventure of a lifetime, I would highly recommend you get your passport and head over the A.T.M. cave in San Ignacio, Belize.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Day 2 - Tetras at R.C.N.P.

This little guys may look cute and innocent, but stick your hands in the water and they will start viciously...eating your dead skin cells? That's right. These fish live in the waters trapped in the caves and have no qualms about grabbing a quick snack from their human admirers. A few of the more adventurous from the group were able to enjoy the tickling sensation and occasional sharp tug from the fish nibbling away at their skin. Don't worry though, no real damage was done as the biggest of the bunch was no more than about 2 1/2" long. Can anyone say free manicure?

Day 2 - Runaway Creek Nature Preserve

Runaway Creek Nature Preserve

Runaway Creek Nature Preserve, located in Belize, offers far more than a safe haven for animals and diverse habitat types such as pine savanna, transitional forest and the karst. In the century before becoming a preserve, it offered shelter and protection to runaway slaves, hence the name "Runaway" Creek. After that it was slated to become a gravel mine. Thanks to the efforts of the Foundation for Wildlife Conservation under the direction of Dr. Gil Boese, the land was purchased and able to maintain its fertile soils, ancient caves, beauty, and wildlife.
At the entrance of the reserve
The group armed with nets ready to go on the hike up runaway creek.
Our guides Rey, Stefan and Wilbur showing us a map of the reserve.
Dr,Bundy poking an empty termite nest, searching for creepy crawlies.
Dallas and Sinea feeling up the moss on a tree.
Joe becoming one with nature, while Dr.Bundy admires.
Will looking up at a stalactite in Guardians of the Cave. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Day 1

Arrival 🛬🚐🏞
Belize wasn't ready for these Americans! Or maybe we weren't ready for Belize. We're all so tired from the flight, and the humidity was a huge shock. On the bright side, our drivers are so nice and have made us feel at home. Our first night we're spending at the Tropical Education Center. The T.E.C. is a center for education and outreach. They host many colleges and universities from across the world, but they strive to educate Belizeans as well on tropical ecology and preservation. 

Dinner 🍽🍌🍲
Home cooked meals? Yes please, and I wouldn't mind seconds. 
Presentations 📝📢🎬🎤
After dinner, our hosts gave us a presentation that pumped us up for the week. We saw all the different flora and fauna that we might come into contact with, and learned about problems with poaching. 

Black Light Bug Party 🐜🦂🕷🐝🐌🐛🐩
Did you know that certain types of insects are flourescant and will "glow" under a black light? Check out this Slender Brown Scorpion that we found. 

Bedtime 😴😴😴
These were our accommodations for the first  night. Camping with Style! 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Quick Update

Hello everyone our wifi has been quite difficult these past few days but we just wanted to let everyone know that we are here safe and in one piece we are currently staying at Clarissa Falls. We have visited Runaway Creek as well as the ATM cave. We will be working on getting some pictures up as soon as possible, we appreciate your patience!
Here are some pictures from our travels from El Paso to Belize!

Delayed in El Paso 40 minutes due to a sensor error in the door! We've got a flight to catch in Dallas come on!
 Boarding in Dallas, Belize here we come!
 Diana snuggling up on the four hour flight from Dallas to Belize!
 In Belize safe! On our way to the T.E.C.!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Packing Procrastination

Less than 10 hours until departure from Las Cruces, New Mexico! Our heads are filled with countless images of tropical insects, flora, and other fauna. The equipment is put away, rides are arranged, and I haven't packed my bags. Yikes! On the bright side, I've come across some great packing plans to minimize time and maximize space. Check out the tips that I use to pack for a whole week in one hour. 

1. Roll your clothes
Rolling your clothes keeps them from wrinkling and gives you more space for souvineers. Place them on end stack to your hearts content. 

2. Pack interchangeable outfits
If you have that one shirt in your closet that only goes with a certain pair of shoes and just the right accessories, leave it there. You want to pack the least amount of stuff possible. Try going for some more basic pairings. My trip is for 10 days, so I only packed 5 pairs of shorts, 8 shirts, and one extra pair of shoes. 

3. Plan on doing laundry 
Pack clothes that will dry quickly after a rinse. Unless you plan on rolling in the mud though, you can probably wear your pants more than once without having to wash them. 

4. Roll your clothes together
Roll your shirts into your shorts. This way you can keep your outfits together and save space at the same time!

5. Put stuff in your shoes
If you have smelly feet, this may not be the greatest strategy for you. If you're determined though, you can get TSA approved travel size fabreeze at just about any store.  Your shoes probably take up a lot of space, but they give some back as well. Take advantage by putting small accessories, travel size containers (in baggies), and your socks and underwear inside. 

6. Keep a basic travel kit handy
If you travel often, it may be a good idea for you to make a generic travel kit. Have soap, travel size shampoos, body wash, deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrush, and a wash cloth or two in a baggie ready to throw into your suitcase during last minute travel preparations. It's also a good idea to have a small first aid kit with any medications you need. 

7. Make a list
I love lists. Everything I do gets put on a list just so I can have the satisfaction of crossing it off. Make a general packing list and keep it in your suitcase. Put it in a page protector so that you can cross items off with a dry erase marker and use it over and over again for every trip. 

8. Turn off distractions
If your favorite tv show is on, your motivation to pack is gonna be in the negatives. Turn off the television, crank up some tunes, and get packing! 

These suggestions made packing 10 days worth of essentials in 1 hour a breeze. Travel arrangements are stressful, but packing shouldn't have to be. The only thing you have to worry about now is deciding what to do with all the extra time you have. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


Welcome friends, family and other bug lovers! This blog will help keep you updated on the Spring 2016 Tropical Insect Ecology Class of NMSU. We will be arriving in Belize Friday March 11, stay tuned for more BUZZZZZ to come!