By: Paul Cambra, Features Editor
Something’s bugging Brandee Mae Hughes, and it’s nothing a little outdoor time won’t cure.
Not for her. She’s been looking under rocks and climbing trees since she was a little girl growing up on 80 acres in Weimar.
No, she’s more concerned about the “plugged in” generation, whose fingers can navigate a keypad but have never caught a katydid.
That’s where Bula Bug comes in, a comprehensive collection of all things creepy and crawly, from books, toys and kits to photos, education and advice, all geared to get kids off the couch and into nature.
We spoke with Hughes, 29, a Placer High graduate who currently lives in Blue Canyon, and asked her how Bula Bug came about and where she thinks it’s headed.
“I’ve loved bugs ever since I was little. Adults usually grow out of it, but I never did. I still catch lizards and bugs on a daily basis. I wanted to go into entomology my whole life, but a teacher talked me out of it, saying it would be tough to make money. So I went for a broader degree in Natural Sciences, but entomology is still my one true love.”
How did bugs play a part in your childhood?
“As a kid, my bedroom door opened to the outside, right onto a creek, and I would go out and catch bugs and take them back into the room. They were my little friends. I had birds inside my room, frogs, lizards. I never tried to keep them, I just wanted to spend more time with them. I am the same way now. I’ll catch a lizard, pet them and let them go. I have a big woodpile with a family of cicada making the most beautiful sound. I have no kids, but I do have a 9-year-old Godson. He is a little mini-Steve Irwin, a serious creature catcher. We go on adventures all the time.”
Do you have a favorite among the insect world?
“I love caterpillars. We had a tree that had caterpillars on it and I worried about birds getting them, so I would raise and release them. I still do that do this day. I’ve dreamt of walking around rain forests looking for butterflies. I keep thinking I will find a new species of butterfly one of these days.”
Who took the pictures for your books?
“I took about 13 of them. I partnered with the Placer Camera Club, who donated a lot of the photos. I’ve traveled a lot — probably went to seven or eight countries last year — and I come back with photos of bugs, lizards, flowers. My friends and family tell me, ‘you never take pictures of anything else.’”
How did Bula Bug start?
“I was at a business boot camp to start a graphic design business. They kept asking me, ‘What’s your true love, your passion?’ While I love graphic design and all that, I also love nature. I was trying to figure out how to turn it into a business. I thought coffee table book, but kids love pictures of bugs more than adults do, so I started a children’s book series.”
Besides the books, what is Bula Bug all about?
“My main focus is to educate children about nature, how to tread lightly and have respect for all living things. I want them to form a bond with the natural world. Bugs are very important to the well being of our planet. If it weren’t for bees and butterflies and their pollination we would live in a much different world. To teach children to coexist with nature you have to start at a young age. I feel like children are wrapped up in video games and not getting out as much anymore. I want to get kids back outside to explore like we used to when we were kids. Their full attention span is on these little devices and I think that contributes to Attention Deficit Disorder across the planet. They should be getting dirty and lifting up rocks and doing what kids are supposed to do.”
What else does Bula Bug’s website have to offer?
“There are natural recipes for mosquito repellent. And solutions to keep ants out of your home that are environmentally friendly. Or what to plant to keep bugs out of your garden and what bugs you want to keep around. You can get tips on how to raise butterflies, lady bugs, praying mantises and ants. Plus a photo contest.”
How do you get a beginner interested in bugs?
“I like to show people how cool bugs are. A dragonfly for instance starts out living in the water its entire juvenile life. Once it hatches it turns to flying. Now what kind of a fish turns into a bird? And bees and ants are social insects that work together for the good of the colony. Watch a line of ants sometime and if you see one marching in the opposite direction, they’ll stop to talk with the other ants as they go past. For kids, it’s like a world of aliens that exist around us, a cool little world they can check out without leaving our planet.”
Where does Bula Bug go from here?
“I plan on doing big things with Bula Bug. I want to get involved with nonprofits and charitable organizations and stand up for causes like ‘Save the Bees’ and other environmental issues. An author once coined the term ‘nature deficit disorder,’ which comes from people staying indoors too much. They go from apartment building to office building and spend no time in nature. Depression is common from lack of time in nature and that’s not good for us as humans.”
For a glimpse into the world of tiny creatures and natural beauty, visit http://www.bulabug.com.