Most people run from snakes. But a group of about 75 Ceres children and their parents came to the Ceres Library Thursday afternoon, eager to see Python Ron McGee’s educational exhibit of slithering and crawling creatures.
The same show took place at the Hughson Library recently and at the Keyes Library on Wednesday.
McGee started out with the small creatures in his collection. He pulled out a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach and told of about how other cultures actually eat certain bugs. There is one source of flour made in San Francisco called Chirps which contains ground crickets for protein.
“You cannot taste the difference between that and regular flour but it’s 68 percent protein and that’s where insects come into the food source,” said McGee. “They’re very, very high in protein and everybody in this audience eats bugs, you just don’t know you eat bugs.”
One of the dyes used in a Starbucks product, he said came from beetles. Once reactions were negative, he said the company turned to chemical dyes.
“Enjoy your food, don’t worry about it because you’re not going to get away from it.”
McGee started bringing out animals which are handled so much they are used to it. He produced a Brazilian Bird Eating Spider that looks like a tarantula, but never proven to kill anyone from its bite. However, he noted that the hair on its back is poisonous and can be used for defense against dogs and other animals.
McGee said most animals will leave people alone if they are left alone. He brought out an Emperor Scorpion, a large species of the hairy insect and cautioned kids to leave them alone. He explained that he has been stung three times by a scorpion, once at a show where his lips and tongue turned numb for a while.
He asked the children assembled before him what the most dangerous animal in the world was and nobody guessed correctly – the mosquito. He said an estimated 500,000 die from mosquito bites every year and suggested they might want to leave daddy long leg spiders alone for they eat mosquitos.
McGee traces back his interest in snakes back to his childhood growing up in Snelling where he was encouraged to go out and trap bugs in a jar. He suggested that kids should never be scared of a bug or snake and kill it, citing the environmental benefits of each one. For example, many snakes keep down the rodent population and a Praying Mantis is great at gobbling up black widow spiders. When showing a corn snake, he noted they can eat 300 to 500 rats in a lifetime.
He produced a Bearded Dragon lizard which can make itself look mean when it’s not. It comes from Australia.
McGee showed Otis, a bearded dragon from Australia and a large Black and White Tegu, which are not good for kids’ pets since they have powerful jaws that can bite.
McGee suggests that anyone wanting to own a pet should research its growth and needs. He said the lizard’s tongue can help him smell food up to five miles away. He said the animals are surprisingly intelligent.
“They have tested their intelligence and have found some of these monitor lizards to be more intelligent than a dog. They are much smarter than people ever thought they were.”
He displayed an Asian Water Monitor lizard, the second largest lizard in the world that can get up to 175 pounds.
Before bringing out a big lizard to “cuddle with,” McGee announced his name was “Puppy.” “I always name my animals nice names so people are not afraid of them. If I named a lizard ‘Killer’ then we’ve got a different idea of what I’m ready to take him. But since he’s Puppy it makes you want to see him.”
Many of the snakes in the collection came from people who discovered lost pets in gardens and wanted them to go to a good owner. They called McGee, who has been taking snakes on educational exhibits since 1981.
At the end of the show, McGee tickled the fancy of the kids by allowing volunteers to “wear” a belt or headdress of a corn snake. He allowed several kids to hold or wear some lizards on their head.
He brought out a very rare lizard from Tanzania which he named Alfred. It is a Black Throat Monitor Lizard from Africa, gasps came from the kids.
McGee also brought out Steve, an African Spur Tortoise, which has kept down the grass in his backyard.