A 26-foot-long praying mantis is making its way across the United States until the end of October. The Smithsonian O. Orkin Insect Safari tour is stopping in more than 100 cities to teach elementary school children about the role of insects in our environment.
Sean Lutzi, 33, is carting the crawly creatures across the country in a big blue bug machine – a 2001 Freightliner Columbia. Lutzi has learned quite a bit about bugs on this tour, including the fact that we have insects that live in our eyebrows. “I have a newfound respect for insects,” he says.
Lutzi’s mornings are early and his nights late; he starts setting up the exhibit about 6 a.m., and after the crew folds it up in the late afternoon, they have to head to the next stop on the tour. Lutzi is also in charge of maintaining the truck and keeping it clean. He usually gets the daytime off while children go through the exhibit. “I go fishing or golfing, and I do a lot of shopping,” Lutzi says. Although he’ll be on the road for eight months, his family flies out at least once a month to visit.
This is Lutzi’s first tour to drive, but he loves seeing the country and getting to know the other people on the tour. “I couldn’t ask for a better job.” There are six other people that keep the tour going. “We’re like a big traveling family,” Lutzi says. The six other people on the trip include two entomologists. Sara Varty, an entomologist who joined the tour in late March, says, “Living on the road is very different. I’m just getting into it.”
For more information about the tour, go to www.insectsafari.com.