Invertebrates are animals without a backbone. They include insects, arachnids (spiders), mollusks (snails, squids, octopus), crustaceans (crabs, shrimp, barnacles), and other living things including corals, velvet worms, and horseshoe crabs (with are in separate groups). Invertebrates make up the majority of animal life on Earth; 97 percent of animals are invertebrates. n every continent except Antarctica. Most invertebrates are insects.

Below are some of the invertebrates we use in our educational program.

Monarch Butterfly (seasonal availability)

Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) visit the Southwest in autumn during their migratory flight to overwintering grounds in Mexico. We are proud to host them in our extensive milkweed garden, where they undergo their four life stages, eventually flying off as adults. We are involved in tagging and reporting our monarch sightings to help scientists learn about their extraordinary annual migration.

Monarch butterflies are threatened due to habitat loss and climate change. We think  it's important to teach students how human actions affect other creatures.

Photo by

Praying Mantis

This fascinating predator is welcome in most gardens, as it eats insects that could harm plants. There are ten species of mantis found in the Southwest. Common species include the Arizona unicorn mantis (Pseudovates arizonae), the Arizona tan mantis (Stagomantis gracilipes), and the Arizona mantis or bordered mantis (Stagomantis limbata). We keep other species of mantis as well, to highlight the similarieis and differences between species.

Photo by Jennifer C., CC BY 2.0

Giant Desert Hairy Scorpion 

The giant desert hairy scorpion (Hadrurus arizonensis) is the largest scorpion in North America, reaching a length of up to six inches. This species is venomous; however, its venom is relatively weak and is generally not life threatening. Its sting has been rated at the same pain level as a honeybee's sting.

Found in washes in the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts, these creatures build burrows up to eight feet long, where they stay out of the hot sun during the daytime. At night, they are very active, foraging for prey and mates. The desert hairy scorpion can live up to 20 years.

Photo by Randy Heinitz, CC BY 2.0

Western Desert  Tarantula