On Oct. 11, the Inn at Virginia Tech buzzed, hummed, and chirped as thousands of children and adults flocked to the fourth annual Hokie BugFest. This year’s event featured a lineup of entomology exhibits, live arthropods, a flea circus, a bug-themed haunted house, and glow-in-the-dark millipedes. New this year was a bee-dancing contest, where contestants imitated the “waggle” dance that honey bees perform. The HokieBird kicked off the contest by doing a demo.
Visitors strolling through Latham Ballroom learned about household pests (such as bed bugs and termites), forest pests (such as gypsy moth and hemlock woolly adelgid), and mosquito pests (such as those that cause malaria and other diseases). A giant apiculture exhibit (sponsored by the New River Valley Beekeepers Association) demonstrated the art of beekeeping and taught visitors about the importance of pollinators in our environment.
Older kids tested their wits by playing Bug Jeopardy and quizzing the Wizard of Entomology. Younger ones enjoyed a wide variety of arts and crafts, including face painting and making bug masks. Many earned a junior entomologist certificate by visiting eight exhibits.
Three regional museums – the Virginia Museum of Natural History, the Blue Ridge Discovery Center, and the Science Museum of Western Virginia – sponsored displays. This was a great opportunity for families to learn about these museums and what they offer. Virginia 4-H, a major Hokie BugFest sponsor, was also on hand to explain what the organization does and how it enriches children’s lives.
In keeping with the season, entomology department grad students sold freshly harvested pumpkins as well as honey, t-shirts, and buttons.
But the real stars of the show were the denizens of the Bug Zoo. These included dozens of tarantulas and an assortment of millipedes, death-feigning beetles, hissing cockroaches, vinegaroons (forest-dwelling whip scorpions), and a black widow spider. Some of the Bug Zoo arthropods hail from South America, Central America, Africa, and Asia. Others (such as mantids and grasshoppers) can be found in your own backyard. The Hokie BugFest vividly portrayed the fascination, beauty, and diversity of insects and their relatives and the many roles they play in our environment.