On Oct. 17, the Inn at Virginia Tech teemed with insects, spiders, millipedes, and other creatures normally found outdoors. It was the fifth annual Hokie BugFest, which attracted 7,020 children and adults from the New River Valley and beyond. This year’s event featured a lineup of entomology exhibits, live arthropods, a flea circus, a spooky spiders’ lair, and glow-in-the-dark millipedes. New this year was a renowned bug chef from Seattle, David George Gordon. Gordon prepared insect delicacies for curious onlookers and explained why eating bugs may be good for you.
Other new attractions included Radford University’s Roachzilla! (giant cockroaches), an exhibit from Bayer Bee Care Center, and a professional face painter. A member of the Virginia Tech Police Department hosted a display on forensics and insects in crime solving. Photographer Deana B. Marion hosted a macro-photography exhibit of bee images. Artist Jane Blevins conducted a bug drawing class with a college theme. And a Virginia Tech biomedical engineering and mechanics lab demonstrated how insects suck up fluids.
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 to our environment. There was also a large ant exhibit with a cast aluminum fire ant nest.
Four regional museums – the Virginia Museum of Natural History, the Blue Ridge Discovery Center, the Science Museum of Western Virginia, and the Schiele Museum of Natural History – 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.
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 bead work and making bug masks. More than 500 children earned a junior entomologist certificate. Kids of all ages enjoyed the HokieBird, who helped hand out awards to winners of the insect collection contest. Another favorite was Larry the Label, who encouraged the public to use pesticides safely and to read the label.
What’s next for the Hokie BugFest? The heart of this yearly extravaganza is its collection of exotic and native arthropods – the Bug Zoo. Some of these creatures hail from all over the world; others can be found in your own backyard. The Bug Zoo has outgrown its space and needs a dedicated place – an arthropod museum – to accommodate all its residents. We are seeking space and donors to help us establish a permanent home for our arthropods. This would also further our outreach education and teaching efforts, which are expanding each year.