October 16, 2006

Bug Lovers Crawl to Insectapalooza

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Roach races, a six-foot tall bee and an insect zoo highlighted Saturday’s Insectapalooza, hosted by Cornell’s Department of Entomology. The event, held in Comstock Hall, was conceived three years ago to inform children and their family about the amazing world of insects.

“We want to raise awareness and show kids how cool bugs can be,” said Kojun Kanda ’07, a member of Snodgrass and Wigglesworth, Cornell’s undergraduate entomology club.

Insectapalooza’s activities were spread around three floors of Comstock Hall and required active participation. “Scavenger Hunt” leaflets, available at the entrance, asked five questions that the attendees should have been able to answer by the end of their visit.

Children interacted with student volunteers to find out what the Sonoran Centipedes eats, as well as the names of shiny-green insects in the University’s Insect Collection.

In “Insect Collecting and Preservation 101,” children learned how to identify local insects and create their own insect collection. A more advanced “Genetic Novelties: Insect genetics and immunity” offered an opportunity to view fruit-fly mutations and learn about the genetics of insect immune systems.

Patti Wojcik, an administrative assistant in the center for animal resources and education, has attended Insectapalooza for the past two years. As she patiently waited for her four children to learn about insect anatomy while making their own take-home insect in the “Build-a-Bug” workshop, she said, “Insectapalooza is a great event. People here are wonderful. They are friendly and they can really answer questions.” Wojcik said that her children are already asking her whether they can come again next year.

“Its nice that [Insectapalooza] is a very hands-on event,” she said.
John Sanderson, entomology, said that last year’s Insectapalooza welcomed about 1,300 visitors.

“In the past we’ve had buses of students coming in from schools beyond those of Tompkins County,” he said.

Sanderson shared an anecdote to show just how many insects exist on our planet. According to Sanderson, when E.O. Wilson, a prominent entomologist from Harvard University, was asked why insects haven’t taken over the world, he responded with a rhetorical, “I wasn’t aware that they hadn’t!” Indeed, pointed out Sanderson, the bottom of a deep ocean is the only place where one wouldn’t be able to find insects.

The only issue that impeded the smooth flow of events was the occasional reluctance of insects to cooperate. When Gaylord Desurmont grad tried to particpate in the roach race, one of his cockroaches took awhile to realize that it had to run through a tunnel. Another grad student was disappointed when hunter flies refused to exhibit their ferocious behavior. “They aren’t flying enough!” he exclaimed.