October 27, 2008

Kids of All Ages Swarm C.U. For Annual Insectapalooza

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Living at Cornell, it is easy to forget about people outside the age range of 18 to 22 actually exist. But Saturday afternoon, the Cornell Entomology Department’s fifth annual Insectapalooza brought hordes of small children and their parents face to face with populations of furry spiders, scorpions, vinegaroons, roaches and more.
This year’s Insectapalooza included two full insect zoo rooms busting at the seams with countless types of insects for guests to view in Comstock Hall’s classrooms.
Marie Taylor, a public affairs officer at Cornell, brought her two grandsons to the event.
“[It is] really terrific that there are so many species we are terrified of sitting right in front of us,” Taylor exclaimed. She further explained that she and her grandsons were “especially looking forward to touching the maggots!”
In addition to the two insect zoo rooms, the event hosted a number of other activities. Volunteers from the entomology department painted bugs on children’s faces, while other visitors built bugs out of toilet paper rolls, and even raced roaches. Guests explored the collection room of bug models, watched a movie at the Insect Film Festival and played in a room with butterflies flying above their heads.
Prof. Brian Lazzaro, entomology, explained that while Insectapalooza is geared towards younger children, “there really is something for everyone.”
One activity allowed children and their parents to examine different species of flies through a microscope in order to look for differences between the species. This genetics activity generated a range of discussion amongst parents. Lazarro explained, “the discussions go a lot of places. Sometimes to the parents’ last class on genetics and sometimes to genetic engineering.”
Insectapalooza was sponsored entirely by the Department of Entomology. The event relied on volunteers to answer questions, organize and run activities. Volunteer Anthony Auletta ’10 stood by the live scorpion exhibit. Auletta discussed his strong interest in scorpions and revealed that some of the scorpions on display were, in fact, his own pets.
The event drew 1,000 people in its first hour on Saturday. In past years, the event drew 2,000 to 2,500 guests from as far as Binghamton and Rochester. As part of the Cornell entomology department’s vast outreach program, event organizers hoped Insectapalooza would introduce community members to entomology and would serve as a window into the University’s research and activities.
“Many of the exhibits [at Insectapalooza were] created by individual faculty research labs in the department [of entomology] to illustrate the kinds of research that is done in entomology, and to bring our work out into the community,” Lazarro stated in an e-mail. “Other exhibits [were] part of entomology’s regular outreach efforts, and others are created specifically for Insectapalooza.”
“People don’t know what goes on at the University and this is a way to tell them,” Lazarro stated.