An army of bird-eating spiders, scorpions, cockroaches and a hundred other species swarmed Comstock Hall early Saturday morning.
Each year, the Cornell Department of Entomology hosts “Insectapalooza,” a fair whose aim is to principally “spread knowledge of insects to the wider public because they play such a huge role in our lives,” fair organizer Emma Mullen said in a press release.
The event spanned three floors, with exhibits ranging from the “Arthropod Zoo” to a crowd-pleasing Butterfly room, where attendees could experience the critters free-flying. Other popular attractions included “Sound of Insects,” which played the noises of various bugs, and “The Pollinator,” an entire room dedicated to bees and their honey.
“Each lab and speciality in the entomology department organized its own exhibit,” explained John McMullen grad, who manned a station discussing insect physiology and genetics.
With over 200 volunteers and 2,000 guests, Insectapalooza is routinely one of the largest events of its kind, attracting visitors from far beyond the Ithaca area.
“I’ve met people from Rhode Island, Michigan and other far-away places,” said Erin Krichilsky ’18, a volunteer and member of Cornell’s undergraduate entomology club. “And I often see a lot of the same people come year after year.”
Driving this wide-reaching popularity, McMullen explained, is humans’ rather complicated relationship with insects, which often provokes an intense curiosity towards them.
“Insects often immediately trigger fear, disgust, appreciation, or excitement,” he said. “They are very emotionally-charged.”
In addition to psychological intrigue, insects can also represent a valuable medium for introducing children to science, McMullen said.
Unlike other disciplines, he said, “insects are tangible and thus more relatable for kids.”
Indeed — though the event drew bug-lovers of all ages — younger kids and their parents comprised most of the fair’s audience. For much of the day, eager toddlers and tweens could be seen gawking at butterflies or mingling with the oversized bee and cricket mascots roaming the halls.
By all accounts, the fair’s youngest participants deemed it a resounding success.
Nine-year-old Jack Healy who visited with his family from New Jersey, proclaimed, “I thought it was really awesome.”