Bugging for Bug Fest

By Carolyn Belardo

2017 marks the 10th anniversary of the Academy’s most popular festival, Bug Fest. This year it takes place Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 12 and 13, and we’re planning some exciting new activities, as well as old favorites.

Academy Insect Specialist Karen Verderame has been a force behind Bug Fest since the beginning. Not only is she a creative festival planner, but her deep love and curiosity for insects of all kinds is infectious—and might be hard to fathom for some folks who shy away from all that is creepy, crawly, slimy, and scary.

We wanted to find out what makes Karen tick. Here are her thoughts in the first of a two-part post.

Insect Specialist Karen Verderame is drawn to insects, particularly those she feels are “misunderstood” like this Hercules beetle. Photo by Mike Servedio/ANS

How did you get interested in bugs?

When I was little, I was fascinated by the worms my dad used as fishing bait, how they moved and how they helped the soil. From worms and slugs, I started to study different insects and remain intrigued by animals that are most misunderstood.

What insect are you most like?

I had a hard time deciding since there are so many I feel I’m like, so I asked my little daughter. She thinks I’m most like a dragonfly because I “zip all around.”

What’s your favorite bug?

I am rather fond of cockroaches. They are fascinating insects and are very misunderstood.

What’s your least favorite bug?

Ticks. I don’t have much patience for ticks.

Green beetles from the Entom0logy Collection are among the many specimens that will be on display at Bug Fest. Photo by Mike Servedio/ANS

What’s the coolest insect we’ll see at Bug Fest 2017?

There will be so many awesome insects it’s difficult to pick just one! There’s the Hercules beetle, one of the world’s longest beetles; tarantula hawk wasps, whose females actually hunt tarantulas in the wild; and stick insects that bring a whole new meaning to masters of disguise.

How did Bug Fest come about?

The idea for Bug Fest came in May 2007. We wanted to create more family events and also to showcase our world renowned research collections, including entomology. Bug Fest was our first festival, and it was so successful we started Paleopalooza the following winter.

Why should we care about bugs?

Bugs run the world and are more diverse than any other living thing on earth!  They are pollinators, nature’s recyclers and exterminators, and are an important food source for many other living things. Many are keystone species, which other species cannot survive without. Many others are important decomposers that keep the earth from becoming a wasteland. The more we know about them, the more success we will have for a sustainable future.

How many bug species are there in the world? How many have been named by scientists?

There are over 1 million species of insects alone named, over 40,000 spiders. No one knows for sure how many arthropod species there are in the world, but it is thought that there are MILLIONS left to be identified.

Tiny visitors meet a giant spiny stick insect up close. On the plate are the Bug Fest’s famous chocolate chirp cookies baked with crunchy crickets. Photo by Meredith Dolan/ANS

What do visitors like about Bug Fest?

Visitors love the accessibility and knowledge of our enthusiastic staff. They also love getting to see the live bugs up close and also the specimens displays from the Entomology Collection.

What’s your advice for people who are afraid of bugs but want to attend Bug Fest?

Bug Fest is the perfect place to take that step getting over any fear of bugs. You can take it at your own pace, learn amazing facts about them and the truth behind some of the more infamous reputations. Many people who have had fears, have come away with an appreciation and respect for many of the bugs we showcase.

Why should people come to Bug Fest 2017?

-It’s the 10th anniversary!

-Insects outnumber humans 200 million to one.

-There is so much to discover and learn.

-Getting a glimpse into the world of bugs can change your view on the inner workings of the natural world because, let’s face it, bugs rule the world.

-We can’t survive without bugs.

 

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