Campus buzzing for Arizona Insect Festival
Tucson community members will have the opportunity to see, hold and even eat insects this Sunday at the third annual Arizona Insect Festival.
The festival will feature 18 insect-themed booths intended to educate the public about insects unique to Southern Arizona and the Sonoran Desert.
The Office of Vice President for Business Affairs provides the $12,000 it costs to put on the event.
Booths will be interactive, allowing people to see and hold living and preserved insects as they learn about how insects play a significant role in the ecosystem. Kids will also get to participate in craft activities related to insects.
“It’s really cool though, because I think the general public sees insects in a completely new light,” said James Robertson, research associate at the department of entomology. “Most people are concerned about the cockroach running around across their floor, but you get to totally interact with all these cool, diverse types of insects that people don’t realize are all around them.”
People have their own ideas of what insects are like, but the event aims to provide a more realistic view, said Kathleen Walker, an assistant professor of entomology who helped organize the event.
“It’s a real thing in front of you and you can touch it, you can hold it and you can interpret it,” Walker said. “This is like nature, unfiltered.”
The family-friendly event has grown each year, according to Walker. In the first two years alone, attendance grew from about 2,000 to about 5,000 visitors.
Children seem to enjoy the festival more than their parents because they are typically more open-minded about insects, Walker said.
“It’s like the kids are really bringing their parents back to that more open view that a child has,” Walker added.
At the event, attendees will be able to sample insect-based foods, including chocolate chirpy cookies — made with chocolate chips and crickets — and tostadas with meal worms. Robertson said that in some parts of the world, insects are considered a delicacy.
The primary goal of the festival is to educate the public about how harmless, important and diverse insects are, according to Gene Hall, manager of the UA’s insect collection. Robertson agreed and said the event will help showcase the necessity of insects.
“Our planet wouldn’t function as we know [it] without insects,” Robertson said. “We rely on them for pollination. We would not be able to eat without insects pollinating plants and crops.”
The arthropod zoo, a two-room booth, has been revamped this year to provide more meaningful education and interaction. The booth will focus on insect diversity and visitors will have the chance to let a bug crawl on them.
“Most kids get really excited about insects,” Robertson said. “It’s often a really cool thing to watch a kid’s excitement being able to see [an insect] and then hold it and let it walk on his hand.”
If you go
Arizona Insect Festival
When: Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Student Union Memorial Center, Grand Ballroom