October started off with a buzz as the University of Arizona hosted the annual Arizona Insect Festival. Organized by the department of entomology, the event attracts thousands of curious people each year, with the number of attendees steadily growing, according to data from the website.
This year, the festival was hosted in the Environmental and Natural Resources 2 building, with free parking in most campus parking garages.
This year’s event revolved around pollinators, the insects that fly from plant to plant in order to spread pollen and help flowering plants reproduce.
Many booths centered on this theme, as well as the usual petting stations and Insects as Food booth. The booths were run by volunteers, faculty members and other organizations, including the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum and Saguaro National Park.
Below are a few of the booths and talks found at the Arizona Insect Festival.
This year’s festival featured a set of lectures from leading UA entomologists. Goggy Davidowitz, an associate professor of entomology, discussed a future where people may get some of their nutrition from eating insects. Wendy Moore, another associate professor of entomology, as well as a curator of the UA Insect Collection, spoke about bombardier beetles, which produce chemicals to protect themselves against predators. Other talks focused on parasite wasps, chemical pesticides and stinging insects.
Guest lecturer Barrett Klein, an associate professor of biology with the University of Wisconsin specializing in animal behavior, entomology and other aspects of biology, gave a talk on human-insect interactions. A UA alumnus, Klein runs the Pupating Lab at the University of Wisconsin, where he continues to study his passions.
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Ask A Scientist Café
Graduate students within the department of entomology hosted three different panel discussions where the audience could ask questions about insects they may find in its garden. The students also discussed the insects found in Tucson and their medical significance.
Insects as Food
Once again, festival attendees had the option of trying an insect snack and learning more about insects as food. The offerings included mealworms sautéed with onions and cricket cookies.
An organization that works closely with the UA, Nature’s Notebook is a national site that allows Arizona citizens to contribute data about Arizona wildlife. The database is accessible by researchers and citizens alike.
UA Insect Collection
Containing 2 million insects, the UA’s collection of all things that crawl, fly and sting is an important facet of entomological research. Displayed for the public, attendees could see the variety of butterflies, bees, flies and other insects that UA’s entomologists have collected, studied and catalogued over the years.
Transgenic Crops for Pest Control
This booth focused on the effects pesticides may have on non-insect wildlife. A hotly debated issue, scientists have taken steps to combat this unfortunate side effect of pest control, and evidence and information about transgenic crops with genes designed to kill potentially destructive insects was on full display.
Research was done by the labs of Bruce Tabashnik, professor and department head of entomology, and Xianchun Li, professor of entomology.
Attendees were also able to learn about the potential dangers that Arizona’s insect life could pose from this booth run by Laura Morehouse, a poison and drug education specialist with the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center. Here, Morehouse discussed venom, poison and what to do if you are stung by a potentially dangerous insect.
There were several booths designed for younger attendees, as well, such as the Cockroach Cuddling Station, where children could hold cockroaches, and the Meet and Pet a Caterpillar booth, where children learned about how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly and why the life stages of a butterfly look so different.
Community organizations such as the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum — which had an information booth about pollination in Arizona as well as volunteer opportunities — and Tohono Chul — which aims to educate people about the natural world within the Sonoran Desert — were present as well.
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