Bugging Out at Arizona Insect Festival

Insects. Arizona is full of them, and though we often consider them pests, they actually constitute an important part of our ecosystem.

That’s what the staff at the University of Arizona’s annual Insect Festival want people to see. All day on Sunday September 20, the Univesity’s Student Union Grand Ballroom will be filled with interactive booths displaying the state’s most extraordinary critters. The event is in its fifth year and will feature 25 booths.

The faculty and student body putting together the event come from a wide variety of scientific disciplines, including ecoloy, entomology, evolutionary biology, and neurobiology. The researchers present are the among the leaders in their respective fields. They’re joined together by a love for insects and a desire to showcase to Arizona citizens the state’s rich ecological heritage.

Some of the local insects on display include the Apache cicada, the noisy bug selected as this year’s mascot; butterflies; rhinoceros beetles; praying mantises; and vinegaroons. There are also notable related arthopods like scorpions and spiders.

The Insect Festival is designed to be a fun and hands-on learning experience for the entire family—including the kids. The organizing staff has gone beyond putting up mere displays. In the petting zoo, visitors get to touch and feel the six-legged creatures.

Children can also express themselves creatively at the crafts booths. These include the Build-a-Bug workshop. As the name suggests, kids are given materials and allows to create an insect according to their own imagination. These are sure to become a favorite stuffed animal at home!

At the food both, you actually get to taste insects used as food. Delectable treats include mealworm tacos, cricket cookies and chips, and cricket protein bars.

There’s also some real fast-paced excitement to be had at the cockroach races. Place your bets and see which of these crawly athletes makes it across the finish line first!

For lovers of butterflies (perhaps the most aesthetically agreeable guests at the event) there are several booths dedicated to them. The multi-booth display is created by a collaboration between Tucson Botanical Gardens Butterfly Magic, e-Butterfly, Southeast Arizona Butterfly Association, and Meet & Pet a Caterpillar.

For those struggling with insects ruining their property, there’s also useful advice in the form of several pest control booths, including Home Pest Solutions, Backyard Vampires, and Stings N’Things.

There are also a number of booths dedicated to showcasing the research performed by the many scientists present.

The Arizona Insect Festival helps people appreciate a unique part of our state heritage that often goes unnoticed. The State of Arizona, in fact, has some of the most diverse insect life in the world. For instance, the world’s highest diversity of solitary bees lives in our very own Tucson Mountains. A lot of insect life comes out during the summer Monsoon.

Many consider insects nothing more than a nuisance. But they actually contribute in important ways to the overall health of the ecosystem.

Just take the Insect Festival’s mascot—the Apache Cicada. These critters spend much of their time underground digging and eating roots. Their activities help move water from deep plant roots to more shallow layers of soil. This helps keep soil healthy and capable of promoting growth.

To fully enjoy the beauty of bugs, come to the Arizona Insect Festival on Sunday, September 20 from 11am to 4pm.!