Don't bug out. Bug Village offers learning opportunity

Bug village

Bug Village has plenty of activities for families in a fun learning atmosphere. Contributed photo.

Want to see the largest collection of living arthropods in the country? Saturday, Aug. 26's Bug Village '23 is the place to be with 200 species on display.


The Insect Zoo welcomed 169 baby tarantulas confiscated from the Port of Los Angeles in February. Some spiders have been sent to other institutions, but Mitchell said "they are thriving and getting much larger." One of the tarantulas will be on display at Bug Village.

"We are a traveling zoo so we don't typically get to host something like this at our facilities," said Ginny Mitchell, Insect Zoo education program coordinator. "This is our opportunity to show off every single animal we have at the Insect Zoo, and it is a huge event where we see over 1,000 people. I'm not aware of another collection of living arthropods bigger than this."

Bug Village, which dates back to 2015, starts at 11 a.m. with an open house on the first floor of the Advanced Teaching Research Building (2213 Pammel Dr.). It is followed by an "Insect Collecting 101" demonstration hosted by the entomology graduate student organization, and the event concludes in the evening at the city's Carr Park (Meadowlane Avenue and Carr Drive in east Ames) for insect light collecting.

Mitchell spends a year planning the event and will be assisted by six student workers and seven volunteers during activities. Two of Mitchell's former students are returning to campus this weekend to help. Parking lots north and west the Advanced Teaching Research Building will be available.

The events

Everything from mealworms to Hercules beetles will be on display during the open house (11 a.m.-2 p.m.) with plenty of animals for attendees to touch. It is free and open to the public with activities to keep children entertained. New this year is a Pollinator Olympics, which helps children understand how much work pollinators do.

"Bees carry 35% of their weight in pollen on their legs, so we are going to have children see if they can carry 35% of their weight using sandbags on their legs to mimic carrying pollen from the flower back to the hive," Mitchell said. "We also will have some fan favorites there like cockroaches and the infamous stink beetle, which often gets confused with the stink bug."

The Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium will provide materials for a plant-your-own pollinator pot for young attendees and students who don't have a large lawn to attract pollinators. There will be roach races and a contest to name the roach racetrack.

Registration is required for "Insect Collecting 101" (2:30-5 p.m.) and cost $5 ($20 including a pinning kit). Graduate students will teach about insects and how to collect and preserve them.

"A pinning kit includes a box to put your insects in, special pins to use on insects and a pinning block," Mitchell said.

The insect light collecting event (7-10 p.m.), which was canceled last year because of the weather, is free and open to the public. Blacklights at two stations will let participants observe which insects are attracted to the light, and several ISU entomologists will be on hand to help identify them.