Not even a fire alarm could stop hundreds of live insects and arthropods, along with several thousand people, from filling Comstock Hall on Saturday for Cornell’s eighth annual Insectapalooza Insect Fair. Hosted yearly by the Entomology Department and the undergraduate and graduate student Entomology societies, Insectapalooza, Cornell’s biggest science outreach program, aims to teach the community about the bugs that cover the globe.
Prof. Linda Rayor, entomology, was the lead organizer of the fair this year.
“Every year, we try to up the education while making it as fun as we possibly can,” she said. People of all ages come to the fair. Activities range from face painting and cockroach races, to hearing about cutting edge research on invasive species or insect pathogens and how they relate to human diseases.
Many of the volunteers for the events were current students who are interested in entomology. The undergraduate entomology society, Snodgrass and Wigglesworth, and the graduate entomology society, Jugate, also had booths at the event.
Several alumni also came back to help with the fair. One such student was Anthony Auletta ’10. Although he worked in Rayor’s spider lab as a student, he now works with other insects. “Now, scorpions are my passion,” Auletta said. He helped with the event, his sixth Insectapalooza, by bringing numerous live scorpions for display in the Arthropod Zoo.
“They are a big hit because they are scary but fascinating,” he said.
The Museum of the Earth also had an exhibit at the fair titled “Fear No Weevil.” The display focused on one of the most numerous kinds of insects, weevils. According to Gwynne Lim grad, studying plant science, “Any plant species you can think of has a weevil feeding off of it.” The exhibit also showed fossils of plants and insects, a rarity considering their soft tissues make finding their fossils difficult.
“The idea behind the display is to show a fossilized record of the co-evolution of insects and plants,” said Rob Ross, associate outreach director at the Paleontological Research Institution at the Museum.
According to many attendees, the best rooms were by far the butterfly room and the Arthropod Zoo. In these rooms one could hold bugs of all different shapes, sizes, and colors. “I really liked holding the giant stick bug,” Mitch Vogel ’15 said.
Rayor said Insectapalooza aims to educate people about the animals that make up a major percentage of the world’s biodiversity.
“We feel like we are giving back to the community and sharing our passion for science,” she said.