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Bug Fest in a pandemic

The Crosby Arboretum’s annual Bugfest is a smaller event this year due to the pandemic, but locals still came to the Arboretum Friday to learn about insects. The second day of the mini-Bugfest begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 26.

While there are over 350,000 kinds of plants, there are more than one millions kinds of insects worldwide, Dr. Christian Stephenson told a small audience of families Friday in the Pinecote Pavilion. Stephenson is the Hancock County Mississippi State Extension agent and an entomologist.
He brought pinned insects from Mississippi and South America along with some examples of insects used in art.

“There’s a lot of value in instilling the importance of the natural world in our young people because they will grow up to take care of our natural resources,” said Stephenson.

Mississippi also has many opportunities for young people to find careers in science, said Stephenson, and events like Bugfest can help set them on that path by fostering a love for the natural world.

One young attendee, Titus Lambert, seemed surprised by the size of the bird-eating tarantula that Stephenson had on display. Along with asking many questions, Lambert was quick to tell Stephenson about the praying mantis and grasshoppers he’s been able to catch in his backyard.

Lambert’s grandparents, John and Jeanie Walker, have been to Bugfest in previous years, but this was the first time they were able to bring two of their grandchildren.

“They love learning,” said Jeanie Lambert.

She is a retired art teacher and was excited about the Arboretum’s art activities.

At 6-years-old, Claire Guillot does not like bugs very much, especially tarantulas, but she did think the mini-Bugfest was “really cool.”

Her mother, Natasha Guillot, homeschools her two children, so is always on the lookout for events her kids will love.

The Arboretum staff had to put this year’s Bugfest together on a slightly faster timeframe than previous years, said event and marketing coordinator Nickie Smith.

“It was difficult to get people lined up to do presentations, but the ones we did get are high quality,” said Smith.

The mini-Bugfest was smaller by necessity. Group sizes are limited due to the pandemic, and unlike previous years schools were unable to attend. Last year’s Bugfest drew approximately 200 people each day, far beyond the maximum number of attendees allowed this year.

Only 18 people signed up to attend on Friday, but they were still able to learn about carnivorous plants like bladderwort from Dr. John Guyton and about pollinators from the Arboretum’s resident beekeeper, Jac Coleman.

Saturday’s mini-Bugfest will be from 10 a.m. to noon and will feature speakers Christine Davis and Dr. John Guyton. A maximum of 30 people can attend, and as of Friday, seven were signed up.