Arboretum Paths: Arboretum Bugfest this weekend!

Published 9:13 am Wednesday, September 7, 2016

By Pat Drackett, Director, The Crosby Arboretum
MSU Extension Service

Did you have an insect collection as a child, or enjoy observing insects? Do you wonder why people would choose to spend their time collecting or observing insects?

The simple reason is that they are incredibly fascinating. The collecting process also teaches children many valuable transferable skills, for example, through the observation of identifying characteristics and by the methodical process of sorting the insects into specific groups, called insect orders. Your collection could even earn you a blue ribbon at the county fair!

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If you enjoy learning about insects, or know someone who does, make plans to celebrate Bugfest this weekend. The two-day, non-stop extravaganza includes activities such as butterfly and beekeeping presentations, roach racing, learning the correct way to hold a tarantula, and even a cricket-spitting contest!
Visitor feedback for the Bugfest event, which has been taking place for over a decade, has continued to be enthusiastic. Night collecting activities held on Friday night are a popular time. Collecting stations will be set up along the pathways, by stringing various types of lights next to sheets to attract night insects. Beetles and moths are particularly drawn to the sheets.
A Buggy Midway with children’s craft activities will be open Friday evening beginning at 6 p.m., and again on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon, or as long as the supplies last!
Bugfest offers a unique opportunity to learn about the world of insects (and arachnids, known as spiders). The event is coordinated by Extension Entomologist Dr. John Guyton, along with professors and students from Mississippi State University’s Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology Department. Assistants will include Mississippi Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists, and our own Crosby Arboretum volunteers and staff.

The event will take place from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, September 16, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. A presentation by the New Orleans Audubon Institute’s Bugmobile will begin at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, and attendees will enjoy exploring a travelling “Arthropod Zoo”, brought down from the Clay Lyle Entomology Building on the Mississippi State University’s Starkville campus.

Arthropods are invertebrates with jointed legs that make up more than 80% of all animals on Earth, such as spiders, centipedes, mites, ticks, lobsters, crabs, shrimp, crayfish, and scorpions.

On Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., the site is open to school and homeschool groups (groups over 20 persons must call to pre-register for an arrival time). The cost for students is $2, but teachers and chaperones are admitted at no charge until 6 p.m. Arboretum members will attend the event for free.

Some people do not enjoy collecting insects and mounting them into collections. Mesh containers will be available for live insect collecting, for the purpose of observation. Others may prefer to take only photographs. Not every insect needs to end up on a pin!

Classes attending Bugfest on Friday will have several opportunities to explore insects, including group collecting (teachers will compile the insects they collect as a class collection, which they will mount on a large board). Tours will be conducted of the pitcher plant bog, and classes will explore aquatic insects along the Pond Journey trail.

Butterflies and pollinating insects will also be featured stations, and attendees can learn about bees and beekeeping from MSU Extension professor and research apiculturist Dr. Jeff Harris, and Arboretum volunteers Buddy Broadway and Jac Coleman.

Have an insect you can’t identify? Bring it in (dead or alive) to the entomology station on the Pinecote Pavilion during the event. Here, entomology experts will assist with insect I.D. They will also provide guidance on collecting techniques and pinning and mounting specimens.

On Friday from 6 to 8 p.m., the public will enjoy night collecting. Don’t forget to bring your flashlight or head lamp! Sheets with lights will attract insects such as beetles and moths to the stations.

Collecting jars and containers will be available, and entomology professors and students will help identify your finds.

For more information on insects, visit and search by keyword for research-based information you can trust, from the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Call the Arboretum office at (601) 799-2311 or see for more information. The Crosby Arboretum is located at I-59 Exit 4 and is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.