Local Tech Wire STEM News

RALEIGH, N.C.– Insects and fans of them swarmed the Triangle on Saturday.

Jones Street, The Plaza, Edenton Street, and all four floors of the N.C. Museum of Natural history were filled with bugs and more than 30,000 people for the annual event in downtown Raleigh.

BugFest was the official kickoff event for the running through Sept. 26.

The majority of participants were elementary-age children who enjoyed learning all about nature’s most abundant and fascinating creatures – bugs. This was the intention of the founders of the N.C. Science Festival, a two week long event across the state that aims to show the fun side of science.

Bugfest featured the Roachingham 500, a race of Madagascar Hissing cockroaches; a flea circus; a beekeeping demonstration; and fan-favorite Critter Cook-off, which featured some of the area’s finest chefs creating dishes with insects as the main course. Barbeque larvae, dry-roasted ants, chocolate-covered ants, and much more were all on the menu for the adventurous eater.

This year, the emphasis at Bugfest was on aquatic bugs.

Nationally-recognized aquatic biologist Dave Penrose, one of the event’s keynote speakers, said focusing on aquatic insects is a natural way to interest children in science.

“Children have always enjoyed playing in the water and are sensitive to changes in those surroundings,” said Penrose, who also is associated with N.C. State University. “Kids need to know that insects are an important indicator of environmental health, especially for rivers and streams. When the insects are absent, the health of the stream is really bad.”

The event also featured Dr. Meg Lowman, one of the world’s leading global canopy biologists, who spoke about her various adventures doing canopy research in exotic rainforests in Australia, Ethiopia and the Amazon. Dr. Lowman now serves as director of the N.C. Museum’s Nature Research Center.

For Penrose, the interest in aquatic insects came early and continued throughout his professional life. He hopes his passion and interest in these creatures rubs off on more young people.

“One thing I want to get across is how much fun kids can have playing while still learning,” added Penrose. “That’s basically what I’ve done throughout my entire career. I’m just a big kid.”

N.C. Science Festival continues for the next two weeks all over the state and includes hands-on projects in Charlotte, river tours in Beaufort County, a seminar with National Public Radio’s Ira Flatow in Durham, demonstrations in Duck, and much more including an afternoon with the hosts of Discovery Channel’s in Chapel Hill.

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