More than 620 children, adults enjoy
Henrico County’s first annual Bug Bizarre

By Linda Rhodes

IMG_0154The first Henrico County Bug Bizarre on Saturday, Sept. 14, attracted more than 623 people to the Deep Run Park Recreation Center where they learned about bugs and bug-related issues.

 “Interestingly we had 296 kids at the event, so almost half the attendance was children,” said Ed Olsen, Associate Extension Agent. “And over half the attendance came during the first hour.”

The three-hour event featured 26 exhibits with more than 57 people staffing them. Both exhibitors and attendees said the event was a huge success.

Kelsey and Dan Fisher came from Dillwyn in Buckingham County so their two daughters – Lola, 6, and Hattie, 3, – could learn about bugs.

“This is awesome,” Dan said. “We’re home schoolers and we’re always looking for outside educational activities.”

“It’s kind of cool,” Lola said, noting that her favorite activity was making a butterfly out of a clothespin.20190914_145411

“This is awesome,” gushed Christiana Woodard from Glen Allen. She and her husband, Aaron, brought their two-year-old daughter, Rosalie. “I love how all the bugs are out for the kids to touch and explore. Rosalie loves bugs and she really loves to reach out and touch them.”

Members of a Girl Scout troop came to the event to work on their bug merit badges.

“It was wonderful,” said Troop Leader Bonnie Glover. She explained that badge requirements include craft activities. “We thought we were going to have to go and do our own crafts,” Glover said. “Instead we got everything we needed here. What we learned today … hopefully they won’t forget it.”

Henrico Master Gardeners staffed a variety of booths. They helped children make insects out of clothespins and Junior-Master-Gardenerspipe cleaners, taught about the life cycle of butterflies and the plants needed for them to survive, explained Henrico County Diagnostic Lab services available to the public, distributed coloring books, helped children dress up as insects in a photo booth, displayed an insect collection and handed out milkweed seeds.

IMG_0094One of the most popular exhibits featured Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches displayed by Hanover County Master Gardeners. Children were allowed to hold and pet the three-inch-long creatures and watch them compete in cockroach races in a track built by Henrico Master Gardener Doug Crosen.

IMG_0150Children were also allowed to hold and pet bright blue tobacco hornworms brought by Dr. Karen Kester, professor of Biology at Virginia Commonwealth University, and her undergraduate research interns in the VCU Bug Lab.

“I think this is wonderful,” Kester said. “It’s bug heaven. I’ve met a lot of new people that my students could work with. It’s been good networking. It’s good public education. This is fun stuff, and it’s important stuff.”

IMG_0144Ryan Levering of the Henrico County Department of Public Works spent the day talking to people about mosquitos.

“It’s way beyond what we expected,” Levering said of the event. “All day, non-stop I’ve been talking to people. I feel like it’s been a huge success. For us, education and outreach is a huge part of mosquito control. Today I’ve been letting people know where mosquitos are coming from and how people can control them in their own yards.”

The event was successful enough to continue, said Olsen. He has scheduled the next one for Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. “I have already reserved the Deep Run Recreation Center for the 2020 event,” Olsen said. “Details will be sent out starting in March 2020 for this event, but put the date on your calendar now.”

Scroll through the gallery below to view photos of the Bug Bizarre: