The Inn at Virginia Tech will be full of creepy-crawlies this weekend. Luckily, they won't be calling the exterminators.
Oct. 19 marks the third annual Hokie Bugfest, featuring attractions such as bird eating tarantulas, silkworm farms and cockroach races from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Hosted by the Virginia Tech Department of Entomology, Bugfest is a student-run event with the goal of attracting young scholars to careers in the study of bugs.
“This event gives adults and children an opportunity to learn about arthropods and the science behind them,” said Mike Weaver, director of Virginia Tech Pesticide Programs and founder of Bugfest.
Originated in 2011, Bugfest was held not only to promote the excitement of entomology, but to honor professor William Bradford Alwood, Virginia Tech's first entomologist who went on to establish the discipline at the university. Although Bugfest began as an offshoot to honor Alwood, Weaver explains that is has grown into so much more.
“It’s now an activity for discovery and to recruit students in a long-term sense,” Weaver said. “We’ve had students enroll at Virginia Tech to study entomology just because they were so intrigued after attending Bugfest.”
All of the bugs seen at Saturday’s event are provided by Virginia Tech’s Department of Entomology, the same insects that fellow students work with daily.
“All of the bugs come out for Bugfest,” Weaver said. Over 80 different species of bugs will be showcased by the department. “And that’s just those that are alive,” explained Weaver, stating that an additional 50 species of preserved insects will also be brought out for the event.
With a crowd of about 3,600 spectators last year, Weaver expects even more to attend Saturday’s event. “We get people from Richmond and NOVA that drive all the way down here just to attend,” Weaver said, explaining how Bugfest’s popularity has increased in the past year alone.
The biggest change that can be found in the event this year is a much larger Bug Zoo, exhibiting over 100 tarantulas, exotic cockroaches, giant millipedes and more arthropods from all over the world. The newest exhibit being showcased, however, is the luminescent room, featuring “a dark cave with multiple luminous insects,” Weaver explained.
In addition to inspiring prospective entomologists, Weaver hopes to further educate the public about the usefulness of insects.
“These organisms often do more good than harm,” Weaver stated. “Entomology helps unlock the secrets of both the insect world and the environment at large.”
Bugfest has attracted multiple spectators, some of which have attended with a strong fear of bugs and left the event unafraid.
“We’re hoping to educate, change people’s attitudes towards insects, to entertain a bit and have fun,” Weaver said, “all while learning about bugs.”