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Insectapalooza 2019 will be bigger and buggier – and free

This year’s Insectapalooza, Oct. 19, promises to be bigger than ever with its move from Comstock Hall to more spacious Stocking Hall, and features free admission for all. Photo by Lindsay France/Cornell University

For one day only, you’ll be able to sprinkle chocolate-covered crickets over your bowl of Big Red Bear Tracks ice cream at the Cornell Dairy Bar in Stocking Hall.

That one day is Oct. 19, when the Department of Entomology will host Insectapalooza – an annual extravaganza that aims to take the “creepy” out of “creepy-crawly.” From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., visitors can interact with more than 150 species of live insects and, for the entomologically adventurous, eat them as a snack.

For the less adventurous, there will be insect-shaped candies and other toppings for your Cornell Dairy Bar ice cream, said Scott McArt, assistant professor of entomology.

New for this year’s event: Admission is free for all ages.

Previous events have brought more than 4,000 people to campus to take a closer look at pollinators and pests. Now in its 16th year, Insectapalooza is moving to Stocking Hall, up Tower Road from its previous home, Comstock Hall. McArt said the new venue will have more open spaces for visitors, volunteers and exhibits. One of them, he said, is Nelly – a large ladybug sculpture on loan from Billing Productions. Before arriving at Cornell, Nelly was on display at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse.

“Nelly is so big it actually never made it in [to Stocking Hall],” said John Losey, professor of entomology and director of The Lost Ladybug Project. Nelly will be on display outside of Stocking Hall, Losey said.

“In general, the public is very positive about ladybugs,” he said. “They are charismatic and considered good luck because of the role they play in suppressing the insect pests that eat the plants we try to grow. People can learn about the decline of these species and the important role they play.”

Another new display will be hosted by Corrie Moreau, the Martha N. and John C. Moser Professor of Arthropod Biosystematics and Biodiversity. Moreau’s research examines the complex and intimate role ants have in ecosystems.

“There are more ants [on the planet] than all the birds and mammals added together,” Moreau said. “We will feature some local favorites, including the Dracula ant, wood ants and carpenter ants. We will also share our work on the genetics and microbiomes of herbivorous species of turtle ants from South America.”

One thing most people don’t realize about ants is that the males’ only role is reproduction, she said.

“Almost every ant you have ever seen is female,” Moreau said. “The females wage the battles, gather food, build nests, and care for the queen and young.”

For those counting the days until Halloween, Insectapalooza will have the traditional “bucket of maggots.” The Butterfly Room, where participants can get up close to free-flying butterflies, is back by popular demand, as are cockroach races, insect face-painting, honey tasting, insect stickers, and arts and crafts.

“The goal of Insectapalooza is to showcase amazing insects and all the amazing things they do,” McArt said. “They provide critical ecosystem services such as pollination, predation of crop pests and nutrient cycling so plants can grow. In other words, insects are an important part of everyone’s lives. And many of them are just spectacularly beautiful or do really interesting things.”

For more information on parking and sponsorship opportunities, visit the event website.

Kevin Lam ’20 is the social media intern for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.