Entomology Club educates public on bug benefits at insect expo

Entomology Club educates public on bug benefits at insect expoFour University of Delaware undergraduate students in the Entomology Club headed to Newport, Rhode Island, to teach visitors about the many benefits of insects and dispel some of the negative notions associated with the creatures as part of the Eastern Branch of the Entomological Society of America’s “It’s a Bugs World” insect expo, which was held March 19 in the atrium of the Newport Marriott as part of the society’s 88th annual meeting. Rebecca Robertson, a junior double majoring in insect ecology and conservation and wildlife ecology and conservation who is also the president of the Entomology Club, said that the group has a standard group of insects that they bring to outreach events. “We brought a couple different species of tarantulas and a few scorpions. For the tarantulas, we have one that’s an Arizona blonde and we named her Debbie, after Debbie [Harry] from Blondie, and then we have a scorpion whose name is Dwayne the Flat Rock Scorpion kind of like Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson. We try to make our names familiar and friendly because it helps get rid of that initial fear for kids if they sound cute,” said Robertson. At a lot of these outreach events, Robertson said it is usually the parents who have pre-conceived notions about the bugs and the children who tend to be more open-minded. “I personally like talking to the kids more because the parents are actually the ones who are afraid and they’ll keep their kids from getting close and interacting with the insects. You have to break through the parents first before you can actually talk to the kids. The parents are usually the ones who learn to be afraid so it’s harder to break them out of it whereas kids are just learning to be afraid so you can turn that around a lot faster,” said Robertson. Getting children on board with insects at an early age is crucial to dispel many of the myths that surround creatures such as spiders and tarantulas. “A lot of the fear that we have with insects, we learn to be afraid from media because everyone portrays creatures like spiders as terrible or portrays insects as scary and bad and that goes hand in hand with the fact that we’re not educated about them,” said Robertson. “Our big passion is making sure children are educated about what they’re looking at so they won’t be afraid. They’ll understand that some insects and some spiders are beneficial and predatory and they’ll get rid of pest insects and help balance our ecosystem and realize they’re an important part of our natural world.” The love for bugs and entomology was instilled in Robertson herself at a young age when her uncle, who is a botanist, introduced her to the idea of studying insects. “I decided at that point in my life I was going to become an entomologist no matter what. I have always been interested in insects. I think a lot of kids are really passionate about insects and I just never outgrew that,” said Robertson. For those interested in learning more about or joining the Entomology Club, contact Robertson at rrain@udel.edu. Article by Adam Thomas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.