×

VINS insect festival focuses on both indigenous and invasive bugs

  • Lynn Turcotte-Schuh, of Voluntown, Conn., reacts as a beetle flies away from the grasp of her daughter Michaela Schuh, 5, during a bug safari at the Vermont Institute for Natural Science Incredible Insect Festival in Quechee, Vt., Saturday, July 6, 2019. The family made the trip to Vermont just for the event that included programs on bees, emerald ash borers, monarch butterflies and more. activities (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Steve and Cait Siebenmorgen, of Natick, Mass., catch bugs with their son Lincoln, 3, during the Vermont Institute for Natural Science Incredible Insect Festival in Quechee, Vt., Saturday, July 6, 2019. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Correspondent
Saturday, July 06, 2019

QUECHEE — Visitors at the Incredible Insect Festival on Saturday hunted specimens during a bug safari that then taught them more about what they caught.

Vermont Institute of Natural Science staff member Anna Morris pitched the station to guests with a simple question: “Do you want to catch some bugs?”

Participants then were handed a net with the invitation to skim nearby tall grass for insects. The insects collected were cast on to a white sheet and inventoried. Some were kept in temporary captivity for observational purposes.

“That’s why it’s so great, because everyone wants to (collect),” Morris said of the activity. “Even the kids that don’t want to, you can compel them to come over and look at the grasshopper we already caught. … It’s just helping kids develop a really easy, accessible relationship with the natural world.”

Saturday’s annual event has run for about the last five years, according to Chris Collier, director of onsite programs and exhibits at VINS.

“The main goal of this event is to get people excited about a group of animals that otherwise you might just swat at or stomp and not really care about,” Collier said. “But they’re integral to the natural system, and so the more people we can get excited about, ‘Ooh, what is this insect and what does it do or how does it play a role?’ the better we’ll all be and the natural world will be.”

Collier said a company called the Caterpillar Lab inspired the insect festival.

“We found out that they bring live caterpillars on their host plants,” Collier said of the outreach organization based in Marlborough, N.H. “Essentially, we said, ‘Well, we want them here,’ so we kind of created this event around that exhibit, and since then we’ve grown it.”

Other exhibits included aquatic insects with the Black River Action Team; beekeeping with Peter Hadeka, an ambassador with the Vermont Beekeeping Association; and emerald ash borer information from Vermont Invasives.

Bob Little Tree was on hand to represent the latter.

“A couple of years ago, they found (emerald ash borer) in Orange County,” Little Tree said. “It didn’t fly there, so we tell people not to move firewood, but they do. Emerald ash borer can kill a healthy ash tree in two years. ... Indigenous beetles go up and down, vertical. Emerald ash borer goes around the tree, girdles the tree basically; kills it, cuts off its supply.”

Little Tree, whose display also featured information on the invasive Asian longhorn beetle, is a trained forest pest detector overseeing a few purple traps in the local area.

“Inside the trap is a lure for the emerald ash borer, the outside is sticky,” Little Tree said. “You go and lower it down and check it out. If I pull it down and there’s an emerald ash borer on there, I just get on my phone. ... The red flag’s going to go up and the area is quarantined. Once (emerald ash borer is) there, the feds are going to step in, and it’s going to be a quarantined area.”

Upper Valley native John Lubin attended Saturday’s event with his wife and 10-year-old daughter, a past attendee of the VINS nature camp.

“She has a fascination,” Lubin said of his daughter’s take on bugs. “She just likes creepy, crawly things.”

Adam Boffey can be contacted at boffeyadam@gmail.com.