Kids and Nature

Insecta-Palooza Takes the Creepy out of Lots of Crawlies

October 26, 2011

With Halloween right around the corner, it’s only natural to think of cobwebs and hairy creatures lurking in dark places. Just the thought of these creepy, crawling, eight-legged, web tangling, multi-eyed arachnids can frighten even the toughest individuals. Even yours truly.

Luckily, the third installment of Sonoma State University’s Insecta-Palooza is here to remind us that these crawlers aren’t so creepy after all.

This Saturday, October 29, Insecta-Palooza will take place at SSU’s Darwin Hall. The theme for this year’s event is metamorphosis. Program Coordinator Frederique Lavoipierre says the theme of transformation is “appropriate because it coincides with the school’s 50th anniversary.”

The event itself has undergone a transformation of sorts. In past events, says Lavoipierre, adults “didn’t come because they thought it was just for kids. This year’s Insecta-Palooza has something for everyone, from children to master gardeners to professional entomologists.”

Adults and teens can drop in on several seminars throughout the day–perhaps a photography presentation by Vic Smith, assistant curator at the California Academy of Sciences, or a panel discussion about issues facing honey bees and native bees, with entomologists from San Francisco State, UC Davis, and UC Berkeley. The seminars add a very important bigger picture, says Lavoipierre. “It’s important for us to see the context in which bugs fit into the web of life. Without bugs there wouldn’t be food.”

But don’t worry, adults don’t get to have all the fun at Insecta-Palooza. There are plenty of activities for children. In fact, children are encouraged to come dressed in their Halloween costumes and take part in the Insect parade. “It adds a party atmosphere to the event. Even the volunteers are dressed up as worker bees,” says Lavoipierre.

“Kids get really excited about our Bug Building and Insect Origami workshops,” she says. In “Bug Building,” kids design bugs out of scrap materials, then test their creations’ aerodynamic capabilities in a wind tunnel. “Its really about fun and inadvertently learning as you go.”

What do kids love most about Insecta-Palooza?

“All kids love the live bugs! They’re really small and incredibly alien.”

“All kids love the live bugs! They’re really small and incredibly alien,” Lavoipierre explains. In the popular “Insect Zoo” exhibit, kids can touch and feel California native insects, praying mantises, stick insects, and tarantulas. “They’re fun things to look at. Kids love them and love to talk about their experiences with them.”

Inside the interactive labs, “Basic Bugs” and “A World of Water,” kids get to use microscopes to examine bugs and aquatic invertebrates. “Kids are fascinated with magnification,” she says. “They’re shocked to discover that some bugs have hairy eyeballs.”

Aren’t kids supposed to be afraid of bugs?

While many kids may be apprehensive at first, interactions tend to happen naturally. “When one of the scared children witnesses a peer holding something and not getting hurt, they draw closer. Next thing you know, they’re holding it!”

For ticket and event information, visit

About the Author

Eric Galan is a Bay Nature editorial intern.