GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Mark your calendars – the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is holding Bug Week early this year, offering more live events than ever.
The weeklong celebration of all things bug-related will happen Friday, March 30 through Saturday, April 7, said Beverly James, UF/IFAS director of public relations. Now in its sixth year, Bug Week promotes awareness of entomology – the scientific study of insects and their close relatives – via news releases, how-to articles, videos, social media postings and other activities, she said.
“We’ve had fantastic response for the Bug Week scavenger hunt, which is returning to the Florida Museum of Natural History, and we wanted to build on that success,” said James, who organized this year’s Bug Week with help from UF/IFAS colleagues. “When we saw the opportunity to add two more live events to our roster, everyone agreed that it was something we had to try.”
On Friday, March 30, Bug Week kicks off with a fundraising event to help protect imperiled Florida butterflies. Held 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at First Magnitude Brewing Co. in downtown Gainesville, the event will include live music and educational displays, plus the launch of Bartram’s Blonde, a new First Magnitude ale named for the federally endangered Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak butterfly. All ages are welcome and there is no admission fee required, though donations are accepted.
Closing out Bug Week on Saturday, April 7 is an event familiar to Gainesville-area bug lovers. The popular Bug Week scavenger hunt returns to the Florida Museum of Natural History at 3215 Hull Road from 10 a.m. to noon. Admission is free.
As always, participants in the hunt will try to answer five bug-themed questions by visiting museum exhibits. Every group that answers all five questions correctly will receive free bug-themed souvenirs, while supplies last.
On the same morning as the scavenger hunt, visitors can attend Bug Fest, a free open house presented 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. by the UF/IFAS entomology and nematology department in its headquarters, Steinmetz Hall, located at 1881 Natural Area Drive in the southwest portion of the UF main campus.
Hosted by the UF Entomology Club, Bug Fest gives visitors a chance to tour the UF/IFAS entomology and nematology department and meet current faculty members, said Rebecca Baldwin, the department’s undergraduate coordinator. Bug Fest activities offer a mixture of whimsy – including cockroach races and cricket-spitting contests – and serious information about the department’s academic programs and career paths available to graduates.
“Bug Fest embraces the lighter side of entomology, but we try to encourage visitors to get excited about the scientific side of things, too,” Baldwin said. “This year’s Bug Fest theme is, ‘The Incredibugs,’ and we’re using the upcoming animated film, ‘Incredibles 2,’ as a starting point for our faculty to discuss some of the incredible, amazing things that bugs do.”
Because Steinmetz Hall is only a few hundred yards from the Florida Natural History Museum, visitors may wish to leave their vehicles in the nearby UF Cultural Plaza parking garage and walk to both events, James said. Organizers will post signs and station volunteers along the route between Steinmetz Hall and the museum to ensure that no one gets lost, she said.
All Bug Week long, Florida residents can stay involved via Twitter and Facebook posts. Just search for #UFBugs to learn about this year’s Bug Week stars – pollinators! For more information, visit http://bugs.ufl.edu.
Don’t forget – if you are talking about Bug Week on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, use the official #UFBugs hashtag!
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.