The Texas Natural Science Center in Austin will host a celebration of insects April 21 in the form of the First Annual Insecta Fiesta.   The FREE educational event will feature a live butterfly house, a cricket spitting contest, cockroach races, entomophagy, or the exercise of eating insects for their inexpensive protein, teacher training, and much more.

Insects are cool. Really!

Insects are cool. Really!

Those of us who took Botany for Gardeners at the University of Texas fondly remember the  Brackenridge Field Lab, an 88-acre spread which hugs the shores of Lake Austin and serves as the site of the bug fest.   The outdoor laboratory, considered a premier urban field research station for helping academics and others to study climate change, invasive species, biodiversity, animal behavior, evolution and more, is generally closed to the public.
But on Saturday, April 21, the facility opens its gates in an attempt to make insects more accessible and understood.
Why celebrate insects?
“They’re so under appreciated,” says Dr. John Abbott, Curator of Entomology for the Texas Natural Science Center and a chief organizer of the event.  “Insects tie all our ecosystems together.  They’re found everywhere, except in the open ocean, in every habitat and microhabitat.   They dominate the planet and they literally tether the ecosystems,”  he says.

Malachite Butterfly looks like a green Monarch --photo courtesy NABA

Malachite Butterfly looks like a green Monarch –photo courtesy NABA

Insects have always captivated people because of their beauty and intrigue, says Dr. Abbott, adding  that we find images of them everywhere:  on plates, drapes, earrings, stamps, tattoos, t-shirts.
And yet given their pervasive presence in our food, water, air and earth, insects have not received their fair share of conservation attention.   Some would argue that if Pandas disappeared, it wouldn’t matter much;  but if certain insects were extinct–bees, for example–the world would be irrevocably changed for the worse.  “It’s more important than ever to understand the impact of climate change and habitat destruction on insects,” says Dr. Abbott.
The Texas Butterfly Ranch is a sponsor of the celebration.  With the help of Flutterby Gardens of Manatee and funding from Austin’s Peggy and Matt Winkler, we’ll help supply butterflies for a butterfly house that will include 500 live lepidoptera.

Monarchs, Gulf Fritillaries, Painted Ladies, Red Admirals, Swallowtails–even some sexy Malachites, which we don’t see all that often even though they’re native to South Texas–are scheduled to be flying in a converted greenhouse that organizers and volunteers have spent weeks preparing.
Cricket spitting contest -- photo by

Cricket spitting contest — photo by

Cricket spitting, a questionable competition in which one inserts a cricket in mouth and then spits it out, will also be a highlight.   The cricket spit the furthest wins the competition.  The “sport” has been popularized by Purdue University’s annual indoor Bug Bowl with a record of 32 feet.  Since the Insecta Fiesta contest will be the first OUTDOOR cricket spitting contest, whoever wins the competition can claim to set a new Guinness Book of World Record.
Other insect activities:

  • Insect Petting  Zoo 
  • Insect Cooking/Eating Tent  
  • Live Insect-Themed Music  
  • Cricketspitting Contest  
  • Cockroach Races 
  • Butterfly Garden/Flyhouse
  • Insect Safari
  • Austin Bike Zoo
  • Insect Workshops for Teachers to earn CPEs
  • Pond Dipping
  • Forensic Entomology
  • Arts/Crafts

A free K–12 teacher training workshop will also be offered during Insecta Fiesta. Teachers will receive six hours CPE credit and curriculum materials correlated to the Science TEKS. Teachers will learn how to use insects to teach about animal adaptations, ecosystems, evolution, and more.   Register for the workshop here. Contact Christina Cid with questions about the teacher training.
WHAT:         Insecta Fiesta
WHEN:         Saturday, April 21, 11 AM – 5 PM.  FREE.
WHERE:       Lake Austin Center – Brackenridge Field Lab 3001 Lake Austin Blvd.
Austin, Texas 78703
PARKING:  Free at the LCRA lot, with shuttles to entrance
Hope to see you there!