Rotten bananas and grape Gatorade for feeding the butterflies?  Check.  Largest Katydid in the world for the insect petting zoo?  Delivered safe and sound.  Cockroach tractor pull assembled and swept?  Done.  Oh, and frozen crickets for the cricket spitting contest?  Almost time to time to thaw them out.

Assembling an Earth Day weekend celebration for the First Annual Insecta Fiesta in Austin has required  thousands of volunteer hours by more than 140 staff and volunteers. Yet final preparations for the daylong celebration of the most diverse species on the planet are almost complete.  The event takes place this Saturday, April 21, 11 AM -4 PM at the Brackenridge Field Labs,  3001 Lake Austin Boulevard.  It’s FREE.

Katydid or Katydidn't? Insecta Fiesta to feature largest katydid in the world

Katydid or Katydidn’t? Insecta Fiesta to feature largest katydid in the world–photo

The inaugural bug fest, organized by The Texas Natural Science Center in Austin, will celebrate insects and anticipates a large crowd this Saturday.  More than 150 teachers from all over the state have registered for teacher training to be used in Texas classrooms.   Free parking and shuttle buses have been arranged at the LCRA  lot.

The 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, and the largest, loudest Katydid on the planet.  “It’s the size of a small sparrow,” said KUT’s John Aielli when the creature paid a visit to his radio show on Thursday.

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.

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.

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

The free K–12 teacher training workshop offers 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.

Insecta Fiesta this Saturday 11-4 at Brackenridge Field Labs

Insecta Fiesta this Saturday 11-4 at Brackenridge Field Labs in Austin

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!

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