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Idaho Enterprise

Bugstravaganza brings the creepy-crawlies to Malad

The bugs are back!  Last Friday brought Jason Thomas and his collection of bugs—insects, arachnids, and others—back to the Oneida County Event Center to the delight of kids and the horror of some parents.  The Bugstravaganza, a grant-funded event, brought in a number of extension educators and multi-legged visitors in for an educational experience highlighting the wide and diverse world of bugs.

Jason Thomas, extension educator from Minidoka County and son of Larry Thomas, spear-headed the event.  Thomas was largely responsible for introducing kids and their accompanying parents to the Curly-Hair and Pink-toe tarantulas, which were undoubtedly the biggest draws of the afternoon.  Thomas spent much of the afternoon with a long line of kids who wanted to hold the animals, and parents who had to be coaxed into it.  As he explained, tarantulas are technically venomous, but rarely cause any kind of painful bite to people.

Sawyer Fonnesbeck, Oneida county’s own extension educator, was in charge of the African Giant millipede (or shongololo).  The African Giant is the largest existing millipede, with an average number of 256 legs, though that number can change with each molting.  While intimidating in a shower or kitchen cupboard, the millipede is generally harmless.  Its primary method of defense is curling into a small defensive coil.  It can, however, secrete an irritant from its pores that can affect the skin or eyes.  Luckily, the millipede who attended the event on Friday remained well-behaved and kept its fluids to itself.

Kelly Sorensen, also of the Oneida County Extension office, was in charge of the western Hercules Beetle.  The beetle is a species of rhinoceros beetle that primarily lives on dead and decaying matter.  The species is sexually dimorphic, which means that the males and females have different body designs.  The one on hand at the Bugstravaganza was a male, which means that it had the large horns associated with the rhinoceros beetle family.  

Sherry Moeller, of the Oneida County office, had a set of Death Feigning Beetles, also known as desert ironclads.  The beetles mimic death when confronted with danger, which of course makes them difficult to demonstrate to large groups.  At least a couple of them remained frisky throughout the afternoon, however, and kids were delighted to watch them “come back to life” after a period of time.

Retired extension educator Rauhn Panting had possibly the hardest task of the day, convincing people to handle the Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches, which is one of the largest cockroaches in existence.  The hissing is caused by air being forcefully expelled through spiracles on its fourth body segment.  Most insects make noise by rubbing their wings or legs together, making it unusual in terms of its ability to create sound.  The roaches can hiss for a number of different reasons, from communication to mating, to aggression.  The roaches on hand were on the whole fairly hissless, which is probably for the best.

The Bugstravaganza is an event that the Extension office is happy to present as an outreach and educational opportunity, primarily for the younger set.  Jason Thomas’ primary work throughout the year involves research and discussion of the ways insects and bugs interact with agricultural concerns across the state.