Insect Zoo showcases bugs at entomology film festival

Iowa State’s Insect Zoo presented all sorts of bugs at an insect film festival.

Cade Cameron

Iowa State University’s Department of Entomology Insect Zoo showcases itself at the Insect Film Festival on Oct. 21. 

The Entomology Graduate Student Organization (EGSO) puts on the film festival each year located at Reiman Gardens. This event gives student workers of the Insect Zoo a chance to communicate on how they can share what the zoo is.

Founded in 1995, the Insect Zoo of Iowa State University is an educational outreach program that informs the public on Arthropods, which include spiders: tarantulas, millipedes, centipedes, scorpions, shrimp, crab and lobster. It is home to hundreds of these little creatures.

Something unique about this zoo is that they are a traveling zoo, which means they are not located in one area for the public. The bugs are housed in separate rooms throughout the Department of Entomology building and when it is time to travel, they place them into cages and hit the road.

The Insect Zoo travels all over the State of Iowa to host programs that educate a wide variety of groups about bugs. Program Specialist in the Department of Entomology and Head of the Insect Zoo, Ginny Mitchell, explained what sets the film festival apart from other events.

“Usually we present to places like nursing homes, schools, fairs, and stem nights where we charge a fee,” said Mitchell. “However, since the Film Fest was a part of the Entomology Department I wasn’t going to charge the grad students to present the Insect zoo.”

At the Film Fest, the Insect Zoo was set up per usual, with the bugs in their traveling crates. The creepy crawlers are lined up and students, along with the adviser, have the opportunity to share to the audience all about the arthropods. This is a way for the public to learn about something they would normally fear or kill. 

One arthropod from each species was presented at the film festival. Charles Luevano, a student majoring in Animal Science, discussed some of the insects from the zoo.

“ …a flat back scorpion is native to Africa,” said Luevano. “Something unique about the insects in the zoo is that most of them aren’t from the United States; many are found in other countries. We also have stick bugs, red honey ants, and Beetles. Most of the bugs within the zoo are going to be ones that will frequently make people want to learn more about them.”

With education being so important, the Insect Zoo is always happy to share what they are and how they can help around Ames. Mitchell explained some of the ideology behind the insect zoo.

“Here at the Insect Zoo, we are trying to make humans appreciate the most hated animals,” said Mitchell. “It’s difficult at times, but my philosophy is if you can get somebody to start to admire and ask questions about something, no matter what it is, they are going to start to build that appreciation within themselves. We’re here to educate and even if they don’t get the information from us, they will leave our program wanting to know more about the animals.”