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April 21, 2008

Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin

Monday, April 21, 2008

By KIM BARTO - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Virginia Museum of Natural History featured roach races, butterfly collections and an array of creepy-crawlies during its third annual Bug Daze family festival on Saturday.

Exhibits taught visitors about catching and identifying insects, with bug-related art, games and educational presentations throughout the day.

"It's a really good opportunity for the kids," said Judy Biedrycki of Stuart.

She and her husband, Stephen, said they bring their sons to the museum every time it hosts a festival.

"I do not like bugs, but I like studying them," said Joshua Biedrycki, 9. "I touched a millipede. It's my favorite part so far."

His brother, Jared, 7, chimed in: "I liked the scorpion the best."

Most kids named the bug petting zoo as their favorite part of the event. There, brave visitors could hold a millipede or cockroaches. A scorpion, centipede and tarantulas could be viewed inside plastic terrariums but not touched.
Shana Beirne, a graduate student in entomology at Virginia Tech, manned the bug table. She showed off the millipede to a group of several families.

"This is my baby. It's pretty," she said.

Not everyone was convinced.

"Ew," said one parent.

"People say they're scared of bugs, and when I ask why, they say they don't really know," Beirne explained. "These won't hurt you. They can't even bite."

Beirne, who keeps a small menagerie of bugs at home, wants to share her love of insects with everyone. Some of the museum-goers were more receptive than others.

"Kids are usually excited. The parents, not so much," she said. "I want people to experience things they've never experienced before."

At first, Skye Mitchell, 6, daughter of Alecia Mitchell of Martinsville, seemed reluctant to touch the bugs. She took small steps to the table and cautiously peered into a terrarium holding a few giant cave cockroaches.

"Whoa, that one's huge!" Skye said. "They are kind of cute, I guess."
Beirne tried to coax her into holding one.

"You can touch them if you want. They're friendly," Beirne said.

Skye held out her hands and giggled as Beirne handed her one of the bugs. Then she declared, "I like roaches."

Budding artist Kyle Flood, 10, son of Yvette Flood of Martinsville, gravitated to the art table to draw pictures of ladybugs and beetles.

"I think bugs are cool," Kyle said. "I touched a beetle and held the big millipede."
The festival included the children's play "Dr. Belinda Brilliant and her Amazing

Learn More Machine: Bugs," performed by the Carlisle School Players.

For the grownups, the event featured presentations and a book-signing by Dr.

Arthur V. Evans, research associate for the department of entomology at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.

Evans talked about the bugs people love to hate in a presentation called "What's Bugging You?" and then signed copies of his book of the same name.

For "CSI" television show fans, Dr. Ralph E. Williams presented "The Use of Insects in Crime Investigation," a talk on how forensic entomology can help solve crimes.

Williams is a professor of entomology at Purdue University whose experience includes forensic entomology death investigation.

The event was sponsored by the Jameson Inn and Chick-Fil-A.

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