Sunscreen, check. Water, check. Picnic lunch, check. Questions?
Yes, Steven Barney said visitors to Insect Day also should bring their queries about creepy-crawlies with them. Barney and the rest of the event’s experts, however, would be quick to dismiss this derogatory term for these interesting, often beautiful creatures from nature.
Barney’s the person who got the ball rolling for this, the arboretum’s first Insect Day.
“Actually, Steven came to the arboretum and he’s big into beetles and insects and he thought this would be a great place to have an event and we thought that would be great also, so that’s how it started,” Kim Hollier, arboretum curator said.
Hollier said there will be several exhibitors with stations set up outside, weather permitting. If not, they’ll move the event inside.
“They’ll have different insects and things for people to look at and talk about,” she said.
Among the exhibitors will be the Audubon Insectarium, the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum and The Beetle Experience. That name comes from Barney’s informational website about his main insect interest, beetles.
“I started keeping them as pets, back in 2000 maybe, and then just started breeding them myself and I sell them and often times, give them to zoos and people that display insects, so it’s somewhere between hobby and part-time business right now,” Barney said.
Barney, of Lafayette, works full time in technical support at a small software company in Breaux Bridge.
“When I was little, I remember looking for them (beetles) and keeping them, and you know, playing with them,” Barney said.
His interest in beetles was revived when he lived in Texas, where he spotted some unusual beetles and started researching them.
“It just kind of opened up a can of worms, I guess you’d say.”
In addition to selling them, Barney also donates beetles and other Louisiana insects he finds to the Audubon Insectarium. His breeding population now includes 50 or more adults and larvae.
Barney said the Arthropod Museum will display mostly preserved specimens, some big, exotic insects the average person probably doesn’t see, and some insects native to Louisiana. In addition to beetles, Barney will be bringing live millipedes, stick bugs (or walking sticks), and maybe a tarantula or two, although those and scorpions are far from his favorites.
“We’ll have a table or two with live bugs including both incredible exotics such as walking leaf insects and Asian stag beetles and amazing natives like velvet ants and pink katydids,” Zack Lemann said by email.
Lemann is the visitor programs manager at the insectarium.
He’ll be accompanied by the insectarium’s Jayme Necaise, director of animal and visitor programs.
“We love talking to people about insects and other arthropods. While we and our staff do this daily at our museum in New Orleans, we rarely get to do presentations off site such as the upcoming one,” Lemann said.
“We’ll also have two cases of preserved butterflies native to Louisiana so that visitors can learn how to identify these gorgeous insects around their homes or along walking trails. We plan on giving a talk about insects, too: beautiful images with fascinating tales of how certain bugs ?make a living’ (it really is a jungle out there, you know)!” Lemann said.
Andrew Barron will give a demonstration on flint knapping (arrowhead making) in the afternoon, and following the “Bug Talk with Zack and Jayme” in the evening, there will be a screening of Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo.
The documentary looks at Tokyo’s fascination with beetles, and insects in general. The film’s director/writer/producer, Jessica Oreck, will be on hand to introduce the film and answer questions.
“In Japan, a lot of people keep beetles as pets, and there it’s like cats and dogs here. More people keep beetles there than cats and dogs. It covers the whole culture of insects and beetles in Japan,” Barney said.
Following the screening is certain to be one of the most popular aspects of the event, night bug collecting.
“We will set up a combination of ultra-violet and mercury vapor lights to collect nocturnal insects - we expect the beetle and moth activity to be fabulous,” Lemann said.
Barney said at night is when most of the beetles come out, along with huge moths, and ants, especially in the spring when they’ll start to swarm.
“Sometimes even toads and lizards and spiders try to eat some of the bugs,” Barney said. “We’ll see what kinds of things fly in that live at the Arboretum.