By TIM CLEVELAND
Aug. 3 was a big day for area children with an interest in bugs and insects, as MillCreek MetroParks Farm hosted a Bug Day with various insect displays and interactive stations.
“This goes back to 1992 when my friend [Jenny Emery] from Cleveland MetroParks had done it and told me about it,” MillCreek MetroParks outdoor education manager Ray Novotny said.
Upon arriving at the event, the children were each given a card with the nine stations listed on it. When they completed each station, a hole punch was used to signify they completed it. Children who completed at least six of the nine stations received a certificate declaring them a “Master of Bugology.”
Among the stations were bug bingo, where bugs were shown and children had to mark if on their card if they had it; microscopes borrowed from Youngstown State that had slides of insects; a honey demonstration; displays of both live and preserved insects; bug stories from two librarians from the Youngstown Public Library; bug crafts where children made their own bugs; bug tattoos; bug hunts, where children went into the field and caught bugs; and bug races, in which maggots raced each other.
“I tried mealworms, I tried wax worms, but they’re kind of pokey,” Novotny said. “I discovered maggots. They’re faster than the others.”
One of the displays was various insects owned by Jim Smolka of Hinckley. He said he owns approximately 60 different insects and brought about a dozen of them to Bug Day.
“I’ve been working with insects since I was about 6-years-old and I’m 62-years-old right now, so I’ve been doing it for quite a long time,” he said. “I’ve been doing bug shows like this for about the past 25 years.
“Insects are a very fascinating group to me. They are the largest group of animals. There are more species of insects than all the other species of animals combined. They’ve filled every ecological niche in the entire planet.”
Smolka said he acquires his insects from a variety of places.
“Basically I’ve gotten them through certain pet stores that carry them and you can find them at reptile shows,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll buy them from people that do breeding of tarantulas and so forth.”
Smolka added that his experience has allowed him to avoid injury when handling his bugs.
“In 40 years of working with live tarantulas and scorpions, I have never been bitten or stung by anything,” he said. “That’s because I try to find out ahead of time about the species I’m dealing with, whether it’s aggressive or docile. I’ve had very good luck in that regard.”
Novotny said putting on the Bug Day was a good way to educate children about a subject a lot of them have an interest in.
“A lot of kids are fascinated with bugs,” he said. “This is a day just to run with that. They’re going to have fun and they’ll learn a little bit. I hope it gives them a little appreciation for this kind of thing.”