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Like Bugs? Summer is Brisk Season for USU Insect Tours

Thursday, Jul. 17, 2014

USU students with insect specimen displays
USU students Jon Koch, left, and Abby Baur display specimens from USU Insect Tours' 'Oh, My! Collection.’ The science outreach group has been busy providing summer presentations throughout Cache Valley.
a group of students during a campus insect tour
USU doctoral student Jon Koch, left, shows a group of children visiting Utah State's Logan campus where insects live. The goal of the program, he says, is to teach youngsters about entomology and the importance of insect biodiversity.

Even before Utah marked the official start of summer, Utah State University Insect Tours hit the ground running. Since the last day of Cache Valley’s public schools, the student-led entomology club has been fielding requests for tours and demonstrations at a brisk pace.


“During June, we hosted three campus tours with more than 100 kids, met with about 80 kids at a local church’s summer program and talked about insects with more than 300 kids at the Bear River Celebration at Logan’s Willow Park,” says Jon Koch, USU doctoral student and outreach coordinator for the program located in USU’s Department of Biology.


And that was just June. Not that the group isn’t busy year round. The club is a staple at USU’s Science Unwrapped events and at local schools throughout the academic year.


Why? Because despite insects’ creepy, slimy reputation, a lot people — especially youngsters — are fascinated with the diminutive creatures.


“When you live in a place like Logan, you don’t get to hang out in the tropics, where lots of insect species are abundant,” says Koch. “Our collections allow us to bring the world of entomology to people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to see a wide variety of insects from several different continents.”


And the reactions?


“I pull out a Madagascar hissing cockroach and say, ‘Who wants to hold it?,’” says USU Entomology Club member Abby Baur, an undergraduate majoring in wildlife science and environmental studies. “I hear immediate squeals. Some kids are scared, but with some encouragement, they yield to their curiosity.”


“The tours are a great way to get kids and teens talking about insects and thinking about biodiversity,” Koch says. “Our goal is to have fun, but also to explain what entomology is, why it’s important and how insects impact our lives.”


A cast of interesting characters inhabit the group’s USU Bug Zoo, including Cheryl the Mexican Red Rump Tarantula and Spike the Tailless Whip Scorpion.


For the less intrepid, the club’s Oh, My! Collection features colorful (yet no longer living) specimens safely ensconced in glass collection cases.


“Our outreach was inspired by the late USU professor Wilford Hansen, who founded USU Insect Tours decades ago,” Koch says. “He firmly believed in educating students of all ages on the value and importance of insect biodiversity. He specifically enjoyed connecting with local schools and we want to build on his legacy.”


For information about USU Insect Tours, visit the group’s website.


Related links:


Contact: Jon Koch, 435-414-0429, usu.insect.tours@gmail.com

Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517, maryann.muffoletto@usu.edu

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