ITHACA, N.Y. — The hundreds of people who explored Cornell University’s 15th Insectapalooza on Saturday got to wander through a room full of live butterflies, place bets on speedy cockroaches and get up close to caterpillars, exotic spiders, bees and over 100 other insects.

The event Saturday in Comstock Hall drew families and students. Daring kids let vinegaroons — also known as whip scorpions — crawl up their arms. Nearby, other kids let an arachnid called the Puerto Rican amblypygid “smell” them. The arachnid is sometimes called a “tailless whip scorpion.” Both specimens fit nicely into this year’s “Fear Factor” theme.

There were about 150 species of live insects on display, plus thousands of pinned specimens from the Cornell University Insect Collection, which has a long history at Cornell. The first specimens were donated in 1870. Today, the collection has more than 200,000 species represented, according to the collection’s website.

Different labs in the Department of Entomology hosted different types of species and demonstrations. There were rooms dedicated to pests and invasive species, medical entomology, fossils, an arthropod zoo and lab featuring pollinators.

In the pollinator room, Abby Davis, a junior entomology major, was one of the students on-hand to answer visitors’ questions about bees. She said one way people can help bees is by planting “pollinator gardens” with native flowers that bloom at different times during the year.

“I love bees because they’re important pollinators,” Davis said. “It’s incredible how they’ve evolved to become such specialized creatures.”

In every room, there were students like Davis and other researchers sharing their passion for insects and answering questions from curious kids.

“Aside from insects being fun, from an educational perspective, they play important roles in ecosystems,” Scott McArt, assistant professor of entomology, said in a Cornell Chronicle article. “Insects are major pests on crops that we try to control to have an abundant food supply. Insect predators also provide many positive services in terms of pest control, pollinators are important for pollinating our crops, and mosquitoes and ticks are big players in terms of human health.”

Cornell’s Insectapalooza is an annual event that has drawn up to 4,000 people in past events.

Check out a few photos from the event below. All photos by Managing Editor Kelsey O’Connor.

Kids place bets on speedy American cockroaches.
This roach had a solid second-place win.
A young child holds a vinegaroon.
A Puerto Rican amblypygid, also known as a tailless whip spider.
Bee hotels featured in the pollinator room.
A child inspects honey in the pollinator room.
One room in Comstock Hall was filled with free-flying butterflies.
This caterpillar likes to munch on tomato and tobacco plants.

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.