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posted: 8/20/2010 12:01 AM

Newly hatched Bug Fest to take flight at Red Oak

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Ask anybody within earshot and they'll surely have lots to say about those little creatures that are always near.


Pesky as they can sometimes be, bugs are part of everyday life. And they're really not as bad as they're often made out to be.

"They're weird, wild, fascinating - and often misunderstood," said Jim Kenney, facility manager at the Red Oak Nature Center, where thousands of bugs call home amid the surrounding woods.

Reputations aside, bugs "hold a little bit of intrigue for everybody," said Kenney. "They're actually pretty amazing creatures that play a huge role in nature."

So the Fox Valley Park District decided to make these insects the star attraction for an exciting new event. On Saturday, Aug. 21, Bug Fest will make its debut. From 9 a.m. to noon, a swarm of bug-related games, activities and demonstrations will be buzzing at Red Oak, Lippold Park and the half-mile of Fox River Trail that connects the two nature facilities.

It's a family-friendly, free event that promises to be educational and interesting with plenty of creepy-crawly fun.

Children and adults alike will learn about the benefits of bugs and the important roles they play such as pollinating plants and flowers, aerating the soil and serving as a major source in the food chain - all the way up to humans (think chocolate-covered ants).

Visitors can park and begin their exploration at either Red Oak or Lippold. Each site will have Bug Fest guide books available and feature live music, craft making and snacks.

Red Oak also will showcase bug videographer Tony Gustin, creator of the DVD "Who Wants To Be An Entomologist?" Also at Red Oak, local beekeeper Harry Patterson will discuss his hobby of raising bees and producing honey. Cool bug stories also will be presented.

At Lippold, an insect zoo will provide hands-on experiences and the Morton Arboretum will have an information booth on Emerald Ash Borer beetles.

In between and at the two facilities, a bonanza of bug activities awaits. Guests will have the opportunity to visit six discovery stations where they can do net sweeps for insects at Lippold Pond and the adjoining prairie and participate in "Bug Olympics," among other activities.

Think you can out-jump a grasshopper? Probably - but not really. Grasshoppers can jump 30 inches on average. If humans could jump that many times their body length, it would cover the length of a football field in one bound.

And if somebody says you're strong as a flea, take it as a compliment. A pinhead-size flea can jump 13 inches and move objects up to 400 times its own weight.

• Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District. Contact him at