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posted: 8/23/2012 10:53 AM

Learn all about insects at Bug Fest

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  • Antonio Houston, 8, of Aurora investigates dragonfly larvae during last year's Bug Fest at the Red Oak Nature Center in North Aurora. This year's festival is set for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25.

       Antonio Houston, 8, of Aurora investigates dragonfly larvae during last year's Bug Fest at the Red Oak Nature Center in North Aurora. This year's festival is set for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer, 2011

  • Eastern Lubber grasshoppers from the Florida area are displayed during Bug Fest at the Red Oak Nature Center in North Aurora. This year's festival is set for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25.

       Eastern Lubber grasshoppers from the Florida area are displayed during Bug Fest at the Red Oak Nature Center in North Aurora. This year's festival is set for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer, 2011

 
 

You'd think that any mention of insects and bugs would send people running to the nearest screen house in search of cover. But that's not exactly the case here.

In 2010, the Fox Valley Park District unveiled a new event called Bug Fest. In the first two years, more than 2,500 visitors have swarmed this event, which spreads its wings between Red Oak Nature Center, Lippold Park and the half-mile of Fox River Trail that connects to the two facilities.

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Apparently, we are every bit as attracted to bugs as they are to us.

The buzz is back as Bug Fest returns Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with insects as the star attraction once again. The event is free, with no registration required.

"Bugs are weird, wild, fascinating and often misunderstood," said Margaret Gazdacka, facility manager at the Red Oak, which features 40 acres of riverside woods, prairie and wetlands where hundreds of thousands of bugs call home.

Pesky as they can sometimes be, bugs are part of everyday life -- and really, most of them are not all that bad -- although I can't think of anything nice to say about mosquitoes and deer flies.

"Actually, insects are pretty amazing creatures -- and many of them play a huge role in nature," said Gazdacka.

Bug Fest is a family-friendly, stroller-friendly morning of interaction that the kids -- and parents as well -- will find to be educational, with plenty of fascinating facts to be learned. Bug-related games, activities and live demonstrations from experts on hand will provide the creepy-crawly fun.

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).

Red Oak will feature hourly presentations by David Stokes, an award-winning naturalist whose humorous and educational lessons are a hit with audiences of all ages. Also at Red Oak, local beekeeper Harry Patterson will discuss how bees make honey and explain their important role in nature with several scheduled presentations. Various varieties of honey will be available for sale.

Red Oak also will host a "predator pavilion," where the Raptor Center will feature predators of insects -- no, not fly swatters -- such as owls and other bug-loving birds. Visiting agencies Fermilab and the Forest Preserve Districts of DuPage and Kendall counties will present various bugs and activities.

At Lippold, Terminix will have an extensive bug exhibit with a host of displays and insect collections, including cool bug artifacts.

In between and at the two facilities, a bonanza of bug activities awaits. Guests can visit six discovery stations and do net sweeps for insects in the picturesque prairie.

Visitors can park at either Lippold or Schneider Elementary School, 304 Banbury Road, North Aurora. With limited parking, Red Oak will have drop-off only, but free shuttle buses will run regularly between Red Oak and Schneider. Both Red Oak and Lippold will have free guide books available, along with T-shirts, books and snacks for sale.

If you think your family can be loud, they have nothing on the male cicada -- the loudest insect known. The male's high-decibel mating sound can be heard as far as 440 yards.

Did you know that some male spiders pluck their cobwebs like a guitar to attract female spiders? Rock-star spiders! Or that dragonflies can fly up to 50 mph? Did you know a honeybee visits 2 million flowers to make one pound of honey?

Those are some cool insects -- and they're pretty excited that a festival is again being held in their honor. So don't be surprised if they spend these next few days bugging you to visit them Saturday.

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

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