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 hatched a new event called Bug Fest. In those three years, more than 3,500 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.
Apparently, we're every bit as attracted to bugs as they are to us.
The buzz is back as Bug Fest returns from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24, with insects as the star attraction once again. The event is completely free, with no registration required.
"Bugs are weird, wild, fascinating … and often misunderstood," said Margaret Gazdacka, facility manager at Red Oak, 2343 S. River St., Batavia, 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. Most of them are not all that bad -- and spiders are pretty cool, if you ask me -- 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 insect experts 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 player in the food chain -- all the way up to humans (chocolate-covered ants, anyone?).
Red Oak will feature presentations by local beekeeper Harry Patterson, who will discuss how bees make honey and explain their important role in nature. He'll also have various varieties of his home-hive honey available for sale.
Red Oak is hosting a "predator pavilion" that features bug-preying reptiles and amphibians, courtesy of the Chicago Herpetological Society. Visiting agencies Morton Arboretum, Fox Valley Wildlife Center and the Forest Preserve Districts of DuPage and Kendall counties will present various other wild "guests" along with demonstrations and displays.
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.
Park at either Lippold or Schneider Elementary School (304 Banbury Road, North Aurora). There is no parking at Red Oak, but free shuttle buses will run regularly between Red Oak and Schneider. Free guide books are available, and there will be Subway sandwiches, snacks, event T-shirts and books 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? 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.
• Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org