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Empire of The Ants (And Others!) Comes Marching Back for Hokie BugFest

Hokie BugFest returns to the Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center for a fifth year.
Hokie BugFest returns to the Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center for a fifth year.

The ever-popular Hokie BugFest returns to Blacksburg on Saturday, Oct. 17, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center. And even though the event happens close to Halloween, visitors to the fifth annual celebration of all things insect (and their relatives) will see that these critters are not scary monsters.

The event is free and open to the public.

The festival draws locals and out-of-towners alike. Attendees to the crowd-pleasing event will get a chance to view the time-honored Hokie BugFest cast of exotic arthropods from North America, South America, Africa, and Asia. Arthropods making an appearance include a black widow spider, a variety of tarantulas, blue death-feigning beetles, scorpions, hissing cockroaches, millipedes, and vinegaroons — cave-dwelling whip scorpions that squirt vinegar from their tails.

Bug aficionados can also view a bird-eating tarantula — one of the largest species of arachnids on the planet.

Some of the more infamous members of the insect world will be on display — pests such as bed bugs, gypsy moths, stink bugs, mosquitoes, and termites — along with more congenial honey bees at an apiculture exhibit.

“Hokie BugFest has grown way beyond our expectations,” said Mike Weaver, professor of entomology and director of Virginia Tech Pesticide Programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “We’ll have some of the same exhibits that the public has come to know and love this year, but we are also showcasing new exhibits and even welcoming a bug chef. Hokie BugFest has become a landmark family event.”

Some of those new features are Roachzilla!, a collection of giant roaches from Radford University, a display hosted by the Virginia Tech police department about forensics and insects in crime solving, and a professional face painter, who will make kids resemble their favorite insect.

Last year’s festival attracted more than 6,000 guests.

Fancy a bug appetizer to whet your appetite? This year, Hokie BugFest welcomes David George Gordon, a renowned bug chef schooled in preparing insect delicacies. Visitors can find out why eating bugs may be a good source of inexpensive protein. Chef Gordon will present three shows.

Attendees can visit multiple exhibits and discover how pollinators help make agriculture possible. Younger visitors will enjoy meeting the HokieBird and visiting Bo and Ty, springer spaniel service dogs widely known as the canine mascots of Virginia Cooperative Extension. Older kids will enjoy testing their wits at the Bug Jeopardy booth.

And just in time for Halloween, visitors can purchase fresh pumpkins at our pumpkin patch hosted by entomology grad students.

The bugs will get in on the Halloween fun, too. Creatures that sport their own radiant costumes will be on display at the Luminous Cave where glow-in-the-dark millipedes and other phosphorescent arthropods will greet guests. More spooky fun will be on hand at the Spiders’ Lair — complete with live spiders, giant spider robots, and other arachnid-related items.

There will also be a Bug Creations room where kids can make all sorts of bug-inspired crafts, from masks to beadwork to create-your-own bugs.

The Alberti Flea Circus will return again this year, with a separate exhibit starring Frederic and Felicity, the dressed fleas.

Entomologists-in-training can also earn a junior entomologist certificate by visiting eight exhibits at the festival.

Hosted by Virginia 4-H, Virginia Cooperative Extension, and the Department of Entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the festival celebrates the legacy of William Bradford Alwood, Virginia Tech’s first entomologist. Alwood, who was an early pioneer of pest management and fruit culture, became one of Virginia Tech’s most internationally known scientists.

The W.B. Alwood Entomological Society, a graduate student organization, helps host the Hokie BugFest as part of its outreach mission.

For more details and a schedule of events, go to

Amy Loefller

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