BugFest 2016

It’s warm! It’s sunny! Flowers are blooming and insects are buzzing. Here at the Cincinnati Museum Center, we are celebrating insects at our annual BugFest on June 4th. Come and find out cool facts about insects.

This year, some of the stars at BugFest will be cockroaches and bees.

What is a cockroach?

Cockroaches have been around for millions of years. Because of their characteristics, they are very resilient insects.

Did you know?

  • They can live almost a month without food
  • They can live about 2 weeks without water
  • They can live for up to one week without their head!
  • They can hold their breath for up to 40 min!
  • They eat all kind of food, including books, toothpaste and even nylon stockings
Hissing Cockroach by Roy Toft

Hissing Cockroach by Roy Toft

In the island of Madagascar, which is off the African mainland, lives one of the largest species of cockroach called the hissing cockroach. Can you guess why they are called like that? They are friendly cockroaches and people keep them as pets. You can meet them at  the museum.

Cockroaches have very special characteristics that make them interesting to study for scientists.

  • They can flatten themselves and still run at fast speed.
  • They can carry a load 900 times heavier than they are.

These characteristics have inspired the construction of a robot that can squeeze through cracks. This can be useful in search-and- rescue in rubble resulting from earthquakes, tornadoes or explosions. Researchers learned that cockroaches reorient their legs completely out to their sides so they can still run even when squeezed in a crack. Kaushik Jayaram, who recently obtained his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley has designed a simple robot, the size of a palm of a hand that mimics cockroaches movements.  First responders could use this robots called CRAM (stands for Compressible Robot with Articulated Mechanisms) to locate survivors and find safe entry points.

The CRAM robot next to its cockroach counterpart. (Credit: Tom Libby/Kaushik Jayaram/Pauline Jennings/PolyPEDAL Lab UC Berkeley)

The CRAM robot next to its cockroach counterpart. (Credit: Tom Libby/Kaushik Jayaram/Pauline Jennings/PolyPEDAL Lab UC Berkeley)


Do you like honey?

By Maciej A. Czyzewski - Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8786717

By Maciej A. Czyzewski – Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8786717

Bees are flying insects related to wasps and ants. They are well known for producing delicious honey, royal jelly and beeswax. There are nearly 20,000 known species of bees including honey bees and bumble bees.



Bumble bee (from http://beefriendly.ca/bumble-bee-nests/)

Bumble bee (from http://beefriendly.ca/bumble-bee-nests/)

Bees are pollinators. What is a pollinator? It is an animal (such bees, birds, butterflies and more) that will move pollen within flowers or from flower to flower. The transfer of pollen leads to a successful production of seed and fruit for plants. Bees not only pollinate pretty flowers, they also help with the pollination of a third of the world’s crops (food, beverages, fibers, spices and medicines) and are critical to the agricultural system. Food and beverages produced with the help of pollinators include: apples, blueberries, chocolate, coffee, potatoes, pumpkins, and vanilla.

Bees form colonies of thousands of bees and they live in structures called beehives. People who keep beehives, take care of bees and collect the honey are called beekeepers. Some beekeepers have beehives in their back yards or even on city roof-tops. Bees can travel several miles to collect nectar and pollen, so they do not need flowering plants close by.

Pastel painted wooden beehives with active honeybees near Mankato, Minnesota (photo by Jonathunder - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11274580)

Pastel painted wooden beehives with active honeybees near Mankato, Minnesota (photo by Jonathunder – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11274580)

Unfortunately, the honey bee population is in decline. You can take action to help pollinators in your own backyards! One of the easiest ways is to plant native wildflowers and to stop using harmful pesticides.

Also, you can be a citizen-scientist and help scientists with collecting data about bees. You can take photos of bees with a date and location and submit them to https://beespotter.org/. In this website, you can also learn in detail what is a bee, how to identify bumble bees and honey bees, bee anatomy, and how bees are different from other insects.

What Can You Do At BUGFEST?

“Meddling with Nature” will be participating in BugFest. They will demonstrate methods for preparing entomological mounts. You can go home with you own creation! See more in http://www.meddlingwithnature.com/.

You can find more activities in our website.

Featured Girl In Real Life Science: Dr. Mary Gardiner

Mary Gardiner

This month’s featured girl in real life science is, Mary Gardiner Ph.D. an Associate Professor at the Ohio State University in the Department of Entomology.

Mary was born in Traverse City, Michigan and spent most of her school years in Northport, Michigan where she attended Northport High School. She then went to the University of Michigan where she received her Bachelors of Science degree with a major in Resource Ecology and Management, her Masters of Science degree and finally she received her PhD from Michigan State University in 2008. Although no one in her family is in a field of science, she has always been interested in the natural world and environmental science.

As an Assistant Professor at the university since 2009, Mary runs a research lab and mentors graduate students. She also teaches graduate level courses and provides outreach programs for the public. A typical day for her varies a lot. Many days are spent writing on her computer. She may spend some part of the day teaching or presenting an outreach program. She also spends a lot of time in the field in the summer helping her students collect data.

Mary thinks that young women should study anything and everything that interests them! There is a vast diversity of careers in science form bench science to fieldwork. For example, the goal of Mary’s team is to determine how the management of vacant land in Cleveland influences its value for biodiversity. They collect data on how the plants in the vacant fields affect the number and species of insects and other arthropods. The more type of insects and animals you have living in a field, the better it is for the environment. The final objective of Mary’s team is to increase the quality and quantity of the land.

Mary admits that she struggled with confidence at times, worrying that she would not be able to run her own lab. For her, it is important that young women take stock in their accomplishments to date and know that if they continue to work hard, they will be successful.


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