Mantids, roaches, and spiders, oh my! — Entomology Day at the Market

There is an epidemic of entomophobia in our society today — why are so many people afraid of insects?? They’re tiny, almost all of them are harmless to humans, and they’re REALLY COOL! I think the reason folks find insects and spiders so distressing is only because they don’t know that much about them — last Saturday Market Science tried to change that 🙂

We brought in the fantastic entomology outreach group Frenatae from the University of MN to teach market goers all about bugs, spiders, bees, and more. As one of the oldest student groups at UMN, Frenatae knew how to bring in the crowds — with live insects and arachnids!

Vinegaroon
Despite being so fearsome looking, this vinegaroon (an arachnid) is harmless to humans. Though if aggravated, it may spray some acetic acid (i.e., vinegar) in your direction!
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Market Scientist Amanda with her best Lepidopteran buddy, Charlie the Caterpillar (Manduca sexta). Charlie is commonly known as a Tobacco Hornworm, and will metamorphosize into a beautiful Carolina Sphinx Moth.

Also making appearances were a praying mantis, a crew of Madagascar cockroaches, two species of tarantulas, the amazing Death Feigning Beetles, and a scorpion. Even with all these critters, this is very small sampling of the world’s insect diversity — entomologists estimate there are between 2 and 30 million insect species out there! And we depend on them for countless ecological services, even if we don’t realize it.

Visitors had the chance to ask Frenatae entomologists all about the common insects and arachnids we see in Minnesota, and could even pick up some wildflower seeds to attract native pollinators to their yards. Lots of folks enjoyed petting the hissing cockroaches, and peering into the microscope to see some lively springtails.

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It was a busy day at Market Science!

Spiders share many characteristics with their 6-legged relatives, but are not insects (see why on our Trivia page). We often think of spiders as dangerous, but did you know that less than 1% pose any threat to humans? And what beautiful webs! If you stopped by on Saturday you may have had a chance to make your own spider and web to take home:

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Spiders make all sorts of webs and so can you! Lots of Junior Market Scientists got to take home their own spider and customized web from the MS booth.

So before you step on that next centipede or spider, think about the fascinating creature underfoot, and hopefully you’ll decide to scoop them up in a glass and put them outside. They’re really not scary once you get to know them a bit 🙂

See you next Saturday!

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Even the vinegaroons dig our new t-shirts!
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