Insect Celebration set for July 8 at Oxbow Meadows

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Early July in Columbus has become synonymous with “Insectival,” a bug-loving party that includes roach races and crunchy delicacies.

Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center will stage the eighth annual insect festival from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 8.

“It’s a fun and interactive way to educate all ages about insects, said Jill Carroll, administrative coordinator of public outreach and internal affairs for Oxbow Meadows.” This includes the benefits they provide us, as well as how they can be harmful.”

Various exhibitions and games anchor the festival, which drew more than 400 visitors in 2006.

Roach races and a cricket-spitting contest, particularly, have become favorites. “They are by far the most popular events,” said Carroll.

Entering its third year as part of Insectival, cricket-spitting is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records, which lists 32 feet, and one-half inch as the record. If the record falls during Insectival, Carroll said Oxbow Meadows is prepared to certify it with Guinness.

To make the spitting experience more palatable, contestants “won’t have to worry about gooey or live bugs in their mouths,” said Carroll. Instead, the crickets are dried out and flavored (bacon and cheddar).

The spitting will take place at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. In between, the roach races — at 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. — will feature Oxbow-raised Madagascar hissing cockroaches, which have primed themselves on a diet of banana peels, pears and plums.

Participants in pairs will select a racer, and the roaches will scurry side by side through seven-foot-long plastic tubes.

Last year’s debut event produced an unanticipated battle of the sexes — among the roaches. The male of the species, distinguished by horns on its thorax, was a popular choice of the participants. However, the females won nearly every match-up with a male counterpart, Carroll said.

Various exhibitions will complement the contests, including:

• Fresh honey extraction and sale by the Chattahoochee Valley Beekeepers Association.
• Auburn University insect exhibition, including a live black widow spider.
• An Alabama Fire Ant Management Program presentation.
• Microscope viewing of land species (including various ants) and water species (dragonflies, mosquitoes, predatory diving beetles and more).
• Craft-making, insect tattoos and a scavenger hunt.
• Insect treats, including chocolate-covered crickets, cricket/mealworm lollipops and seasoned mealworms.

Oxbow staff will be assisted in carrying out the festival by 20-30 community volunteers, including CSU students, local middle and high school students, and representatives of various service organizations.

Admission is $2 per person and free for ages 3 and under.

Oxbow Meadows is a hands-on nature center at 3535 South Lumpkin Road, Columbus. For more information, call 706-687-4090 or go to http://oxbow.colstate.edu.