BUG OFF!

The Louisiana State Arboretum is going buggy.

The Ville Platte facility will again host Insect Day at the Arboretum, giving visitors the opportunity to learn about insects in the natural environment of the Arboretum, located inside Chicot State Park.

“The crowd’s been pretty steady. I think more and more people are hearing about it,” says beetle expert Steven Barney, who is helping organize the event with arboretum curator Kim Hollier.

It’s the third year for Insect Day, which draws entomologists and insect enthusiasts from around the state. Activities during the day take place inside the Arboretum’s J.D. Lafleur Nature Center.

“There’s a forensic entomologist (Erin Watson-Horzelski, from Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond), she does this thing where you take fly maggots that she studies and you put them in paint, and then you put them on a piece of paper and they move around and make designs, and she calls it ‘Maggot Monet,’ and everyone loves it, especially the kids, because you get to bring home a little painting that maggots made for you,” Barney said.

Other hands-on displays will allow visitors to hold and view live insects, as well as see a large display of pinned insect specimens from Christopher Carlton with the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum at LSU.

“And the ‘Bug Lady’ (Linda Auld) brings caterpillars and butterflies in displays, and talks about their life cycles,” he said.

Also, Barney, of Lafayette, who started the Beetle-Experience.com website 10 years ago, will be bringing beetles and other insects, and site staff will have more activities for children.

Arriving at the Arboretum, visitors first will see primitive tool expert Andrew Barron and his display set up outside.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with bugs, but his work is just so interesting, we wanted to have him there,” Barney said. “He’ll be talking about his primitive tools. Last year he made a fire by hand, no matches. It was very interesting.”

Those who stay until nightfall will be in for another treat.

“When the sun goes down, the nocturnal insects start flying in. We have people on hand to ID the stuff that comes in. It’s just kind of a little fun thing to do,” Barney said.

Black lights and mercury vapor lights, called “light traps,” attract a varied group of night creatures.

“All of the large beetles, moths, walking sticks. A lot of stuff, that’s the only time you get to see it,” he said. “There’s also a lot of spiders that come out at night, spiders that build their web at night and break it down before the sun comes up. So you get a wide range of stuff that comes in.”

Those who opt to take the Arboretum’s walking path during the day are likely to see golden silk spiders, dragonflies, butterflies, tiger beetles, bees and wasps, Barney said.

Barney, 39, who works in technical support at a small software company in Breaux Bridge, remembers keeping beetles as a child, but later losing interest in them.

“Around 2000, I found a dead beetle in a parking lot that was metallic green, and I set about to find out what species it was, and doing that, I found a lot of information on the Internet about all the different beetle species that we have. And it just kind of grew from there.”