Get up close and personal with bugs, more at Insect Day

Steven Barney loves bugs, particularly beetles.

So it’s fitting that for the fourth year, he’s co-organizing Insect Day with Kim Hollier at the Louisiana State Arboretum.

The day and night event at the arboretum drew about 200 visitors last year, Barney said.

“Every year it’s a little better attendance,” he said. “More and more people are finding out about it.”

Attendees are first entertained by ancient tools expert Andrew Barron near the entrance to the visitor center. In addition to his tools display, Barron demonstrates his matchstick-free, totally-by-hand, fire-starting technique.

Once inside, visitors will find several presentation tables, including:

Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium: Live and preserved examples of insects from both Louisiana and exotic lands.

The Louisiana State Arthropod Museum at LSU: Preserved displays of both Louisiana native and exotic insects and collecting techniques.

Forensic Entomologist Erin Watson-Horzelski from Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond: “Maggot Monet,” where participants learn how to paint with maggots and about forensic entomology.

USDA, Forest Service, Southern Research Station with Stacy Blomquist: Kids learn to make newspaper seed pots, get seeds to plant and about the importance of saving pollinators.

“Kids like to see the live stuff (insects), and they’ll be able to hold some of it,” Barney said.

They’ll also be able to take a guided hike at 6 p.m., led by an arboretum staff member. Bring sunscreen, bug repellent spray and drinking water for this activity, Barney advises. For the rest of the events, he says visitors should just bring their curiosity.

That goes for the topper of Insect Day, the night collecting, called black lighting. Setting up black lights, or mercury vapor lights, participants can stand back and just see what flies in. The LSU group, who usually stay late on Insect Day, are good at identifying the insects that folks find or bring in, he said.

Barney, who works as a computer technician during the day, said almost all of his free time is insect-related one way or another.

His website, beetle-experience.com, is devoted to his favorite type of insect, and he recently launched a side business supplying Louisiana insects to zoos and other facilities around the country, including the Audubon Insectarium in New Orleans, the Butterfly Center in Houston, the Houston Zoo, the Toledo Zoo and the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles County.

This calls for a lot of bug collecting and taking groups on hunts in the woods on the weekends or to gas stations at night.

“Their lights tend to attract the big beetles and water bugs,” he said.