ATHENS, GA – Whenever you think of a zoo, you may think lions, tigers, bears, and cute cuddly pandas. But UGA is home to a different kind of zoo. Grady Newsource Reporter Meredith Dean introduces some of the Entomology Department’s star insects who are part of UGA’s Insect Zoo.
In 1985, UGA’s Entomology Department wanted their students to get a chance to be….hands-on….with the material. Material, meaning insects of every kind. Black widows, scorpions, beetles, coackroaches, crickets, milipedes, and even tarantulas. Meredith Dean says that Ziggy, one of the Zebra Tarantulas, has been with the Entomology Department for about 3 years. And some say Ziggy has been a class favorite or a true “teacher’s pet”.
Besides Ziggy, students can check out these bugs just like you would library books for their various events. The insects housed in this temperature controlled environment are used for presentations to increase awareness about this unique program. Dr. Shockley is an entomology professor and the coordinator for the Insect Zoo. Not only does she bring these critters to class for a little show and tell, but she also teaches about the importance of how we can give back through outreach programs. Dr. Shockley says “The one thing I want them to take away from this course is a general appreciation for insects.”
But since some students are skittish when it comes to insects, you don’t have to touch them. The Entomology department has “Wow Boxes” which have dead insects from scorpions to butterflies that people can just examine for a closer look if they are fearful. And some students in this Entomology course have taken their love for these critters even further. A senior at UGA, Tori Staples talks about her involvement with the course. “I do community outreach at Sandy Creek Park. We are building a moth sanctuary. I have developed such a passion for moths.”
Courtney Lynch, a student in ENTO3900, says that “Just from the class I’ve been able to go to a major career event, went to Terrpain to show people about tarantulas, hissing cockroaches, and also worked a science fair so a great way to give back to the community.”
So whether you have a passion for insects or consider these creatures to be “creepy crawlies”, you do have the chance to take them home. There will be an Insect Zoo event coming up in April where all the insects will be available on campus. There, students can get face to face with some insects they may have never seen in real life.
UGA Insect Zoo
By: Meredith Dean and Erin McGonigle