Apr 082012
Authors: Austin Briggs

CSU’s newest celebrity, Steve, was the life of the party Friday evening in the Plant Science Building.

“Oh, he’s gorgeous,” said junior fibers major Allison Hall as Steve crawled up her arm with his antennae waving.

Steve is an African Giant Millipede and was featured on Channel 9 News and other media outlets last week to showcase the Gillette Entomology Club at CSU as they prepared for their Bug Bash to mark the club’s 100-year anniversary.

In the main room stood rows of tables with different containers filled with every manner of insects that were flying, crawling and creeping in their little boxes. Scurrying around the room were both kids and adults marveling at the variety of creatures on display.

The more adventurous people could hold a tarantula, a giant preying-mantis and of course, Steve, who drew the biggest crowd of admirers as his human handler patiently passed him around for everyone to hold.

Kids also stayed busy at the face painting booth, pin-the-tail-on-the-wasp and the bedbug beanbag toss.

Down the hallway shouts could be heard as people cheered on their favorite racer in the cockroach races. Manning the racing board was senior biology major and Entomology Club President Kyle Conrad.

One of the goals of the Entomology Club, Conrad said, is to teach the community about arthropods.

“There are so many huge reasons to respect them, and they’re so important to our lives,” Conrad said. “Kids get too many of the creepy crawly images from TV, and we want to counteract that because there’s so many great things they do for us. “

For example, if insects didn’t pollinate our plants we’d lose all our flowering plants. Detritivores eat decaying material, and without them “we’d be up to our heads in dead leaves,” Conrad said.

Standing behind the “Ask an Entomologist” table, professor of entomology and club co-advisor Boris Kondratieff gladly answered questions about the bizarre array of insect related items on the table. This included a clear lollipop with a scorpion entombed inside it, a can of edible bee larvae from China and a cluster of basketball-sized paper nests made by yellow jacket wasps.

“You can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them,” Kondratieff said of humanity’s complex relationship with insects. “If all the insects disappeared from the planet, we’d have a hard time surviving, but the negative aspect is more people have suffered and died from insect-borne diseases than all the wars, famines and natural disasters put together.”

Founded in 1912 by Clarence Preston Gillette, the Gillette Entomology Club is the oldest club at CSU.

Collegian writer Austin Briggs can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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