Insect Festival of Arkansas
*UPDATE: The next festival is tentatively scheduled for Fall of 2022.*
The last Insect Festival was held October 11, 2018.
It was a day of fun, festivities, and education about the incredible diversity, importance, and beauty of insects.
Photos from the 2018 event (Flickr/Fred Miller @AgNews479)
More Festival photos (Twitter/Bumpers College)
Cockroach race video (Twitter/UARKentomologyclub)
Insect musical theater video (Twitter/UARKentomologyclub)
Forestry Insect exhibit photo (Twitter/Arkansas Forestry)
About the Insect Festival of Arkansas
The Festival educates and entertains Arkansans of all ages about the beauty, value, and interest of insects and other arthropods. The first Festival was held in 1993. The one-day event typically draws more than a thousand people. It takes most people about 1-2 hours to travel through the festival grounds and all the activities. There are many educational exhibits with expert entomologists to answer your questions.
The full list of displays and activities:
- Insect museum (pinned insects)
- Aphids: Plant Vampires!
- Arthropod zoo (live insects) both from U of A and OSU collections
- Bats and another insect devouring animals (Arkansas State Parks)
- Butterfly house (live emerging butterflies)
- Butterflies in the Garden (Master Gardeners)
- Cockroach races (root for your favorite Madagascar roach)
- Honeybee display (includes look inside a live hive)
- Insect musical theater (big bugs sing and dance about insect life)
- Insects and ticks of medical and veterinary importance
- Insects of economic importance
- Insects in culture
- Insects of the forest
- Insect jewelry on display
- Microscope display
- Plant Diseases Diagnostic Clinic
- Insect crafts and coloring
- Insects in forests
- X-Files: DNA and Mutants
By Sara Cato, U of A System Division of Agriculture
The Department of Entomology at the University of Arkansas’s Fayetteville campus began the insect festival as a way to introduce students and others to see, touch and learn about insects and the study of entomology. The Arkansas Insect Festival typically draws about 3,000 students, teachers, and others.
“We have a zoo of living arthropods from tarantulas, to giant walking sticks, to giant cockroaches and all kinds of other insects,” said Donald Steinkraus, professor of Entomology for the Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences, and the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “The visitors can hold some of these living arthropods as well as talk to the experts about them.
“We have a glassed-in small house full of live monarchs and other butterflies,” Steinkraus said. “We a have race track for cockroaches and visitors can cheer on their favorite cockroach as they run down the track. We’ll also have an insect musical theater where actors and musicians wear giant bug costumes and put on skits about insect life cycles and biology.”
In the 2016 festival, Hillary Fischer, a Ph.D. student for the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, was one of the lucky graduate students roped into dressing in an oversized costume and performing in the skits.
“I was a spider and I used Silly String to trap another grad student dressed as a fly in my web,” Fischer said. “It was a fun and silly way to teach the kids about biology and insect lifestyles.”
Ph.D. student Austin Jones said he sticks with leading the cockroach races.
“We set up six tracks and have a Madagascar hissing cockroach in each lane and the students yell and pound on the table, trying to coach their favorite cockroach to win,” said Austin Jones, Ph.D. student for the department. “It’s one of the more popular events. They all want to see the cockroaches race and scurry down the track.”
The festival is always a hit and never fails to highlight the beauty and importance of entomology.
“First, visitors will have a lot of fun,” Steinkraus said. “The cockroach races, the musical theater, and crafts are very fun. Second, they will learn about insect diversity and the important role insects play in agriculture, nature, and ecosystems. Third, they will find that many insects are beautiful. Fourth, they will be able to closely examine insects and touch living ones in the zoo as well as look at them through microscopes.”
“I hope visitors will leave with a greater appreciation of insects and their interactions with humans, plants birds, agriculture and health,” Steinkraus said. “In fact, we have been having the festival since 1993 and people come to me, now adults, and tell me they went to the festivals as children and have never forgotten them.”