A hundred years, and a hundred legs – that’s the idea behind a “Centi-Bration of Entomology” at Colorado State University on Oct. 6 during Homecoming Weekend.
In truth, there will be hundreds of legs on display as CSU’s Gillette Entomology Club breaks out the bugs for a community festival marking its 100-year anniversary. The club, founded in 1912, is the oldest student group on campus; it works to foster interest in insects through public outreach.
The Centi-Bration of Entomology, a highlight of CSU Homecoming, will run 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, at the Plant Sciences Building, off University Avenue south of the Oval on campus. It is free and open to the public.
The Centi-Bration, scheduled between the Homecoming 5K and Rams football game, will feature a swarm of insects and other arthropods for viewing and holding. On hand will be Steve, a giant African millipede, friendly Chilean rose hair tarantulas, giant mantids and many more crawling critters.
Games will include Pin the Stinger on the Wasp, the Bed Bug Bean Bag Toss, Mexican jumping bean races – and the club’s ever-popular cockroach races. Face painting and bug-shaped balloons also will be available.
The Gillette Entomology Club has invited other organizations to set up fun and educational displays at the event. Among those expected are:
• The Butterfly Pavilion
• The Denver Museum of Nature and Science
• The Colorado State Forest Service
The displays will provide information about mountain pine beetles, bed bugs, aquatic insects, edible insects and use of insects for the biological control of weeds.
“We expect this to be the biggest insect-themed bash in Colorado history. It should be a fun time,” said Whitney Cranshaw, a well-known CSU entomology professor and Extension specialist who also serves as adviser to the Gillette Entomology Club.
The entomology club was founded by Clarence Preston Gillette, a renowned insect scientist who worked in a variety of leadership roles at CSU from 1891 to 1935. Gillette, CSU’s first entomologist and an expert in aphids, started the entomology group with four student members in 1912.
As it has from the beginning, the 100-year-old club holds student gatherings on campus to nurture its members’ shared interest in insects and other arthropods, which are said to account for more than 80 percent of all known living animal species. Just one group of insects, beetles, is considered so vast that scientists estimate one of every five different living things on Earth is a beetle.
Club members also focus on outreach: They visit area schools and share bug facts with students ranging from preschoolers to fellow collegians. The club’s cockroach races have become a zany trademark. The races pit discoid cockroaches – ideal because they neither fly nor climb – in erratic scuttles across painted plywood as viewers cheer them on.
Entomology is a trademark feature of the CSU College of Agricultural Sciences for good reason: Many crops rely on insects for pollination and other critical activity; many also are vulnerable to insect destruction.
If members of the Gillette Entomology Club are a barometer, this generation of young scientists hopes new knowledge will lead to improved management practices that rely less on blanket pesticide use and more on insect monitoring, effective biological controls, pest-resistant plant varieties and targeted pesticide use, among other tools and strategies.
“We’re really excited to be the oldest club on campus,” said Heather Hawkins, club president and a sophomore majoring in horticulture with a minor in entomology. “We want to get more people involved and excited about insects because they are the most diverse creatures on the planet.”