For most travelers, returning from a trip carrying “a lot of bugs” would be the definition of a vacation nightmare. For Karen Verderame, it’s just the opposite. “If I’m coming home with bugs,” Verderame said earlier this week, following a brief sojourn to Arizona, “the trip was a success.”
Verderame, an insect specialist at the Academy of Natural Sciences, hopes to instill the same excitement about creepy-crawly critters this weekend at the sixth annual Bug Fest, which features live bugs, roach races, an insect cook-off and tasting, and hands-on activities for kids.
The theme of this year’s festival is “Masters of Deception,” focusing on insects that use camouflage and mimicry to hide from predators, whether imitating a leaf or a stick to merge with their surroundings or mimicking a bee or wasp to frighten potential antagonists. “The way that insects have evolved to survive is amazing,” Verderame said. “A great way to highlight that is by looking at the tactics of camouflage and mimicry. Bug Fest will give people the opportunity to see these guys up close and to really examine just how masterful they are at disguising and blending in.”
Visitors to Bug Fest with adventurous palettes will be able to taste a variety of insects that weren’t successful enough at camouflaging themselves to avoid the kitchen of chef and entomologist Zack Lemann, who will offer dishes such as Chocolate Chirp Cookies and go head-to-head in an “Iron Chef” style competition with Drexel University chef Chuck Ziccardi.
“What many people don’t realize is that insects are extremely sustainable, very environmentally friendly and a very healthy alternative to a lot of other foods out there,” Verderame explains. “There’s so much more protein in insects than in any beef that you could eat.”
For those who can’t quite stomach eating the insects, Verderame at least hopes that Bug Fest will change people’s negative perceptions of its subjects. “Our goal is to get people excited about the world of insects,” she said. “We hope that we’re igniting a passion for insects in people that will carry on and maybe help make more fans of bugs out there.”
Bug Fest 2013
The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
1900 Ben Franklin Pkwy.