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The bugs are taking over Amoskeag Fishways at its 14th annual Bug Ball. Courtesy photo.




Bug Ball
 
Where: 4 Fletcher Road, Manchester
 
When: Saturday, Sept. 6, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
 
Cost: $3 per person, $6 per family (does not cover extended family)
 
 
Call: 626-FISH (626-3474)
 




Buggin’ out
Bug Ball celebrates state’s most misunderstood creatures

09/04/14



All it takes for Dr. Paul Johnson to explain his job to kids is two four-inch long millipedes, two different types of cockroaches, meal worms, termites, tarantulas and maybe a few other live specimens for good measure.
 
To some, this may sound like a prop list for Fear Factor, but Johnson, an “insect expert” and associate professor in the Department of Natural Resources & the Environment at the University of New Hampshire, said that this is exactly what one can — and for some, hope to — expect for his insect petting zoo. 
 
“What’s more fun than chasing around your little brother with a live bug on your hand?” he said.
 
In all his years presenting at the annual Bug Ball at Amoskeag Fishways, which is happening this year on Saturday, Sept. 6, the kids who seem most enthusiastic about the petting zoo are the kids younger than middle-school age — before they’ve really been exposed to the negative stereotypes of handling insects, Johnson said.
 
“Usually it’s young girls who more are interested in the insects than young boys,” he said. “Girls seem to be ready to pick up a cockroach more so than guys. When they’re older, like middle school age, that is usually when they seem to lose interest.”
 
Along with the insect petting zoo, the Bug Ball will also include several buggy crafts, presentations, a puppet show featuring various bugs and mystery tables where children can sift through the dirt to discover species that inhabit soil.
 
Kathleen Neville, the senior program naturalist at Amoskeag Fishways, said this year the theme of the Bug Ball presentations will focus on dragonflies and damselflies.
 
“Year to year we try to focus on something different, something you’ll see by the river,” she said. “We’ve done bees, butterflies. This year, we realized we hadn’t focused on dragonflies and damselflies before, which is surprising since there are a ton that live around the Merrimack.”
 
Neville said they want to keep their insect curriculum entertaining and relevant.
 
“I feel like, in general, larger animals seem to get a little more attention at Amoskeag Fishways,” she said. “We like to make sure we educate people about all the organisms by the river, let people know about some of the beautiful smaller animals in and around the watershed.”
 
While a fear of insects might be crippling to some of us, Johnson believes that teaching kids the importance of bugs in our ecosystems early is the most direct way to combat phobias.
 
“Insects are very alien in appearance, and are the closest thing we have as an alien species on Earth. They’re very robot-like in that they don’t show facial expressions,” he said. “But we emphasize the importance of insects to us as a species to show how they contribute to the energy flow of our eco-systems.” 
 
 
 





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