ENCINITAS–What do you get when you mix praying mantises, hissing cockroaches, creature-from-outer-space-looking Jerusalem crickets, barbecue and garlic flavored mealworm larvae — with lots of kids?
Well, obviously, a really good time!
This weekend kids, families, and even brave parents, can see, touch and yes, even eat bugs at the annual Insect Festival at the San Diego Botanic Garden, located at 230 Quail Garden Drive in Encinitas.
The festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and is sponsored by the Botanic Garden; the San Diego County Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures; and K&M Pest Solution, Inc.
Admission is free for children under the age of 12, members of the botanic garden and active military members. Admission is $10 for seniors 60 years of age and older, and students who have photo identification cards. Admission is $12 for adults.
In addition to lots of cool insects — live bugs and pinned displays — the two-day festival will also feature snakes and reptiles, insect-themed photo and art displays, a bee colony, lots of entomologists and collectors. And, there will also be lots information and presentations: about beneficial insects like assassin bugs and lacewings, pests like the Mexican and Mediterranean fruit flies, pesticides and the County’s pest detection program that helps protect local agriculture.
But of course, the main draw will be the interesting, creepy-crawly world of bugs.
Tracy Ellis, San Diego County entomologist, who has attended many previous festivals and will be at this weekend’s event, said the festival is a lot of fun.
“It really is trying to develop kids’ interest in entomology,” Ellis said, “and to introduce them to the world of insects.”
Ellis said kids and parents will be able to see “up close,” and touch and feel lots of native insects that County residents can find in their own back yards.
She said that they’ll also be able to see and feel giant millipedes — which really don’t have 1,000 legs; they just look like they do — giant walking sticks, and the ever-popular 2-to-3 inch long Madagascar hissing cockroach!
Oh — and those barbecue, garlic and teriyaki flavored meal worms? Ellis recommends them.
“They’re really quite tasty,” Ellis said. “Crunchy things. They’re really kind of a cross between a peanut and potato chip!”