Insect Expo


Lee Solter and Susan Ratcliffe

Central Illinois kids and adults were awed and thrilled by Insect Expo '95, the first ever held at the University of Illinois. The two-day event took place Friday, Sept. 29, and Saturday, Sept. 30; it drew over 4,000 attendees,

including 2,000 school children on field trips. The organizers never imagined that the response would be so positive and enthusiastic, both from the schools and community. Nearly 20 different displays, many of them interactive, were designed and staffed by students, faculty and staff from the departments of Entomology, Agricultural Entomology, Veterinary Pathobiology, and the Illinois Natural History Survey.

The precedent for annual insect expositions was set by Purdue University entomology students and staff. After learning about their experience at the 1994 ESA North Central Branch Annual Meeting in Springfield, IL, Susan Ratcliffe and Lee Solter discussed the suitability of having such an event in the Champaign-Urbana area. Because local elementary school teachers are accustomed to making use of University of Illinois services and public school students regularly attend campus events, and because the University has an unusually large entomological community with expertise and interests in many areas, it was decided to give Insect Expo '95, Illinois-style, a try.

Although they patterned the Illinois exposition after other insect expos, the organizers wanted to make Expo '95 distinctive. While Expo '95 had its share of exciting and appealing displays and activities, no other recent insect exposition has focused on the diversity of the insect world and entomology as a discipline nor has made as thorough an effort to inform and educate the public about insects. While this theme was not a mandated formula, there seemed to be an unspoken agreement among display designers that the public could be excited by "real" information as well as by beautiful, bizarre, and funny creatures.

The most rewarding response to Insect Expo '95 was hearing participants say "let's do it again." Indeed Insect Expo '96 was also a big success. Planning for 1997 is underway. The organizers hope to generate sufficient financial backing to allow participants to develop new ideas and produce permanent displays. Anyone who would like to participate in the planning and funding efforts, or who has an original display idea (or an update on a previous display) may contact Sue Ratcliffe, Lee Solter, or Mike Jeffords.

The following people deserve accolades for their support and participation in Expo '95:

Displays and Designers:

Aquatic Insects: Michael Slamecka and Kay Edly

Arts and Crafts: Mike Jeffords

Biological Control of Insects: Rob Wiedenmann, Charlie Helm, and Ferede Negasi

Biological Control of Plants: Mike Jeffords

Butterfly Gardening: Mike Jeffords, Phil Nixon, and Carrie Nixon

Cicada Killers: Sean Collins

Collecting and Preserving Insects: Maya Patel

Color: Ellis Macleod

Insects in Art and Popular Culture: Kim Walden

Insect Pests: Ria Barrido

Insect Petting Zoo: Claire Rutledge and Jim Nardi

Insects and Plants: Lisa Carloye and Ellen Green

Insect Predators: Christine Armer

Insect Trapping: Steve Roberts

Insect Vectors and Parasites: Al Paul and Carl Jones

Metamorphosis: Jenny Angel

Mosquitoes - Hilary Lee

Observation Honey Bee Hive: Laura Heuser

Publications and Literature: Ria Barrido and Lee Solter

Banner designs and Banners: Rosanna Giordano, Sue Ratcliffe, and Lisa Carloye

Other attractions were:

Insect Theatre: produced by Mike Jeffords and Sue Post

Purdue University's "Roach Hill Downs" cockroach racetrack: Arwin Provensha and Luciana Musetti

Incredible collection of exotic insects: Dan Capp

American Cyanamid, S.C. Johnson Wax, Rhone-Poulenc, and Illinois Cooperative Extension underwrote expenses. Rob Wykstra at the National Soybean Laboratory wrote radio announcements and initiated pre-Expo coverage by the News Gazette. Todd Gleason at Ag Communications produced a radio advertisement and filmed the Expo, a clip of which appeared on Channel 3's Ag Day.