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Insectival features giant beetles, cricket spitting contest

Latausha Gipson, Rockdale County Cooperative Extension Horticulture Program assistant, watches Madagascar hissing cockroaches, a featured bug at the upcoming Insectival, meander on her body.

Latausha Gipson, Rockdale County Cooperative Extension Horticulture Program assistant, watches Madagascar hissing cockroaches, a featured bug at the upcoming Insectival, meander on her body.

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Madagascar hissing cockroaches are kept in a case at the Rockdale County Cooperative Extension Office.

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Robin Turi, Rockdale County Cooperative Extension Office 4-H Program assistant, poses with a Madagascar hissing cockroach.

On May 12, the Rockdale County Government Annex building on Parker Road will be teeming with creepy crawlies, but don't call the exterminator. Instead, come on down and enjoy the bugs at the seventh annual Insectival.

Sponsored by the Rockdale County Cooperative Extension Office and the Rockdale 4-H Creepy Crawly Bug Club, the Insectival features insects, both live and dead, on display, as well as games, arts and crafts, bug spitting contests, face painting and insect balloon art. The event takes place at 1400 Parker Road from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and admission is $4 per person.

Rockdale County Extension Office Director Jule-Lynn Macie said it's an opportunity to celebrate and learn about bugs, whether you're a fan of the creatures or not.

"Insects are interesting, because if you hate them, you stare at them, or if you like them, you still stare at them," Macie said. "They're fascinating."

Macie said visiting the festival can be especially helpful for kids who are afraid of insects. She said one man brought his 2-year-old daughter, who had a fear of bugs, so she could experience the bugs in a non-threatening environment, and by the end of the day she wore a bug hat and a smile.

"They come back every year. She enjoys it," Macie said.

Visitors can examine non-living bugs in display cases including large, exotic bugs from different countries such as the walking stick, atlas moth, dung beetle and rhinoceros beetle as well as butterflies and moths.

The University of Georgia supplies living bugs like the vinegaroon, an insect which resembles a scorpion; tarantula and bess beetle.

Families can also peruse local insects such as grasshoppers, elephant stag beetles, carrion beetles, meal worms, millipedes, caterpillars and roly polys.

"It lets kids see what they can play with and what they should just leave alone," Macie said, who has a master's degree in entomology."Ninety-seven percent of the world's insects are good, they do good things for us, and that's one of the reasons I started this is so that people wouldn't see insects and squish them. Chances are what they'll be looking at is beneficial to us."

Visitors can also join the "I Ate a Bug Club" by tasting chocolate covered crickets, meal worm cheese dip or meal worm fried rice. They can also try to break the Rockdale County cricket spitting record, which is 29 feet for those interested.

Kids will enjoy the many bug arts and craft tables and games, along with watching 4-H members make lady bug bracelets, bees, worms and apples out of balloons. Master Gardener Extension volunteers will also be on hand to answer any plant-related questions.

"It's a fun day and people come back year after year, so we must be doing something right," Macie said.