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Insectival for those who love, or loathe, insects

Special Photo ---- At the Insectival, Gabe Kustick displays a vinegaroon, an insect found mostly in deserts and scrublands in the Southern U.S.

Special Photo ---- At the Insectival, Gabe Kustick displays a vinegaroon, an insect found mostly in deserts and scrublands in the Southern U.S.

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Special Photo ---- Sara Keener shows the caterpillar she got at the face painting station during the Insectival.

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Special Photo ---- Children observe the variety of insects in a collection at the Insectival.

Tiffani Alexander has a collection of 20 different insects and a separate collection specifically of 15 beetles. Of the all of the bugs she has amassed, the click beetle is most special.

"The click beetle is probably my favorite because I had it in my collection and it got destroyed because other insects got into it and it took six years to find another click beetle," said the 15-year-old Alexander of the insect which makes a clicking sound when it tries to upright itself from being upside down.

A 4-H Club member, Alexander has become somewhat of an expert on bugs and will volunteer at the eighth annual Insectival, a festival celebrating all things creepy crawly, presented by the Rockdale County Extension Office and the Rockdale County 4-H Club on May 11 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Extension Office, 1400 Parker Road in Conyers. Entrance fee is $4.

The multi-faceted Insectival offers: an education table where live insects, such as grasshoppers, sow bugs and millipedes, are displayed and volunteers are on hand to discuss the bugs, edible bugs such as chocolate-covered crickets and mealworm fried rice; face painting, crafts including Shrinky Dink butterflies and insect headbands; insect-themed games; insect collections with butterflies and walking sticks; and live exotic insects like tarantulas and hissing cockroaches.

Rockdale County Cooperative Extension Office Coordinator Jule-Lynne Macie said she started the festival eight years ago to show people that most insects are harmless.

"They either love them or they hate them but they're also fascinated by them. They will stare and stare at them," Macie said.

Visitors might also take a turn at the cricket spitting station and try and break the Rockdale record of 29 feet or enjoy a glimpse of a beehive courtesy of the Rockdale County Beekeepers Club.

Alexander said she likes the insects because of their incredible variety.

"They are all so different. A lot of people find them gross but they're very interesting once you study them," Alexander said.

Macie said public inquiries about insects at the Extension Office remain steady.

"The number one question we get is about insects, whether it's how to control it, and do I need to control it, and what is it," said Macie, who added that the most requested class the Extension Office offers for school teachers is about bugs. "The interest is there."

If you go

What: Insectival

When: May 11, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Rockdale County Extension Office building, 1400 Parker Road in Conyers

Cost: $4