By Tom Nordlie
University of Florida
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s seemingly endless supply of natural wonders includes insects, spiders and other arthropods that creep, crawl, burrow and fly, and the University of Florida will educate residents about these creatures during Bug Week, a multimedia event May 20-24.
Bug Week includes projects and programs from around campus and showcases the strength of the university’s entomology program, said Ruth Borger, assistant vice president for information and communication services with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
“We have one of the biggest and best entomology departments in the country, and we want people to know about it,” said Borger, who helped organize Bug Week. “With summer approaching and bugs becoming more active, we think this is an ideal time to show how our expertise can help average people understand the bugs they see around their homes, yards and communities.”
Much of Bug Week is geared toward helping residents avoid unpleasant encounters with species that pose a threat to health or property, said Chris Moran, UF director of communications.
“I’m a newly arrived resident myself,” said Moran, who came to UF from Texas this year. “So I can appreciate how people move to Florida, see an unfamiliar bug and wonder ‘Is this a problem?’ We tried to keep that idea in mind when we planned our activities.”
Bug Week includes outreach to local, state and national media, with stories on removing ticks safely, avoiding bed bugs while traveling, preventing bee stings, recognizing signs of Formosan termite colonies and discouraging mosquitoes. Another story focuses on UF/IFAS efforts to study invasive pests that haven’t yet reached Florida but pose a threat.
Those stories are posted on a website, http://bugs.ufl.edu, along with profiles of common Florida bugs, a question-and-answer column on pest management, bug-related news items from around the world, a list of bug resources at UF/IFAS, and even a recipe for those bold enough to try eating bugs. The Twitter hashtag is #UFBugs.
The website will be updated regularly after Bug Week ends, and will include seasonal material and audience-participation features, Borger said.
“The website is beginner-friendly, and it’s meant to be fun and colorful, as well as informative,” she said. “It’s going to be home to some incredible contests and public outreach activities, so we hope that our visitors will check back often.”
One theme running throughout the website: helping users understand the difference between beneficial and harmful bugs. Not every bug that’s ugly or fearsome is harmful, and not every bug that’s attractive is beneficial, said Bug Week technical adviser Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman, an assistant extension scientist with the UF/IFAS entomology department.
“We really want people to come away with the idea that they can live in harmony with bugs in many instances, and that there are environmentally friendly options to discourage bugs that you don’t want around the house,” Gillett-Kaufman said. “We want people to break away from the old thinking that you see a bug and the first thing you do is reach for a can of bug spray.”
Tom Nordlie is with the University of Florida - Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Communication Staff. This article is from the University of Florida.