Pollinator Fest (Asher)

The Pollinator Fest, held Saturday, featured an insect zoo which welcomed all visitors to pet the creatures. Asher Bertram (left) was encouraged by Lauren Brewer (right) to pet a tarantula. 

Despite the rain, Ames families learned more about insects and their vital role for making the Earth habitable through interactive teaching at Pollinator Fest on Saturday at Reiman Gardens.

Several of the guests were parents with their children, along with the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A and the Boy Scouts of America. This event also had opportunities for members to complete their necessary badges.

The event was planned by several organizations that featured more than 15 booths, with activities ranging from honey tasting to an insect zoo. The event itself had a busy environment with children running around wearing antennas made out of pipe cleaners.

Visiting the honey tasting booth, Jonathan Hassid, an associate professor in political science at Iowa State, said he also learned new facts about pollinators.

“It’s neat,” Hassid said. “We learned about how wasps can recognize each other's faces. That’s pretty amazing.”

Pollinator Fest had several informational booths ranging from the impacts of honey to the various types of bees.

Visitors have also expressed their interest in the insect zoo and the interaction between the creatures and the children. The insect zoo featured creatures such as beetles and tarantulas, all of which visitors were welcome to pet.

Aaron Bertram, an Iowa State graduate student in mechanical engineering, said he was visiting Pollinator Fest with his son to learn more about the insects. Bertram said he was fascinated with the students leading the insect zoo and their ability to build the children’s confidence in order to pet the insects.

“The kids find so many engaging activities, and because the people who are presenting here are students … they share their excitement with the kids, and I think that adds to the experience and makes it super fun,” Bertram said.

Bertram and his son, Asher, were encouraged by Lauren Brewer, a senior in biology, to pet a tarantula. Brewer said she gained the confidence to hold these bugs through her supervisor and working with them everyday.

She also said that she enjoys helping out the visitors getting used to the bugs and helping them understand the environmental impact the creatures have.

“It’s really interesting to see someone come in completely petrified of bugs and think they’re nasty and gross but really they’re important for the environment,” Brewer said. “They’re not as harmful as people think and a lot more of them are good than bad. Most every bug has some good environmental impact.”

Pollinator Fest was organized by a collaboration of Iowa State University Pollinator Working Group, Entomology Graduate Student Organization, Graduates in Evolutionary Biology and Ecology, Iowa Department of Transportation, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, Blank Park Zoo and Ames High School.

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