What’s bugging you, Tuscaloosa? Free event celebrates creepy-crawlies

Where else in Tuscaloosa can you cheer at a cockroach tractor pull race, watch insects create works of art or give a name to a tarantula?

Bama Bug Fest, an annual event that celebrates the diversity and benefits of arthropods, will be held from 1 pm until 5 pm Saturday at the Alabama Museum of Natural History, 427 Sixth Ave. in Smith Hall on the University of Alabama campus.

Admission is free.

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The event began in 2016 when the museum held a small gathering at Moundville Archaeological Park for MothFest, which was part of National Moth Week. For the first two years, around than 100 participants observed the moths that flew toward the lights and baited trees set up by museum staff.

Raelynn, Bentley, and Oakley Bryant react as they look at a large mantis during the Bama Bug Fest at the Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum in Tuscaloosa Saturday, July 27, 2019. The bug adventures were sponsored by the museum, by the Alabama Museum of Natural History and the Tuscaloosa Public Library. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

In 2018, MothFest moved to the Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum in Tuscaloosa and the Tuscaloosa Public Library. When that event attracted more than 300 people, organizers decided to expand the event into a celebration of all bugs.

While last year’s Bama Bug Fest was all virtual, this year will mark its return to being an in-person event.

Organizers point out that what the public calls “bugs” are more properly known as arthropods, a group that makes up three-quarters of all animal species on Earth.

Since bugs are often maligned in society, organizers say the event serves as an important opportunity to educate the public about the vital roles these creatures serve in the world, and to celebrate Alabama’s diversity of arthropods.

Cockroaches pull miniature tractors in the cockroach tractor pull during the Bama Bug Fest at the Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum in Tuscaloosa Saturday, July 27, 2019. The bug adventures were sponsored by the museum, by the Alabama Museum of Natural History and the Tuscaloosa Public Library. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

Bama Bug Fest will showcase the multitude of arthropods, which includes insects, arachnids, myriapods and crustaceans, as well as true bugs like cicadas and plant-hoppers.

The highlights of the event include the cockroach tractor pull races, the insect-created art and the insect photo booth. Educational tables, where attendees can ask the experts insect-related questions, will be set up throughout the museum.

The Tuscaloosa Public Library will be in Smith Hall’s Discovery Lab on the first floor to read bug-related stories at 1:15 pm, 2:15 pm, 3:15 pm and 4:15 pm

David and Camilla Marlowe have a photo taken with bug models and bug masks at the Bama Bug Fest at the Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum in Tuscaloosa Saturday, July 27, 2019. The bug adventures were sponsored by the museum, by the Alabama Museum of Natural History and the Tuscaloosa Public Library. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

Bug enthusiasts can also enter an online contest to name two tarantulas, a Chilean Rose Hair Tarantula and Texas Brown Tarantula, in the Alabama Museum of Natural History Bug Room. To view the rules and submit a name, visit the Bama Bug Fest website at bamabugfest.org.

The website also includes more information about the event, include parking and a complete list of activities.

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