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RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences’ annual BugFest, known for its educational exhibits and buggy food dishes, will take place virtually Sept. 14 – 19.

BugFest is an event that celebrates all arthropods through conversations with entomologists, educational exhibits, crafts and games, and even eating bugs. Each year, the museum chooses a theme arthropod for the event.

“We’re trying to spread the love to all the different kinds of bugs,” said Kari Wouk, senior manager of education collaboration at the museum.

This year’s theme arthropod is the fly. Some of the scheduled sessions include “Flies Eat More than You Think” with museum educator Martha Fisk and “The Inside Out of Flies” with Dr. Erica McAlister, dipterist from the Natural History Museum in London, U.K.

“I hope that people realize that flies, in particular, are so much more diverse and interesting than they thought before they started the program,” Wouk said.

The BugFest 2020 theme days include Mosquito Monday, Beneficial Tuesday, Art and Culture Wednesday, Entomophagy Thursday, Prime Crime Friday and BugFest Bugstravaganza Saturday. Each day’s theme will inform the type of events and programs that are offered. For example, events on Monday will surround mosquitos and the impact they have on humanity, while events on Friday will highlight how different species of maggots can be used in forensic entomology to inform how long something has been dead.

Thursday’s theme, entomophagy — or the eating of bugs — is a part of BugFest each year with the event’s Café Insecta, where local chefs prepare bugs for guests to eat. Since this year’s event is online, the museum instead hopes to host cooking segments, where participants can learn how to cook their own bugs to eat. Programs may also cover the topic of the benefits of eating bugs. Studies have shown that getting protein from bugs as opposed to birds or mammals is better for the environment, Wouk said.

BugFest, which started with around 4,000 guests and now hosts between 30,0000 and 35,000 people each year, was established in 1996 after guests lined up to eat insects at the museum’s Native American festival, according to Wouk. Bob Flook, Wouk’s predecessor, noticed the interest people had in eating the bugs and decided to pioneer an event specifically structured around eating and learning about bugs. BugFest has occurred annually since then.

The event’s main goal is to teach and encourage conservation of arthropods, Wouk said.

“Bugs are one of those animals that people tend not to think about, or if they do think about them, they just want to eliminate them,” Wouk said. “So, I want to say, bugs are really important. Literally, our planet depends on them.”

Wouk also added that BugFest 2020 will have programs for people of all ages and interests.

“If you’re a super science geek we should have some stuff there. If you’re just a dilettante, we should definitely have some fun stuff for you as well,” Wouk said.

Sponsors of BugFest 2020 are Terminix and BASF. To learn more about BugFest 2020 and the programs that will be offered (which are still being uploaded) visit: https://naturalsciences.org/calendar/bugfest/