(Editor's note: The date of the Southeast Virginia Hokie  Bugfest has been changed to Oct. 8 due to Hurricane Ian.) 

When it comes to sparking an interest in science through bugs, Virginia Tech has you covered.

This fall, the College of Agriculture and Life Science's Department of Entomology and Virginia Cooperative Extension are hosting five bug-centric events in five Virginia locales: Montgomery County, Henrico County, Virginia Beach, Pulaski County, and Radford.

Virginia Tech bug festivals are free, community events that invite visitors and school children to learn about science through the fascinating and important world of entomology. Topics range from pollinators and urban pests to aquatic insects and forensic entomology. Each event features exhibits from Virginia Tech and around the region, hands-on activities, and, of course, lots of bugs.

University and community experts are on hand to answer questions and share their own excitement about bugs.

“Our goals are to inspire the next generation of scientists and showcase the importance of insects worldwide,” said festival organizer and Department of Entomology faculty member Daniel Frank. “And what better vehicle to evoke curiosity than the vibrant, often alien-looking, extreme world of bugs.”

Each Hokie bug festival has something special to offer. And with events spanning the state, there’s something for everyone.

Montgomery County

One of Virginia Tech’s largest science outreach events of the year, Hokie BugFest 2022 returns for a 12th year on Saturday, Oct. 8, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Squires Student Center in Blacksburg. (A special pre-opening from 9 to 10 a.m. is reserved for people with mobility or other special needs.)

“We are thrilled to be back in person after two years of online programming during the pandemic,” said Frank.

This year’s event boasts over 30 exhibitors including Virginia Tech labs, area museums, community groups, and industry experts. Visitors will enjoy hands-on activities, working bee hives, a bug library, 3D insects, and plenty of live arthropods including scorpions, blue death feigning beetles, tarantulas, millipedes, hissing cockroaches, and more.

Hokie BugFest 2019 attendees viewing the Capps Insect Collection
Vibrant butterflies and moths, massive beetles, and walking sticks that measure 2 feet long – all part of the Dan Capps Insect Collection – will be on display at Hokie BugFest 2022 on Oct. 8 in Squires Student Center in Blacksburg. Photo by Krisangel Lopez for Virginia Tech.

Henrico County

Residents in and around Richmond can attend the third annual Henrico Bug Bizarre on Saturday, Oct. 8, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Deep Run Recreation Center in Henrico.

Event highlights include children’s activities and many live insect displays including tobacco hornworms, parasitic wasps, bess beetles, and several species of roaches. Participants can learn about pollinators by visiting a honey-making beehive or the butterfly room. And everyone is invited to cheer on their favorite roach in the annual Madagascar hissing cockroach races.

The Henrico County Bug Bizarre also will present information on the spotted lanternfly, an invasive insect from Asia that has not been found in Henrico County, but has increased its range in Virginia.

Girl at Hokie BugFest holding a monarch butterfly in a butterfly walk.
All life stages of monarch butterflies – caterpillars, chrysalises, and adult butterflies – will be a highlight at the Henrico County Bug Bizarre on Oct. 8 at the Deep Run Recreation Center in Henrico. Photo by Michael Folta for Virginia Tech.

Virginia Beach

For those in the eastern half of Virginia, the Southeast Virginia Hokie BugFest will be held on Saturday, Oct. 8, at the Virginia Beach Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Visitors attending this event will enjoy over 20 exhibits including live insect displays, pollinator and beekeeping information, a Master Gardener help desk, crafts, and interactive activities for all ages. Pollinator seed packets will be available to take home, and everyone will be invited to participate in a scavenger hunt with prizes.

The Virginia Beach 4-H booth will even have a bug eating challenge.

Pulaski County and Radford

Third and fourth graders in Pulaski County and Radford can take part in an in-school Hokie BugFest.

From Sept. 8-29, Hokie BugFest on the Go will visit 42 classes and more than 700 students and 50 teachers or administrators at six Pulaski County and Radford schools.

Hokie BugFest On the Go is a traveling field trip program that brings Hokie BugFest from Virginia Tech into the classroom. For one hour, small groups learn all about entomology, meet live arthropods from the Hokie BugZoo, and work with graduate students and university faculty and staff. All participants receive activity booklets to help reinforce concepts after the event.

Hokie BugFest On the Go serves local schools near Virginia Tech and is organized through Virginia Tech public school liaisons.

Statewide and beyond

For those who cannot attend one of the in-person events, don’t worry. Virtual Hokie BugFest will offer an online bug-world from October 2022 through May 2023. Visit hokiebugfest.org to view videos, photo galleries, downloadable activities, and fun facts about bugs.

Created in 2020 to keep festivalgoers safe during the pandemic, Virtual Hokie BugFest reached over 10,000 unique viewers in 2020 and 2021. And this success has kept it going in 2022.

Together, these five Hokie bug festivals showcase Virginia Tech’s motto of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) and the College of Agriculture and Life Science's commitment to science education and outreach statewide.

Virginia Tech Hokie bug festivals are sponsored by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences through Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech Department of Entomology, Virginia Tech Pesticide Programs, as well as many community partners.

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