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Bug camp offers fun, learning for all ages
By Jeanie Davidson
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Summer campers usually try to avoid insects, but the children and adults at Entomology Camp 2002 will enjoy finding as many as possible.
"This is one of the few camps where professionals who work in the field help campers one-on-one," said Mike Williams, program director and entomologist for Mississippi State University's Extension Service.
Organizers designed the week of collecting insects, learning and fun to help anyone over the age of 10 gain an understanding and appreciation for insects. The first of two camps will take place May 31 to June 4 at the Air National Guard base in Gulfport.
"Most participants' favorite part is night collecting," Williams said. "But whether they are scouting day or night, campers have professional entomologists on hand to help with identifying and pinning."
Supplied by MSU's entomology and plant pathology department, campers have all the ingredients to make their own insect collections by the end of the week. Collecting, identifying and pinning insects facilitates discussions of life cycles and nature, introduces campers to entomology and can provide much excitement.
Sometimes, campers glimpse insects that even entomologists rarely see, like a long-horned beetle which had escaped recognition since the 1920s until it wandered into Bug Camp 1997.
"We give each camper a jar and a spreading board," Williams said. "It takes quite a bit of groundwork and preparation to get everything together, but it's a lot of fun."
Adults may attend too, and chase bugs with their children.
"Getting parents involved helps to keep the camp moving," Williams said. "It ends up being a family project."
Campers learn from guest speakers, like Jerome Goddard, Mississippi's health entomologist. Several other specialists speak on topics ranging from parasitology to fire ants. With a healthy mix of learning and fun, campers of any age can benefit from the experience. Besides collecting with and learning from professionals, the week is filled with skits, scavenger hunts, workshops and competitions.
Entomology Camp, which has been running since 1994, is limited to 65 campers to ensure one-on-one treatment. This year, a second camp is being added. This camp, scheduled for July 21 to 25, will take place at Tombigbee State Park in Tupelo.
"People have different schedules, and we get requests to do one later in the summer," Williams explained. "We also get requests from out of state. We've had campers from Arizona, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Louisiana and Michigan. We're expecting campers from Colorado and California this year."
The application and camp fee must be submitted before June 20, and enrollment is limited. 4-H rules apply, and camp physicals are required. The cost of the camp is $125, which includes room, board and supplies.
Contact: Mike Williams, (662) 325-2986