A bug's life

The MSU Bug House hosted an open house reaching out to the community


Once a month, children and MSU students gather around the Department of Entomology’s manager Gary Parsons and listen to him describe the ins and outs of insects.

The MSU Bug House, located at in rooms 146 and 147 of the Natural Sciences building, educates the community about bugs and insects as an outreach tool for the entomology department.

During the workday, Parsons manages a collection of about 1.5 million insect specimens. But at 5:30 p.m., he becomes a teacher.

He isn’t paid for the work — it’s time he volunteers.

“Insects aren’t bad, they’re cool things,” Parsons said. I just enjoy educating people about them.”

“I don’t have any kids of my own or anything, so every time a kid walks in, that’s my child I’m educating, that’s the way I look at it,” he said.

The walls of the first room are covered in pinned specimens — the non-moving sort that fill the department’s main collection — but the second room is reserved for living specimens including scorpions, tarantulas and beetles.

The Bug House receives some entomology department funding, but makes the rest of its money through fees from group tours. The open house is free.

Parsons said much of Bug House’s attendance comes from guided school tours. Still, three MSU students were waiting in the hallway when the house opened.

Zoology freshman Shae Ware was visibly grossed out by the pinned specimens, but asked Parsons to hold one of the live tarantulas.

She said she viewed it more as a small animal rather than an insect.

“I will admit it is interesting,” Ware said.

Although only a few MSU students trickled into the Bug House Monday evening, several dozen children with parents in tow streamed into the two small rooms once the Bug House opened.

The house also used to have a live beehive behind sheets of plexiglass with a plastic tube leading outdoors.

Parsons said the colony died out last year because of colony collapse disorder, an affliction ravaging bee populations worldwide that scientists have yet to determine the cause of.

Eight-year-old Okemos resident Sophie Wojewoda-Russell came to the Bug House with her mother, who is an MSU employee.

“I don’t get why some people are scared of them, they’re cool to me,” Wojewoda-Russell said.

“I think bugs should like people more, but also they should be a little scared because some people crush them and destroy their homes,” she said.

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