INSECT HOUSES: The 2022 Insect Festival, hosted by Rutgers Master Gardeners of Mercer County, will take place Saturday, September 10 at Mercer Educational Gardens in Hopewell Township with educational activities and entertainment for visitors of all ages. ages. In this photo from 2018, visitors investigate Bugs in Water, one of many highlights that will be featured again at this year’s festival. (Photo by Jeffrey Tryon)
By Donald Gilpin
Insects are the most common animals on the planet, with 200 million times more insects than humans. Over 1.5 million different species of insects have been named, three times the number of all other animals combined. Without insects, humans would face the complete collapse of most ecosystems, and humanity would likely not survive. And insects also make this planet more interesting.
On September 10, for the first time since 2019, before the pandemic hit, Rutgers Master Gardeners of Mercer County will host their annual Bug Festival with the theme “Bugs Need Homes Too!” to celebrate those billions of creatures who share this planet with us. The festival, where attendees will learn, through entertaining hands-on activities, the importance of insects and how to protect their habitats, is free for all and will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Mercer Educational Gardens, 431A Federal City Road in the Hopewell Township.
Educational activities for visitors of all ages will include the popular scavenger hunt, Bugs in Water makeover game, carnivorous plants, and a Q&A with Mercer County Horticulturist Kathryn Homa. Children will participate in Meadow Bug Stalking, a catch and release program where they will use nets to catch bugs in the meadow, identify them with the help of a county park naturalist of Mercer, then return the insects to their natural habitat. .
Environmental agencies and local experts will provide exhibits, demonstrations and information, including presentations by Mercer County Mosquito Control, New Jersey Beekeepers Association, The Watershed Institute, New Jersey Department of Agriculture and Mercer County Naturalist.
At the event, hosted and primarily hosted by Mercer County’s Master Gardeners, visitors can also view the six on-site demonstration gardens – butterfly, grass, native plant, weed identification, annuals, perennials – and learn how different plants provide safe habitats for a wide variety of insects. The public can also learn about the different methods of composting, and Mercer County Stables will be hosting on-site stable tours.
“I can tell from experience that the kids don’t want to leave,” said Carol Bencivengo, publicity coordinator and member of the Mercer County Master Gardeners since 2004. “They’re so excited to explore the world of insects. around them. There’s something for kids of all ages. They’re in awe of it. And it’s done at a level where kids can really understand the importance of the insect world. It’s a great day out. family.
Homa emphasized the importance of insects in our world. “Insects are extremely
valuable to the earth,” she said. “They can be found in all habitats and are more widespread than any other creature on earth. They pollinate most of our food crops in addition to providing other valuable products such as honey, beeswax and silk. .
She continued, “Insects also perform many other beneficial functions such as breaking down organic matter, removing waste (dead animals/plants) and reducing pest populations (insects/weeds). Insects also serve as an essential food source for many amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. In short, without insects, we would not exist!
The Rutgers Master Gardeners of Mercer County is a volunteer educational outreach program of Rutgers Cooperative Extension, participating in numerous volunteer programs throughout the county.
For more information on the Insect Festival and Master Gardeners, visit mgofmc.org.