August 10, 2005 | By: Aimee Nielson

Moths with 4-inch wingspans, a 5-inch-long praying mantis and a spider that wraps its prey in silk to save for a midnight snack are all common night sights in the woods. However, most people don’t get a chance to see them because they don’t have access to the areas where the creatures live.

The University of Kentucky entomology department has teamed up with Lexington’s Raven Run Nature Sanctuary for the past 18 years to offer adults and children opportunities to get close to insects after dark at the annual Insect Night Walk.

UK Entomologist Blake Newton said there were about 30 entomology professionals from UK at this year’s event. They started before dusk and offered visitors a chance to see and even touch a variety of insects.

Children participated in cockroach races, flew their own June beetles, learned about butterfly gardening and observed honeybees at work.

“As the sun goes down, we start an hour-long hike through the woods to look for bugs with flashlights,” Newton said. “We have a contest during the hike, and the kids who collect the longest bug and the bug with the longest wingspan win prizes.”

Newton said all the captured insects are released after the competition.

Brian Perry has been a naturalist at Raven Run for six years. He said the Night Walk provides a unique opportunity for visitors.

“This is an excellent place for this because we have 500 acres of Kentucky habitats,” he said. “Everything is protected; we don’t change anything. There is a lot of native vegetation for insects to live in. Not only does it have diversity but it has accessibility because of the trails we maintain.”

The Insect Night Walk averages between 200 and 400 guests each year. Newton and Perry believe the event is well attended because they make learning fun for everyone who comes.

“It’s very difficult for people to have access to nature at night,” Perry said. “It’s mysterious but fun. A lot of the animals are not visible during the day, and certain insects only come out at night. We want to give people the opportunity to see these things. One of our main goals is to educate children and adults about nature, but we always try to have fun. We make sure every program does both.”

Newton said that because of the number of entomologists on hand at the event, adults also get the chance to get expert advice on insects in their homes or other areas around their homes. He said their main goal, however, is to tell children ages 5 to 10 anything they want to know about bugs.



Writer: Aimee Nielson 859-257-4736, ext. 267

Contact: Blake Newton 859-257-7453