April 25, 2003 | By: Aimee D. Heald

When the bell rings to signal the start of spring break, most students are ready to put learning on hold for a week of rest and recreation. In Boone County, however, nearly 100 4-Hers were more than eager to learn all about bugs during their time off from the classroom.

Amanda Staley distributes mealworms to each participant.

Boone County Extension Agent for 4-H Amanda Staley graduated from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture with a master’s degree in entomology, so it was natural for her to want to educate club members about insects. Her interest led to creation of the “Buffet of Bugs” program.

“I have been here four months and I wanted to start with something I know about,” she said. “We’re teaching the kids all about insect adaptations, the scientific method using insects and just trying to get them interested and excited about nature, insects and the environment.”

Volunteers provided 4-Hers ages 9 to 12 with a plethora of information about insects and their environments before focusing on the metamorphosis of mealworms turning into beetles. At that point, the activities became very hands-on and interactive. Each club member got to construct a home for three mealworms. The furnishings consisted of dry oatmeal, potato slices and a napkin, all neatly placed inside a see-through plastic container with air holes in the lid.

Staley provided each member with a “beetle diary” to take home with their worms. The diary will allow each student to track the progress of the insects over the course of one month.

“The project will show them how insects change,” Staley said. “When they bring back their diary they will get a special bug prize.”

Buffet of Bugs participants also took part in a cockroach experiment. Each table was given a box with two hissing cockroaches inside. Club members were encouraged to see if they could tell the difference between male and female and to try and make the cockroaches hiss.

“At first I didn’t like bugs because I used to be afraid of them,” said Kevin Keith, a fifth grader at Burlington Elementary. “But this has helped me like them a lot more.”

Keith was among the brave who ended the day by tasting bugs. Brownies with mealworms baked in were served alongside crunchy worms marinated and fried in garlic butter. Participants were a little timid until program leaders assured them that mealworms are perfectly safe to eat. Of course, the lure of a frame worthy certificate of bravery for each brave taster helped out as well.

Staley said she hopes the 4-Hers gained important knowledge from the activities at Buffet of Bugs and that they had a lot of fun.

“We talked a lot about common insects in Kentucky,” she said. “Hopefully they’ll be able to identify bugs at home and know which ones not to touch.”


Amanda Staley  859-584-6101