Swaner EcoCenter focuses on small bugs’ big worlds | ParkRecord.com

Swaner EcoCenter focuses on small bugs’ big worlds

Exhibit explores butterflies, bees, other insects

The Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter is examining some of the planet's smallest species with a metaphorical magnifying glass.

Through displays of preserved butterflies and a glimpse inside a honeybee hive, the center's new exhibit offers viewers an up-close look at the mysterious world of bugs.

Appropriately titled "Small Wonders: The Expansive World of Insects," it will have an opening reception from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 1, and stay up until Monday, May 15. The center is located at 1258 Center Drive at Newpark.

"This exhibit is special, because it actually originated right here in Utah, allowing us to have some great, locally relevant information that has to do with our state," said Nell Larson, the center's executive director.

"Small Wonders" started as a project by Utah State University's master's and PhD entomology students. The collection of specimens and information displayed at the school for some time.

The version now on exhibit at the EcoCenter, one of Utah State University's education sites, includes more displays and information.

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Larson is particularly excited about its Utah-specific displays.

"It digs into the species that kind of have a history here in the state, like the Mormon crickets and why that got a special name," she said.

She said people who see the exhibit can also learn why Utah is called the Beehive State and about invasive species in the West.

"One of them that has been of concern to those of who live in the western United States is the bark beetle, because of the amount of damage they are doing to our trees," Larson said.

The beetles reproduce in the inner bark of trees. They often attack and kill living trees, having destroyed tens of millions of acres of trees in the West.

Like the bark beetle, thousands of other insects impact humans' and other species' lives, Larson said, listing menacing bugs such as mosquitoes and bed bugs.

"Insects do impact our lives in a million different ways, most of which we probably don't even think about," Larson said.

Honeybees, for instance, are important to humans since they are a main pollinator for food crops.

"'Small Wonders' has a lot of information about beekeeping and honeybees," Larson said.

The exhibit's opening reception will have a beekeeping activity to go along with its display on honeybees.

"There is a beekeeping suit that kids can try on," Larson said. "We also have a smoker and a wooden hive."

Honeybees will also be the focus of an event planned for Thursday, May 4.

Joseph Wilson, an assistant professor of biology at Utah State, will give a presentation on bee culture and the different types of bee species.

"He'll be coming here to speak on the fourth to talk about native bees and native pollinators," Larson said. "He just released a book called 'The Guide to North American Bees,' which is an identification book with beautiful photos of bees."

Larson hopes people will come to Wilson's presentation and the opening reception that will include live insects, a craft for kids and the chance to taste crickets.

"Eating insects is a really eco-friendly protein source when you compare it to the traditional meats that we eat," Larson said.

"Small Wonders: The Expansive World of Insects" will have an opening reception from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 1, at the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter, 1258 Center Drive. The exhibit will stay up through May 15. Visit swanerecocenter.ou-ext.usu.edu for information.