Rosie, a Chilean rose hair tarantula. (ISU photo)

The Insect Zoo at Iowa State University is hosting an open house this weekend for Iowans who love all things creepy and crawly. Ginny Mitchell, the education program coordinator for the traveling insect zoo, says events on Saturday will include “Roach Racing” as well as a feature called “Painting with Maggots.”

“We’re going to have over 125 living species of arthropods, so of course, these are things like insects, spiders, tarantulas, millipedes, scorpions, all sorts of fun things,” Mitchell says. “There’ll be lots of hands-on opportunities for the public to get up close and personal with these animals.”

There will be “touch bowls” into which visitors will be able to carefully stick their hands to find out what it feels like to have one of these multi-legged critters scurry across your fingers.

“Rosie, our Chilean rose hair tarantula, is definitely a fan favorite. She’s probably the most popular animal we have,” Mitchell says. “Another really fantastic one is the jungle nymph walking stick. It looks nothing like a stick. It looks like a big green leaf. They’re native to Malaysia.”

Of course, not every creature in the insect zoo is touch-friendly. “We’re also going to have a deathstalker scorpion which is the most venomous scorpion that we know of,” Mitchell says. “It’s native to the Middle East and Northern Africa.” That portion of the open house runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in the Advanced Teaching and Research Building on the ISU campus.

The Entomology Graduate Student Organization is also hosting an Insect Field Day where visitors can learn about common insects in Iowa, go collecting on campus, then learn to preserve what they collected. To register for that event, email “[email protected]”.

On Saturday evening, another event will get underway at Carr Park in Ames where ultraviolet lights will be used to see what bugs may be in our own backyards. “We’ll have the white sheet set up with the black lights there and we’re going to attract all sorts of bug friends to those lights,” Mitchell says. “Now before it gets dark, we’re going to be taking the kids around and looking around the park for bugs that we find during the day, and then we’ll see how many of those bugs come to the light at night.”

That event runs from 6 to 10 p.m. Learn more about the zoo and the events here: