Comparing University Entomology Outreach Events While Examining Public Views of Arthropods and Pesticides

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Virginia Tech

Hokie BugFest is an annual free event designed by the Entomology Department at Virginia Tech to translate the importance of entomology to the public. The event has grown from 2,000 attendees in 2011 to over 8,000 attendees in 2017. Entomology faculty, staff, graduate students and alumni partner with Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia 4-H, and other entities to provide an educational experience to the public. The goal of this outreach event is to showcase entomological research, increase public awareness, elevate the appreciation of entomology, develop better public perceptions of insects and other arthropods, and educate participants about pesticide safety and pest management practices. Although many institutions host entomology outreach events like Hokie BugFest (Frazier, 2002; Hamm and Rayor, 2007; Hvenegaard et al., 2013), little research has been conducted to compare the impact of these activities. Whether these events impact public attitudes toward insects and other arthropods is also lacking (Pitt and Shockley, 2014). Several studies have been conducted in other states to investigate public attitudes toward arthropods and pesticides (Baldwin et al., 2008; Byrne et al., 1984; Frankie and Levenson, 1978; Hahn and Ascerno, 1991; Potter and Bessin, 1998); however, research is missing in Virginia. In order to contribute to this literature, three surveys were developed. One survey focused on investigating entomology outreach events similar to Hokie BugFest. Results revealed that event structure, attendance, funding sources, and popular exhibits impact the hosting institution and the surrounding communities. The other two surveys focused on gauging the impacts Hokie BugFest has on youth and adult attendees. Results indicated the event has a positive impact on attendee perceptions of insects, other arthropods, and pesticides.

Hokie BugFest, insect festivals, entomology, university outreach, public views, arthropods, pesticides