Race Roaches, Spit Crickets, Eat Insects at Bama Bug Fest

  • July 15th, 2019
Cartoon illustration of a cockroach pulling a small green tractor
Cockroach races will be held every half hour during the July 27 event.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Humans and bugs — arthropods — have long had a love-hate relationship.

Many children are fascinated with bugs. As they mature, the interest frequently fades and is often replaced with indifference, annoyance or even disgust.

Statements like: “I hate roaches!” “I hate flies!” “I hate mosquitoes!” “I hate spiders!” and, the classic line, “Ahh! Get it off me!” become more common.

While such exclamations will likely remain popular for as long as humans and bugs exist and share space, The University of Alabama’s natural history museum, in partnership with the Tuscaloosa Public Library, is hoping to reignite people’s childlike wonder with bugs at the first “Bama Bug Fest,” a free event at the Warner Transportation Museum July 27 from 4-8 p.m.

A green June beetle with its wings extended
Green June Beetle

“In the last three years we’ve held an event called Moth Fest in association with national Moth Week,” said Dr. John Abbott, director of museum research and collections at UA’s Alabama Museum of Natural History. “So, in trying to promote insects more broadly, we’ve transformed Moth Fest into Bug Fest to take in all sorts of insects and arthropods and share with the public, UA faculty, staff and students just how great bugs are in our lives.”

Abbott said the event will have a multitude of bug-related food, items and activities for all ages featuring ants, butterflies, beetles, spiders, scorpions, centipedes, millipedes, cicadas, plant-hoppers, roaches, crickets, crustaceans and more.

Activities, items and food include:

— Learn about arthropods, which make up three-quarters of all animals on Earth.

— Experience a live insect petting zoo.

— Watch cockroach tractor pull races.

— Participate in a cricket spitting contest.

— Try insect treats.

— Hear Insect story time (for children).

— Create insect art (for children).

— View insect art.

— Discover insect soap.

— See insect exhibits.

— Bring an unusual bug to the “Stump the Experts” table.

— Enjoy food trucks.

A brown and red moth with its wings spread
Cecropia Moth

“We will have fun things like a cockroach tractor pull race and cricket spitting, which will be, literally, what it sounds like – spitting a dead cricket as far as you can,” Abbott said. “We’ve created a race track, and we will tether the largest roaches in the world – mahogany hissing roaches – to a small toy tractor. The track has a specific lane that the roaches will stay in.”

The roach races will take place every half hour, and no betting is allowed.

The West Alabama Bee Association will also bring live honeybees.

A brown leaf-like praying mantis ready to strike
Dead Leaf Mantis

“We hope it will attract a lot of people,” Abbott said. “We want to promote insects because in terms of ecosystem services, insects contribute trillions worldwide and billions to the U.S. economy. Without insects, we would cease to exist, but they can survive without us just fine.

“Insects are the most diverse animal group on the planet, and they contribute to our lives in ways we don’t think of,” Abbott said. “They pollinate numerous crops, they help get rid of dung and feces, they help get rid of dead animals and dead plant material as the recyclers of the world, and they’re critically important to our existence.”



Dr. John P. Friel, director of museum studies, jpfriel@ua.edu, 205-344-3050; Dr. Katherine Edge, director of the Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum, kbedge@ua.edu, 205-248-4932


Jamon Smith, UA communications, jamon.smith@ua.edu, 205-348-4956

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.