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Bugging Out

By Irene Hsiao
Arizona Daily Wildcat
March 26, 1999
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Randy Metcalf
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Entomology graduate student Marci Tarre looks at a piece of Harold Greeney's art work as part of the "The Creative Side of Entomology" exhibit yesterday in the Forbes building. The exhibit, sponsored by UA entomologists, is serving free mealworm cookies today.

UA entomologist Carl Olson enjoys snacking on moth larvae trail mix and never turns down a good old-fashioned termite.

"They're just crunchy animals," said Olson, the associate curator of entomology and insect research collection. "The concept, 'eww, I'm eating a worm' - it gives them the willies."

University of Arizona entomologists are showcasing their artistic flair and a marked affection for crunching on insects today at the exhibit "The Creative Side of Entomology."

Where It's At

The UA Entomology department's exhibit will be in the Forbes building, room 403E 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through April 2.
At today's official opening, bug professors and students will show their creative sides while providing snacks - including mealworm cookies.

"In academia, especially in science, there are many ways to express in knowledge and love our subject, which in this case is arthropods," said Marci Tarre, a graduate student specializing in cultural entomology with an emphasis on the nutritional value of insects.

She said those who are involved in science fields aren't always encouraged to express themselves artistically.

"I think people have the need to be creative, even if they're scientists," Tarre said.

Her personal interest lies in cooking insects as an artistic outlet. Tarre said she is the only person studying insect nutrition at the UA, and one of the few in the nation.

She added that eating insects is common in many cultures except the ones with Puritanical values.

"Around the world, insects have been an important food source during famine and even regularly," Tarre said. "It's not an exotic food. It's just something the Europeans haven't accepted, I guess."

She insisted that insects are a valid food source and cited examples of how people delight in eating the crispy critters. The Japanese chew on crunchy giant water bugs and Africans pop juicy termites like candy.

Americans also are not completely bug-free, Tarre said, adding that they digest bee puke when eating honey.

She describes herself as one of the amateur artists while some of the work is done professionally.

"Most entomology graduate students do some kind of art work and are good at it too," Tarre said.

The display includes one non-Tucsonan from Phoenix and is more than insect pictures. There is also desert photography, stuffed anthropods and sketches done in the heart of a few World War II battles.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor was caught on one of these sketches, which is hanging in honor of a UA entomologist who participated in the war.

"Early on in science education, people have to do diagrams in lab notebooks and they get inspired," Tarre said. "I think one of the best ways to learn anatomy and physiology is to draw it."