VINTON–Jackie Brown from the Entomology Department in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences visited the Cub and Boy Scouts at Thrasher Memorial on December 6. She brought along a tub of giant cockroaches, a tarantula, and scorpions for the boys to study and examine up close. The Entomology Department at Virginia Tech has an insect zoo of over 300 species.
This program, facilitated by Janette Sink, the STEM Coordinator for the local troop, allowed scouts to earn some badges and certificates, and was “just plain cool” for others who attended.
Brown supervised handling of the cockroaches and scorpions while she described their lives and habits in detail. Scouts were not permitted to handle the tarantula, as they can be temperamental and bite. There was a cockroach race at the end of the evening.
Brown told the Scouts that insects are an important part of nature, and should be studied for that reason alone. She talked about insects not liking cold weather because they are cold-blooded and subsequently become lethargic in cooler months. She explained that there are cockroach species in Virginia, along with two scorpion species, but no native tarantulas.
Studying insects involves learning about engineering and architecture. Insects are important to humans because they are all-important pollinators for fruits and vegetables; they are also decomposers, an important role in the ecosystem.
She discussed with the boys and their leaders that it’s also important to study insects as they are pests who can destroy crops and other vegetation and that more environmentally friendly preventative measures need to be developed.
She talked about the fun involved in being an entomology major—field trips in the woods at night to see “glow in the dark” millipedes, for example.
Brown plans to go into Extension work once she graduates from Virginia Tech, including providing pesticide information to the public.
Troop 235 meets on Monday nights from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Scout Building in Thrasher Memorial’s lower parking lot, led by Sink, Ryan Apple, and Greg and Tina Pino.