Bug Talks

01 November 2012

The South Australian Museum, in conjunction with Cirque du Soleil, aims to get children away from the television and back into the nature to reconnect with the amazing life of the world around them.

The Museum has teamed up with Cirque du Soleil to ignite our passion for bugs, in the lead up to Cirque du Soleil's new production, OVO (Adelaide season 6 December –  6 January), which immerses audiences in the colourful and energetic world of insects.

Every Saturday and Sunday in November, experts from the Museum's Information Centre will hold a series of talks aimed at educating and thrilling audience members about what they share their environment with. Participants have the opportunity to bring in specimens to have them identified. They may also go in the draw to win tickets to the circus.

The Museum's Information Centre already plays a vital role in the community to educate and entertain audiences about everything from birds to insects and reptiles, mammals and fossils, while acting as a guardian of specimens and identifier of objects brought in from members of the public.

The talks are a fantastic opportunity to reconnect people with what lives in their environment and learn how to protect and manage the delicate ecosystem of their backyards. Information Centre staff member Linda Builth says most people are more afraid than necessary of the bugs they find.

"The big fear factor in here is the spiders. They're terrified of them but they want to see them! The only dangerous spider in the whole state is the female redback spider. Other spider bites may burn but that depends on what the spider has just eaten before.

"You need to just be aware of what's in your in your garden and realise you have something you can watch, rather than be afraid of it – that's really special in itself."

The Information Centre staff members are a passionate bunch who love to share their enthusiasm for science with the community.

Manager Mike Gemmell says bugs in our backyard can be surprisingly large or unusual-looking, but most are harmless.

"Many people bring in rain moths or the chrysalis. During the first heavy rains of the season in April, the chrysalis is activated by rainwater. The larvae of the moths feed on roots underneath the soil before they burrow up to the surface and turn into a chrysalis. People find these brown, funny looking things underneath the surface (that Aboriginal people call a witchety grub) and wonder what they are."

He says people tend to find unwelcome dinner guests in their pantry or vegetable patch, and bring the bugs in for identification.

Adults commonly think the best thing to do for their garden is to spray pests and weeds, but Linda Builth says this is the worst thing they can do. "You can destroy the food source of important insects. Pull the weeds out by hand. If you want a particular butterfly in your garden, then you have to find out the host flower, which is often a weed. So be careful what you kill!"

The Information Centre is a hub of expertise. Staff members are often asked to help identify illegal natural objects seized by Australian Customs or to explain the impact of a certain activity on the delicate natural ecosystems on our environment.

Children also have the opportunity to have their name put alongside a specimen they bring in to the Museum. If the specimen is ever used in a book or by a scientist, the child's name is quoted – a fantastic reason to get collecting and be recognised for their hard work!

Bug Talks are being held at 11am every Saturday and Sunday in November 2012. Participants should meet our staff in the Main Foyer at the South Australian Museum, North Terrace, Adelaide.