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'The insects miss everyone just as much as we do': Entomica staff (5 photos)

The insects at Entomica Insectarium are being featured in special weekly, online educational videos and arts and crafts lessons created by the organization's bug wranglers

Sault Ste. Marie’s well-loved insectarium Entomica is known for offering interactive and educational experiences with a variety of insect, arachnid, and other invertebrate species. With closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has looked to other means of connecting with the community.

“Like many other organizations, Entomica has been negatively impacted by COVID-19. It wasn’t long after we had our grand opening at our new location inside the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre that we had to close our doors to the public,” says Jessica Fischer, bug wrangler and office administrator for Entomica.

Fischer notes that in addition to the regular visitors, private tours and birthday parties and other events at the new facility, the closure also impacts outreach programs, all of which help to bring in revenue for the organization.  She notes that a number of charity fundraisers, the annual Science Festival hosted by Science North, and programming like the Science For Seniors Program were also cancelled.

“We were supposed to travel to the North Bay area to attend five different libraries with our traveling exhibit. We’re unsure yet but it looks like our summer camp will not be running this summer either,” she says.

“Towards the end of the school year, we typically would have hosted end of the year school field trips at our facility, as well as gone into the schools with our traveling exhibits.”

Fischer notes that as an insect-focused, science discovery centre, Entomica’s “mission and passion is to cultivate awareness and appreciation of our natural world.”

So, the organization held a brainstorming session to figure out ways to continue to bring education and awareness to the community.

One of the concepts was called “Meet a Bug, Feed a Bug, Make a Bug,” a new weekly video series.

“Since we weren’t going to the schools anymore, it was really important to us to develop something for the children so we could still in some way continue to stay connected with them,” says Fischer.

“Families are under a lot of stress right now during this very difficult time so really we just wanted to create content that was educating and engaging but different and fun for everyone. We love and miss our community and bug wrangler friends so this was a way to stay connected with everyone. “

The “Meet a Bug, Feed a Bug, Make a Bug” videos feature the insects themselves with educational information, interesting facts and trivia provided by Entomica’s Bug Wranglers, like Fischer. 

“One of Entomica’s most important features is that we offer hands-on experiences with our insects,” says Fischer. “We’re the only Insectarium in Canada that has permission to take our exotic insects out of their enclosures for the public to handle. Since we aren’t able to do that with the kids at the moment, we came up with the Make a Bug portion of the series to give the kids that hands-on experience just in a different way, by helping them create their own exotic insects at home to play with through a simple craft.”

In her videos, Fischer has a special assistant who helps to deliver the arts and craft lesson at the end of each video: her 6-year-old daughter, Khloe.    

“I am a single mom and I don’t have any family in the Sault to help with child care, so when schools and daycares closed, I was very fortunate to have the option to bring Khloe and my 4-year old son Jack into work with me. I could continue working and it gave them something different to do,” says Fischer.  

“Khloe is definitely the perfect assistant because she loves arts and crafts. She is a bit shy but she really enjoys making the videos for family and friends to see. It’s really helped her to get out of her comfort zone.”

Khloe also helps her mom in the actual caring for the insects.

“Two of her favourite tasks to do in the lab are picking out and counting the insect eggs and helping to mist the insect enclosures.”

Entomica has received positive feedback from the community about the videos.

“We’ve had parents send in pictures of the [craft] insects their children made and community members have reached out to tell us how they love the videos and look forward to them every Friday.”

Fischer noted that Entomica is currently looking for businesses or organizations to partner with, so they can purchase some craft supplies to create and deliver craft kits for children in geared to income housing.

“A lot of these families are facing many barriers. Being able to go out shopping to buy food is difficult at the moment, let alone art supplies. So we wanted to help eliminate some of these barriers so the kids can participate in the Make A Bug portion of the series.”

Entomica also has an Adopt A Bug program where community members can help keep their buggy friends fed and happy through the symbolic adoption of one or more insects. Once adopted, the donor receives a framed picture, custom name and certificate of adoption for their adopted bug, and will receive monthly updates about the bug for one year.

Even though there has been no indication of when Entomica might be able to open to the public, the staff has been preparing plans for the eventuality.

“We have been working with the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre to make sure we have safety measures in place so that once the government deems it appropriate and safe for us to open we will be ready,” says Fischer.

“We are definitely eager to open back up however, the safety of the community and employees here is much more important.”

For those concerned about the well-being of the insects during the closure, Entomica has still been able to continue their lab and insect care.

"Insect care is one of our top priorities and they are still being well taken care of. While following safety protocols, Entomica employees are continuing to come into work daily to complete laboratory maintenance and insect care,” says Fischer.

“We typically handle the insects every day so they continue to be very social, but I think the insects miss everyone just as much as we do.”

Find out more about Entomica or watch their weekly educational videos and lessons on their Facebook page or their website.

People interested in making donations to help support this project can do so through Entomica’s website. If someone wants to e-Transfer a donation, they should contact Entomica via email at [email protected], their Facebook page or by phone at 705-257-5777 to get instructions and a password.

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