'Jungle Jess' to visit Aberdeen for National Insect Week

The University of Aberdeen is set to host a busy programme of events and CBeebies star, Jess French, as part on National Insect week, which kicks off on Monday (June 20).

National Insect Week is organised by the Royal Entomological Society every two years and is supported by a large number of partner organisations with interests in the science, natural history and conservation of insects. Over the course of the week, more than 500 events will take place across the country.

Throughout the week, school pupils from across the region will visit Aberdeen Biodiversity Centre in the University’s Zoology Building and the Cruickshank Botanical gardens where they will take part in a variety of fun events such as getting to know more about the lives of some of our most popular native minibeasts followed by minibeast hunts in the gardens. The pupils will also make some bees and butterflies for a pollinating insect display.

On Saturday (June 25), members of the public will be able to join in the fun and will also have the chance to meet a CBeebies star, Jess French who will be on hand to meet with children and sign her new book and of course any bug books that children might want to bring along. Zoologist and Cbeebies presenter Jess French is passionate about giving children from all backgrounds the opportunity to learn about amazing minibeasts. She is well-known for her Cbeebies series Minibeast Adventure with Jess. She has also worked on BBC’s Springwatch, Deadly Mission Madagascar, Live and Deadly and Sir David Attenborough’s Micromonsters 3D. 

There many activities taking place on Saturday, there will be Empathy Room where Daksha Madhu will invite visitors to explore the world of honeybees through sound, smell, and meditation and Superorganism Society interactive activity, where Drs Ewan Campbell and Jenni Stockan will show you what happens inside a real-life bee hive.

For those who think they can stomach it, Dr Howard Bell will discuss the possibility of bugs becoming menu items. Humans have eaten insects since time immemorial, but this has now largely died-out in the West.  However, in Asia, Africa and South America entomophagy (insect eating) is still practiced by about two billion people. Dr Bell will explore whether this source of food could be on its way back to Europe and what effect it could have on our diet.

You don’t have to be an insect lover to join in the fun – members of the public are also invited to explore the psychology of your phobias and Drs Ceri Trevethan and Rama Chakravarthi from the School of Psychology will be on hand in their ‘Don’t Panic!!’ room to investigate the nature of phobias and challenge preconceptions about insects. 

Dr Jerry Sternberg, from the School of Biological Sciences will host ‘Meet the bloodsuckers…feeding time at the insect zoo’.  Dr  Sternberg is a parasitologist who will present displays on some blood-sucking insects and the diseases they transmit – as well as acting as dinner to a number of different insect species, including one of the world’s largest blood-sucking bugs, a species that may indeed have infected Charles Darwin, ultimately leading to his poor health and death.

Other activities taking place on Saturday include; interactive bee-related games, tours of the Botanic Garden with Curator, Mark Paterson, insect themed face painting, interactive insect art and an ask the expert panel discussion.

There will also be a special ‘Insect Week’ themed instalment of the popular Café Scientifique series. Dr John Baird will be speaker at the event at Waterstones Union Bridge on Wednesday, June 22 at 7pm. The event, which is entitled ‘Sex, disease and a belly full of grubs’ will give members of the public the opportunity to come along to meet some of the insects that have fundamentally shaped our society and coloured our world, even influencing our sex appeal.

Dr John Baird, Senior Lecturer at the University and organiser of Aberdeen’s National Insect Week programme, said: “I am really excited about National Insect Week, we have pulled together a fantastic programme of activities for what is probably the biggest event ever to have been held within the School of Biological Sciences at Aberdeen University. From the moment you enter the building your perceptions about insects will be challenged, for instance by Rod Scott’s wonderful art installation‘Swarm’, which will be in the foyer of the Zoology building“

“Everything that is taking place is going to be really family-oriented and interactive, and most importantly, really good fun! We have some excellent hands-on stuff and really interesting presenters who will not only educate but also entertain all those who come along. I am also delighted to welcome CBeebies very own Jungle Jess to Aberdeen and it is great that she will be here to meet with members of the public.

“Our programme really does have something for everyone – from insect enthusiasts to those who are not quite so keen on bugs. I am even hopeful we might be able to help conquer some fears!”

Jess French said: “A whole week just about insects? Amazing!  I cannot wait to join families and children in Aberdeen for some minibeast madness.   Whatever the weather, let's join together for a minibeast adventure!”

Royal Entomological Society Director of Outreach and Development, Luke Tilley said:  “Insects may be small, but they have a huge impact on the natural world. There are a wide range of activities offered during National Insect Week by local and national organisations which will enable children and adults alike to explore the wonderful world of insects for themselves.”

All events are free to attend with donations to charities being welcome for selected activities and will take place at the University of Aberdeen Zoology Building and Cruickshank Botanic Gardens. For more information about the University’s National Insect Week programme, visit http://www.abdn.ac.uk/events/10098/