Shany George and her daughter Esther, one, of Calgary, enjoyed a fun, activity-filled afternoon Aug. 11th at the annual Bug Jamboree hosted by the Ellis Bird Farm. Mark Weber/Red Deer Express

Ellis Bird Farm hosts annual Bug Jamboree

Visitors enjoyed getting up close and personal with butterflies, beetles and bees

Visitors to the fun-filled annual Bug Jamboree – hosted by Ellis Bird Farm – enjoyed an afternoon of getting an up-close look at lots of butterflies, beetles and bees on Aug. 11th.

The afternoon kicked off with a musical performance by John Acorn, the ‘Nature Nut’ and then an array of hands-on activities and educational opportunities hosted by a number of experts were available to explore.

“This is an event that we have held every second Saturday in August since 2006,” explained Biologist/Site Services Manager Myrna Pearman. “We are very lucky because John Acorn the ‘Nature Nut’ comes and entertains and supports us, and then we have other entomologists from all around Alberta come and give of their time to share their knowledge and enthusiasm about bugs with visitors,” she said.

Pearman said the incredible thing about the Bug Jamboree is that it’s such an engaging, informative, hands-on, fun and family-oriented way for kids to get excited about nature.

“They come out here, they can enjoy an afternoon, they can build their own bumblebee house, they can learn about the amazing natural world around us – right in our own backyard, right out here at the Bird Farm,” she said, adding that the feedback year by year from visitors is always very encouraging.

“It is really an incredible event. People love it. Especially parents who are really keen to teach their children about nature – they can come out and take advantage of this event and the kids can interact with these famous scientists and learn about all of these insects.”

Guest entomologists echoed Pearman’s comments, emphasizing how fun it is to interact with folks about the wonders of insects and nature in general in such a picturesque environment.

“This is my fifth or sixth Ellis Bird Farm Jamboree; I’ve actually been coming to these for quite a while,” said Dr. David Lawrie, a retired University of Alberta instructor.

“What I like most about it is that if you look around, you can see the little kids running and finding stuff (to explore) – so it’s encouraging to see their interest in nature,” he added. Lawrie trained as a physicist and taught at the University of Alberta for several years.

“I’m now semi-retired, and I do things like this that are fun! I’ve also been collecting butterflies since I was about 10 years old,” he said, pointing at an impressive collection that visitors were eager to check out. There were samples of butterflies from around the globe and many from right here in Alberta.

Beekeeper Howard Oudman of Lacombe Honey Ltd. was also onhand to provide visitors with a close-up look at how honeybees operate. He said honeybees can be perceived as being aggressive like wasps for example, but that’s really not the case.

Besides providing tasty honey, they tend to only sting if disturbed to a significant extent, he said. “Most of the time, they are just interested in being honeybees and collecting food,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Pearman said it’s been an extremely busy and successful season at the Ellis Bird Farm this year.

“This is our last big event of the season, but we do have this coming weekend Family Nature Night which is a really good event. This year, it’s about bats,” she said, adding that the event runs from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Aug. 18th.

“We have crafts, information, games and activities, so people can come out and learn about them. We have two big maternal colonies here on this site that we are doing research on with the University of Calgary, so it’s a great opportunity to learn.”

Pearman said the season’s closing day is Sept. 3rd. It’s been a full summer of programming, events and introducing guests to a site that richly reflects so much about the natural world.

“Our season has gone very quickly, and it’s been one of the most successful seasons on record,” she said, adding that when things wrap up early next month, she expects that the Farm will see record-breaking attendance numbers overall.

Check out www.ellisbirdfarm.ca.

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