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November 27, 2006

Youth show off insect collections

Bob Blinn judges collections
Bob Blinn of N.C. State judges youth insect collections at the State Fair. (Photos by Daniel Kim)

While many youth enter their large, four-legged animals in State Fair competitions, another group is more focused on small creatures with six legs. The youth insect collection competition gives youth an opportunity to see how their collections stack up against their peers’.

Bob Blinn, entomology collection manager in N.C. State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has been judging the collections for a number of years. The youth collections are judged the day before the fair starts and remain on display through the run of the fair in the 4-H education building.

Youth compete in two insect collection categories: special and general. The general collection is judged on how complete the collection is: Are insects mounted correctly? Are they identified correctly by order and family? Are the specimens preserved and labeled properly?

Insect Collections

Butterflies and moths, for instance, should be mounted with their wings spread. Other insects should be mounted with legs down and dorsal sides facing up. Collections are displayed in specially built wood and glass cases.

Extension entomologist Steve Bambara from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences works with the 4-H youth entomology program and gives advice to youth throughout the year.

“The value is in doing a collection more than the competition, putting the collection together in a scientific, accurate way, learning to curate animals properly” Bambara said.

Though entries in the competition have dropped in recent years, the collections on display in the education building still remain popular with State Fair goers, Bambara said.

The insects found in the youth collections are not unusual, Blinn says. They collect the kinds of insects you would find in backyard or circling the porch light at night.
Blinn would like to see more entries in the youth insect collections.

“This competition helps to fosters kids’ interest in the natural sciences,” he says. “At least they’re getting outside, learning about nature.”

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at November 27, 2006 07:54 AM