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Cricket cookies, sweep netting, insect fossils and more at Tifft's Insectival

Tifft Nature Preserve is trying to destigmatize insects with its 9th annual summer festival, Insectival, on Aug. 4.

"We find that educating people on things they might find scary or not like is the way to change people's opinions and attitudes," said Meghan Dye, director of Tifft Nature Preserve.

At Insectival, insects are collected, studied and yes, eaten. If it sounds gimmicky, it's not. This isn't your typical informational event with a gummy-worms-and-oreo-dirt sundae. Hands-on activities engage guests by allowing them to collect bugs. Cricket cookies educate the consumer on the environmentally ethical protein source found in bugs. Plus they're fun because they're topped with crickets.

If you're heading down to Tifft this weekend, here's what to expect at Insectival.

Where: Tifft Nature Preserve, 1200 Fuhrmann Blvd.

When: Timed entry to the event is at noon and 2 p.m. Aug. 4.

Cost: Tickets are $7 and can be purchased online or at the event. Buffalo Museum of Science members save 10% on tickets.

Who's it for? While there are a lot of activities geared toward children, the event is for all ages. For adults who might prefer an adult-only event, Tifft's Six-Legged Science Night, a guided hike through the woods looking for insects, on Aug. 12 might be more up your alley.

Parking: Park in Tifft's public lot or in the overflow parking on Fuhrmann Boulevard and at the Buffalo Harbor State Park.

Activities: At Insectival, guests don't just look at bugs, they go out and collect them. Sweep netting is the method of gathering insects from the grass by using a long wooden pole with a net on the end. After netting through the meadow grassland, guests dump their findings onto a sheet or into clear bug jars to get an up-close look at what's usually hiding in the grass.

Then there is dip netting, a similar process but in water, used to scavenge for aquatic invertebrates, like dragonflies.

"It gives people the opportunity to learn a little more about the insects and creepy crawly critters that they're seeing in their backyard," Dye said.

A local naturalist will bring his large private collection of invertebrate for people to see.

Crafts: There will be four different insect-themed crafts, including a wearable mask. All of the crafts are made with recycled or natural materials and can be dismantled and recycled.

Education: The Buffalo Museum of Science will bring insect fossils and preserved insects from its collection. Beekeepers from the Western New York Honey Producers Association will teach about backyard beekeeping. Western New York Prism, an invasive species management organization, will educate on our local invasive species.

Food: You might be used to the regular burrito food trucks at events, but what about cricket cookies? Chocolate chirp cookies, made with cricket flour and topped with crickets, will be available for purchase, as well as dried mealworms. What do crickets taste like? "Scotch tape," Dye said. "But mixed in with chocolate chip cookies, you barely notice that they're in there and it's a great source of protein."

What to wear: The forecast predicts a hot and sunny day, so dress accordingly, but remember to leave the bug spray at home, for obvious reasons.

100-Plus Things: Birding at Tifft Nature Preserve

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