Edible bugs and racing cockroaches are heading to UF on Tuesday.

The UF Entomology Club will host its annual BugFest open house, inviting students and families to learn more about insects and the university’s entomology and nematology program.

The event, which will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Steinmetz Hall, has a Pokémon theme with the slogan “Gotta Collect ‘Em All,” said Kristen Donovan, event coordinator.

New this year will be the “insect Iron Chef” station, challenging curious taste buds to try a variety of insect recipes, she said.

But for those who aren’t too enthusiastic about savoring the flavor of crispy bugs, BugFest will also be serving pizza to the first 400 guests — bug-free.

Donovan, a 21-year-old UF entomology and nematology junior, said that the event is not just about trying new things but also learning about the insects themselves.

Attendees can learn more about the program and insects at exhibits and information areas, as well as get to encounter the bugs firsthand with activities and games.

One of the games will be a race of Madagascar hissing cockroaches on a four-lane track. The roaches are raised at UF, she said.

There will also be a “maggot art” station where maggots are dipped in paint and allowed to create a masterpiece.

“They’re artists, believe it or not,” Donovan said.

But bugs aren’t the only thing visitors can expect at the open house. The arthropod petting zoo allows visitors to interact with critters such as the emperor scorpion and the giant African millipede.

Morgan Weldon, a 19-year-old UF entomology and nematology junior, will be volunteering at the event.

She said she is excited to educate people and clarify any misconceptions they might have about insects.

“It’s important to learn about bugs because they are virtually everywhere, and people interact and are affected by them every day and don’t realize it,” she said.

[A version of this story ran on page 8 on 3/31/2014 under the headline "BugFest welcomes insect lovers to UF"]

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