AUGUSTA — Children armed with plastic-handled nets and small clear containers searched behind the Maine State Museum for insects Wednesday, looking under fallen leaves and in nearby trees for the tiny creatures. After capturing something, the kids rushed over to a table of entomologists to have their findings identified and recorded.

The activity was part of the museum’s 12th annual Bug Maine-ia, which attracted more than 1,000 children, parents, teachers and bug lovers to demonstrations and displays all over the museum.

Abby and Archer Harrison, of Hope, caught a sulfur butterfly together during one of the activities. Abby, 9, secured the small yellow butterfly after her 5-year-old brother caught it in his net.

Abby said catching bugs was her favorite part of the day. At home, she said she catches bugs all the time and likes finding caterpillars and watching them change into butterflies and moths.

“And I pretty much never do it with a net. I usually do it like this,” Abby said, crouching down and pretending to grab an imaginary bug off the ground in her cupped hands. “Like that.”

Her father, Greg Harrison, said this was the third year his children, who are homeschooled, went to the event.

“They love it. My daughter is probably going to be an entomologist when she grows up,” he said.

About 25 presenters including state agencies, entomology groups and other insect and outdoor organizations, had displays or demonstrations for people to visit.

One booth showed kids how ink is made using oak galls — growths on oak leaves formed by female gall wasps laying eggs. Iron gall ink was used from the Middle Ages up to the 19th century, including on the Declaration of Independence. Kids learned how people used to crush the dried oak galls to make ink, and then they got a chance to write their names with it using quill pens.

One of the most popular demonstrations — and a frequent favorite — was the Bug Zoo and its live tarantula, said Joanna Torow, chief educator at the museum. Kids could touch the tarantula and even have it crawl on them.

“If we didn’t have somebody with a tarantula, we’d be in big trouble,” Torow said.

The event is aimed at educating people about insects and inspiring children to learn more about them and possible careers in related fields, she said. It included many hands-on activities and allowed kids to interact with scientists on a one-on-one basis, Torow said.

“It’s just a lot of fun. Hopefully, it’s inspiring,” she said.

Allison Kanoti, an entomologist with the Maine Forest Service who was helping kids identify the insects and other creatures they found, said the activity showed children how easy it is to get out and collect insects and learn about them.

She said the kids have fun catching the different creatures, but she also tries to tell them a little bit about the roles the insects have in the environment.

“I think it gives them a chance to run around and learn a little about science at the same time,” Kanoti said.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @paul_koenig

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