Join in BugFest in Raleigh Sept. 17


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They're not the cuddliest of creatures, yet the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences celebrates bugs of all sorts in downtown Raleigh during BugFest, its annual insect extravaganza, Sept. 17, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.

BugFest shines a light on crawling, fluttering and hopping creatures and helps turn some visitors' fears into fascination. Buggy exhibits, displays, activities, performances and more will cover four floors of the museum, Bicentennial Plaza, and Jones and Edenton streets. Each year, BugFest attracts more than 35,000 attendees. Admission is free.

Arachnids are the guests of honor this year, with the festival following a spider theme. See nonvenomous and venomous spiders, including the hairiest of them all: tarantulas. Learn about arthropods, and watch them compete in their own version of the Olympic games.

Visitors will also see - and hear - the fastest Madagascar hissing cockroaches in the land, learn about a caterpillar's life cycle, get closer to North Carolina's endangered butterflies and observe a bee station. Take home interesting facts about crustaceans, scorpions, termites, crickets, bedbugs and other critters.

Taste delectable dishes featuring creepy crawlers as a major ingredient at Café Insecta. Chefs from Spize Café, Tir Na nOg, Thai Villa, Carolina Jack's Steakhouse and other area eateries will prepare bug-filled foods until they run out. Find Escazu Artisan Chocolates, which feature queen ants from Colombia, in the museum's gift store.

New to BugFest this year is a citizen science project called School of Ants. The first 500 visitors who participate will receive an ant kit to help collect various species of North Carolina ants. The ants will be identified and mapped in the lab. The map will be revealed at the opening of the museum's new wing, the Nature Research Center, April 20, 2012.

The buggy merriment continues at Evening Insectival from 5-7 p.m. with live music, street performers, food and face painting in the plaza and on the first and second floors of the museum. The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is located at 11 W. Jones St., Raleigh. To learn more, visit www.bugfest.org or call 919-733-7450.

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