OSU Educator Curtis Young presents a walking stick during an insect program on Thursday. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
OSU Educator Curtis Young presents a walking stick during an insect program on Thursday. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)

VAN WERT – Cockroaches, beetles, and walking sticks – these were some of the insects area children were able to touch Thursday morning as OSU Educator Curtis Young presented on insects. Young also showed the children a millipede, a tarantula, and a scorpion, which are not insects but are related.

Young is a doctor of entomology, which is the study of insects. He has taught the insect program for the past three summers.

"Part of the intent of the program is to introduce people to insects and their relatives in a safe environment where they can be educated about them in an appropriate way so that they don't have to be frightened of them," said Young who noted that the program is also a good learning piece for adults. "Grandparents and parents alike have misconceptions as to the significance of different types of insects and insect relatives. They may carry phobias of their own which can, unfortunately, transfer to their children and grandchildren, unless they are educated about them as well."

Young not only introduces children to insects but teaches them the basics of identifying an insect. He noted that insects have six legs and three parts to their body. He also noted that other than birds and bats, the only other animal with wings is an insect; however, not all insects have wings.

Young earned his Ph.D. in entomology in 1991. He became interested in the study of insects when he was a nursery landscape contractor.

"I was always interested in biology," said Young who also has a bachelor's of science degree in biology. "As a nursery landscape contractor, I was introduced to many different types of insects that feed on plants that we use for ornamental purposes."

Young said he grew up with a "naturalist" grandmother who taught him and his brother about nature. Growing up with a love for nature and seeing how the insects interacted with ornamental plants helped to pique his interest in the entomology field.

"It was natural for me to gravitate toward the insects," said Young.

The insects that Young brought to the learning program were from the collection at the Ohio State insectarium. Insects such as the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach originated from Africa, one of the types of walking sticks he brought were from Australia, some insects present were from Central America, while others were from the United States.

"The insectarium at Ohio State very willingly loans them out for educational purposes," said Young of the insects. "It's always an excellent opportunity to start our young out well in understanding nature and [the program] hopefully reduces their potential fright of things they shouldn't be frightened of."

While children were able to touch most of the insects, the tarantula and scorpion stayed secure in their enclosure for safety purpose both for the children and for the animals.