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Creepy crawlers delight crowds

ENCINITAS — Quail Botanical Gardens was literally alive with bugs during the 12th annual Insect and Garden Festival on July 11 and July 12.
A record crowd of approximately 3,500 people attended the highly anticipated summer event. “We come every year to check out wacky bugs,” said Sharon Seibel, who brought her two sons. Daniel, 8, said he wasn’t afraid of the insects, with one exception. “I just don’t want to eat them,” he said when offered a worm.
However, several families lined up for a taste of cooked mealworm larvae and crickets. The bugs were prepared in a variety of flavors including spicy and garlic salt. “I think she liked the salty one the best,” Cindy Melon said referring to her 4-year-old daughter, Sara. “It tastes like a little chip,” Sara said after munching the larvae.
The festival is an opportunity to educate adults and children on the beneficial aspects of insects. “Our kids are fascinated by any sort of bug,” Dan Stevens said. “Now they can learn in a garden setting which bugs serve what purpose in the natural world.”
Stevens’ oldest son, Zack, 10, focused on the reptiles. “I liked all of the lizards and snakes the best,” he said. “A lot of people are just afraid of them because they don’t really know that they won’t get hurt by most of them.”
In addition to exotic creatures crawling in observation boxes, the festival included crafts and vendors selling bug-related products. The San Diego Zoo was also on hand giving wildlife demonstrations. “I’m glad they’ve got something for everyone because my daughter prefers to draw bugs than to have them crawling on her,” said Leslie Perdy, whose 5-year-old daughter, Maya, was content at the craft station.
Set on 30 acres north of Encinitas Boulevard on Quail Gardens Drive, the gardens’ mission is to inspire people of all ages to connect with plants and nature. By combining a variety of gardens with more than 3,500 plants, trails and native habitat, it provides an oasis of peace and tranquility within a growing city.