Barnstorming with bug biology, and allaying the fear factor

OSU’s Insect Adventure brings the fascinating world of entomology to the public

What bugs Andrine Shufran?

It’s no small gripe, actually—even if the creatures in question are.

“Insects and all of their relatives, the arthropods, are the largest group of animals on planet Earth. If you took all the animals in the world and put them into a big pie, 85 percent of that pie would be bugs,” says Dr. Shufran, who operates Oklahoma State University’s Insect Adventure program in Stillwater.

“It’s also the group of animals with the most integral connections to life on Earth. We’re talking pollination, decomposition, and acting as the basis of the food chain,” she adds.

“And yet, most people have a relatively negative impression of this group of animals, based on misconceptions that they are unsafe, filthy, dangerous, or even deadly.”

Insect Adventure is the only educational program of its kind in the state, and Dr. Shufran—an entomologist who first stepped on the OSU campus in 2003—has operated the program since its inception in 2008.

Dr. Shufran makes more than 500 presentations a year, along with a healthy assortment of her six- and eight-legged friends, both on and off campus—traveling to school classrooms, county fairs, home and garden shows, 4-H gatherings, day-care centers, corporations and nursing homes across Oklahoma and beyond.

With this menagerie of spiders, walking sticks, beetles, scorpions and millipedes, Dr. Shufran allays fears about insects—while, at the same time, boosting scientific literacy and understanding of biology.

“We have about 80 species total, and I’ve got four students who work for me, taking care of the insects’ care, cleaning, husbandry and feeding,” she says. “As for the audience, you name it and we adapt it.”

Enbridge is committed to making life better in the communities where we live and work. In 2016, we invested more than $13.4 million in community-strengthening initiatives across North America—just under $100,000 of that in Oklahoma—and we also made a recent $1,000 grant to OSU’s Insect Adventure program.

“We move our audiences past the fear factor and help them discover the fascinating biology of these animals,” says Dr. Shufran. “It’s educational but it’s also experiential. I think I have the best job in the whole world.”