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Originally published September 22, 2013 at 8:04 PM | Page modified September 22, 2013 at 9:23 PM

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Kids get taste of their 6-legged friends at museum Bug Blast

Hundreds of insect experts, collectors and fans gathered at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture for the annual Bug Blast on Sunday.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Like many of the arthropod aficionados gathered at the Burke Museum on Sunday, Scarlett Klaas was drawn to the annual Bug Blast by her love of all things six-legged.

The Seattle first-grader said she’s been fascinated by insects since she began to study them in preschool.

Scarlett said she loves their vast array of shapes and sizes, their life stages and the fact that there remains so much unknown about Earth’s most diverse class of living creatures. She also said she finds them typically more interesting than people.

“They come in so many more colors,” she said.

Another little girl, Nico Lettunich, 5, agreed.

“They look great and some of them have pokey legs,” Nico said. “Our legs are not pokey.”

The Bug Blast, where experts and collectors share their knowledge and vast collections of butterflies, roaches, beetles, walking sticks and countless others with the curious and the obsessed, draws hundreds of visitors of all ages each year. It is the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture’s second-most popular exhibit after Dino Day, which is devoted to dinosaurs, according to museum spokeswoman Andrea Godinez.

Don Ehlen, of Seattle, who makes his living showing portions of his 6,000-plus Insect Safari collection to elementary-school students, brought thousands of his specimens to Sunday’s show at the museum on the University of Washington campus and was surrounded and questioned all day.

He said he’s learned that the insect-curious come in all shapes and sizes as well.

“I’ve seen little girls dressed in girlie pinks who want to kiss the bugs and burly boys who run screaming,” Ehlen said.

Cody DeYoung, who specializes in local insects and Rove beetles, said the field is alluring, in part, because there is no end to what can be studied and learned.

“A person could be an entomologist for a thousand years and not know everything,” he said. “There are several million described insects and many millions more that may never be described. Even among those that have been described, we may know nothing about how they live.”

He displays his collection at the show because he enjoys helping people understand a little more about the natural world and the ecological importance of insects.

“It’s very good to see kids interested,” he said.

Nine-year-old twins Merek and Vesta Weed were trying to talk their father into letting them buy a hissing cockroach. They already have two darkling beetles and some mealworms, but they said they were entranced by the roach’s shiny appearance, its slick, greasy feel and the sound its exoskeleton made when they ran their fingers down its back.

But their father had lived in the South and was hesitant. “I just can’t see paying money for a cockroach,” Brad Weed said.

Another popular draw for the show was David George Gordon — aka The Bug Chef and author of “The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook” — who created dishes including crickets, grasshoppers and tarantulas for visitors to try.

Logan Lee, 9, of Bellevue, had never eaten insects before but found he had a natural affinity for it.

After scarfing down several samples of crickets and orzo, he volunteered to taste every one of The Bug Chef’s concoctions.

“They’re good. They taste like salty almonds,” Logan said. He had tried unsuccessfully to persuade his friend Henry Bae, 11, to partake by chasing him and trying to stick cooked bugs in his mouth.

But his friend could not be swayed. “I like bugs, but I don’t want to eat them,” he said.

Christine Clarridge can be reached at cclarridge@seattletimes.com or 206-464-8983

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