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Not for the faint of heart

Molly Shore

Victoria Rondinella, a second-grader at Miller Elementary School,

is fascinated with bugs.

“They’re really interesting because they crawl around and do


things you can’t do, like camouflage like the [walking] stick can do

or sting like the scorpion does,” Victoria said.

Victoria got the chance to closely observe insects and arthropods

when entomologist Susan E. Van Vorhis Key brought her Traveling


Insect and Arthropod Zoo to the school Wednesday.

Included in Key’s presentation were live specimens, arthropod and

insect puppets and models, a honey-filled honeycomb, silkworm cocoons

and pinned specimens.

“I was born loving insects,” Key said. As a child, Key said she

brought home anything that crawled, hopped or flew, and turned her

interest into her life’s work.

“I had to be a scientist, on stage, be creative and be around


kids, so I figured out what to do,” she said of her year-round

experiences transporting her menagerie to schools, zoos, museums and

fairs to educate children, teachers and families about the

inhabitants of her collection.

After Key speaks to the children, she lets them examine the

insects, even allowing them to touch the ones that do not sting or


“I touched the millipede,” Michelle Velasquez, 7, said excitedly.


“It felt cold.”

Key hopes the children will enjoy the wonder she feels about

insects and their part in the ecosystem.

“Every creature has a purpose, just as I think people do,” Key

said. “If [children] can develop a tolerance to something different

than them, I hope it extrapolates to a tolerance for different

people, too.”

Teacher Julie Waugh said her class enjoyed the presentation,

especially the hands-on part.

“It was not only educational, it tested their bravery -- and

mine,” she said.