Naomi Abdaljawad, owner of GBU Enterprises in Lodi, cradled a small, furry creature in her hand.
“Anyone want to pet it? Do you want to pet it?” she asked. It wasn’t a hamster or a kitten. Abdaljawad was holding a red slate ornamental baboon tarantula. Several little girls were eying it curiously.
Lola Harney, 4, reached out one tentative index finger to brush the spider’s abdomen. She squealed when she felt the fur.
“It’s soft!” she said.
Harney was a little scared at first, because she said she doesn’t like spiders.
“I like roly polies,” she said.
Abdaljawad displayed a collection of furry spiders and scaly creatures at InsectFest at the World of Wonders Science Museum on Sacramento Street. GBU Enterprises, along with Micke’s Grove Zoo and the Clark Pest Control Bug Zoo, were invited to the museum for a day of creepy crawly science. Museum staff also offered bug themed crafts and temporary tattoos. But the real stars were the bugs themselves.
Brothers Adrian and Hernan Mendez, 8 and 10 years old, were watching a huge Goliath Birdeater spider as it snapped into a ready defense mode. Its front legs were up in an attack position, and the creature stood stock-still. It was trying to look large and intimidating in front of the dollar bill that had been placed its cage.
Two tables away, a girl with bright green hair held a Madagascar hissing cockroach in her hand.
“The adults are very mellow. This one doesn’t hiss because he is so used to people and captivity,” said. Alexis Lovecchio, 15, a volunteer for Micke’s Grove Zoo.
Talia Victoria, 14, stood nearby with a mealworm in her hands. It’s small insect normally fed to lizards or birds, but Victoria said they can grow up to 15 centimeters in length.
At another table, Fred Speer monitored several terrariums of tarantulas, scorpions and cockroaches for the Clark Pest Control Bug Zoo.
He had an emperor scorpion, and explained they are the largest and strongest species of scorpion.
“One little girl came by the tank, looked at it and screamed, “There’s a lobster in there!’” he said. The scorpion might eat an insect, a lizard or a small snake. The emperor scorpions don’t have much venom to attack prey, so their pincers are much stronger and more armored than other varieties.
That heavy exoskeleton is even visible under a black light, making the creatures really easy to see in the desert, said Abdaljawad.
Other little girls were less skittish.
Samantha Scott, 9, was peering closely at a Chaco Golden King Tarantula.
“I got to pet one. It felt like a cat’s ear. I like the black fuzzy stuff,” she said.
Abby Shaddox, 8, visited the museum with her Girl Scout troop, and loved watching the tarantulas. But she said she would not want to find one in her cereal bowl in the morning.
“I’d drop it on the counter, and go tell grandma to kill it. Or to set it free outside please,” she said.
Shaddox also took a close look at a hissing cockroach, and said the creepy crawly’s back felt like a turtle shell.
Patty Smith also works for the bug zoo, and had a lot of facts about her cockroaches.
They don’t jump or fly, and they’re vegetarian, so they don’t carry any germs or diseases, she said. They hiss to try and convince lizards they are big snakes, so the lizards will not eat them.
Kids surrounding the table were fascinated by Smith’s explanation. There were generally fewer screams of disgust and more coos of delight and interest at the festival.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.