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Giant Bugs Invading Science Museum of Virginia

The museum’s tagline of, “I Like Big Bugs and I Can Not Lie” is quality, it’s pretty hard to beetle. This pun mite bug some of you.




I’m an admitted Science Fiction junkie and movies such as Them featuring giant ants hold a strong fascination. I would be dishonest if that isn’t my primary motivation for going to the Science Museum of Virginia’s upcoming exhibit.

January is not the time of year most people think about bugs descending on Richmond, but that is what is happening at the Science Museum of Virginia. And those bugs are going to be big, in fact, they are larger than life.

Photo Credit: Arizona Science Center

On Saturday, Jan. 18, the Museum is opening the traveling exhibition “Giant Insects.” Featuring six enormous, robotic insects ranging from 40 to 120 times larger than life size, numerous interactive stations and terrariums with live bugs, the exhibition will excite insect lovers of all ages.

“Insects are often unnoticed or disregarded because of their small size, but this exhibition makes it impossible to overlook them,” said Director of Playful Learning and Inquiry Timshel Purdum. “It will switch our guests’ perspective: they will be the size of the bug and the bug is the size of the guest. Plus, hopefully this exhibition will squash some of the fears people have about bugs!”

Designed by California-based Kokoro Exhibits, “Giant Insects” blends art and science with impressive animatronic insects that move like their real-life counterparts. Within each insect, pneumatic valves and cylinders are orchestrated by computers to recreate the movements of actual insects based on consultations with entomologists. Each insect body is designed around a steel “skeleton,” while the outer body is made from either polyurethane or molded fiberglass, or a combination of both materials, and then meticulously painted to match the live model.

Giant insects depicted in the exhibition include the desert locust, which has a 20-foot wing span; two rhinoceros beetles engaged in mortal combat; a tranquil wiggling caterpillar that, in adulthood, would become a Swallowtail butterfly; a 60-times life size praying mantis; and the master-of-disguise stick insect camouflaging with Mother Nature.

Three hands-on insect head replicas allow guests to control mouthpieces to better understand how a dragonfly, honeybee and mosquito each have their own particular way of devouring food. Other interactive stations allow guests to identify insect sounds, better understand camouflage techniques, see metamorphosis stages and more. Mind-blowing Bug Byte facts shared throughout the exhibition will also remind guests of the complexity and diversity in the insect world.

Photo Credit: Arizona Science Center

In addition to the bugs currently on display in the Museum’s Animal Lab, the “Giant Insects” exhibition will feature live arthopods, including multiple tarantulas, a vinegaroon, millipedes, several species of beetles, hissing cockroaches and two types of crabs. Museum educators will be stationed in the exhibition to engage with guests about the lifespan, diet, habitat and fun facts for each creature.

“We want guests to walk away from this exhibition better appreciating the unappreciated,” Purdum said. “Often we put emphasis on, or marvel over, the pretty bugs, like butterflies, but the so-called ugly, brown and seemingly boring bugs need love, too. Insects are an important part of our ecosystem, and we need them just as much as they need us. They were on this planet long before humans, and they will probably be here long after we’re gone.”

“Giant Insects” is on display through August 30, 2020. The Museum will feature special insect-themed programming, such as Lunch Break Science presentations and cooking demonstrations, during the run of the exhibition. Those will be listed on the daily schedule found on the Museum’s website.

“Giant Insects” is included with Museum admission, which is $15.50 for adults, $13.50 for youth and seniors and $10 for preschool-age children. Museum members and children two and under are admitted free. The Museum offers discounts for military, teachers and EBT cardholders. It is sponsored locally by Strange’s Florists, Greenhouses, & Garden Centers.

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Richard Hayes is the co-founder of RVAHub. When he isn't rounding up neighborhood news, he's likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest board game.