Creepy Crawlers at the Insectarium

By Josh Walker (GART ’19)

Let me just open this blog post in a very honest way – I am a huge baby when it comes to insects. They are really small but absolutely horrifying, they have skeletons on the outside of their bodies, and some have more legs than I have fingers which is the most horrifying thing in the world. Whenever I see a bug or have an unfortunate interaction with one, I’m paranoid for the next five minutes about what may be crawling on me that I’m unaware of. When I volunteered for this blog post, I figured I could give myself a reason to enjoy what otherwise would be a very neutral experience for me, but what I found is that I didn’t really need an excuse, the experience was quite interesting.

After our SCI 155 class departed from the metro station and arrived at the Insectarium, which was a much smaller building than I expected. I remember thinking that there wouldn’t be many bugs on display because of lack of space, but then I promptly remembered how small bugs are. Once we were inside, I saw the corny graphics on the wall of their stick bug mascot, there to inform us about the wonders of insectoid life. There was a large dome-like room with stairs descending down to the displays. The factoids on the wall were interesting with some good nuggets of information about what certain bugs eat, how they defend themselves, adaptations they may develop depending on their environment, but I’m a visual learner. The wall graphics weren’t nearly as interesting as the legions of mostly dead insects in glass cases, all staring at me with their wicked eyes and antennae.

Following the questionnaire provided to us for the class lab helped me make my way through the Insectarium to find different facts and species. The displays were set up according to a few different specifications. The section in the middle of the lowered room were classified by ecosystems like tropical rainforest and arid desert. There were also displays specifically showing bugs adapted for defense, like the Goliath beetle or the tarantula hawk, which is one of the scariest insects I have ever seen.

Comforted by the physical barrier between us, I inspected these bugs like I never really had before, noticing their individual mouth parts and how they would function, the creases and breaks in their exoskeletons. One of the tasks was to find and describe the adaptations of the insect that we found the most personally interesting in the Insectarium. I actually had a difficult time with this because every time I found an interesting insect I saw one that was even weirder and more fascinating. One of the best parts for me was being able to read about the physical adaptation of a bug and see that adaptation in the glass in front of me. It was interesting to learn about how the most widespread and successful class of animal, invertebrates, have been able to adapt and succeed in such a variety of places.