Here’s a simple way to add a buzz to your next family vacation: Wing it to an insect zoo. These creepy crawly conservatories are finding new fans, with New York’s American Museum of Natural History recently announcing plans for a $340 million insectarium. “There’s a mystery to insects and an innate fascination for children,” says Gene White, an entomologist with Rentokil Steritech, a pest control company. He shares some favorite buggy sites with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.
Insect Zoo, Los Angeles Natural History Museum
With residents like the white-eyed assassin bug, this permanent exhibit seems destined for a Hollywood thriller. The museum also sponsors events like its 31st annual Bug Fair, May 20-21, offering insect hunts, puppet walks and cooking demonstrations with bug chefs. “It’s a fun day for everyone,” says White, who says he can whip up a mean batch of “bugaboo” brownies made with mealworm flour. nhm.org
Insect Village, Pacific Science Center
For some kids, about the only thing as cool as bugs are robots. And this science center delivers with giant mechanical insect displays — along with terrariums and a butterfly garden. “It helps children and adults understand how invertebrates are put together,” White says. The staff also runs an ongoing walking stick amnesty program, accepting public donations. Although popular as pets and in classrooms, Indian stick bugs are considered an invasive species. pacificsciencecenter.org
Invertebrate Zoology department, Cleveland Museum of Natural History
Bug nerds, this may be your nirvana. This museum boasts the largest collection of praying mantises in the Western Hemisphere, along with an equally impressive display of dung beetles, one of White’s favorite creatures. While most the insects are pinned in display cases, there’s also a discovery center with plenty of live specimens. cmnh.org
Rosine Smith Sammons Butterfly House & Insectarium, Texas Discovery Garden
With daily butterfly releases, there’s always something aflutter at this two-story, 7,000 square-foot garden located on the state fair grounds. The pupae arrive weekly from farms in Central and South America, and Asia. “They have a great variety of tropical and near tropical butterflies,” White says. texasdiscoverygardens.org
Insectarium & Butterfly Pavilion
For 25 years, Philly kids have been gleefully grossed out at this site, where they can touch, eat and learn about our multi-legged friends. Earlier this year, it opened a new butterfly pavilion, which follows the creatures’ life cycle from egg to larvae to pupa to free-flying adult….