Friday 5: Insects of the Arthropod Zoo

The museum where I’m working has an arthropod zoo!  I finally got to spend half a day exploring the museum this week and headed straight for the arthropods.  The exhibit is absolutely beautiful and the sponsor (who I’m not going to name because I can’t say anything nice about them) clearly put a lot of money into it.  If you’re ever in the Research Triangle area, you should definitely make a trip to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and check it out!  If you do, you might catch a glimpse of the following:

Stick Insects

Stick insect

Stick insect

I stupidly didn’t photograph any of the signs (as usual) and forgot what the common and species names of pretty much everything was the moment I walked away from a cage (as usual).  That means I can’t tell you what kind of stick insect this is or where it’s from but they were so cool!  Look at the strange coloration, and all those little angles!  They were large too, 5 or 6 inches long I believe.  I spent about 10 minutes watching these guys to determine whether they were actually alive or not before this one moved its head a fraction of an inch.  Pretty darned stealthy insects!  Sadly, staring at non-moving insects did give me enough time to hear several people walk through the exhibit, loudly exclaiming to their companions how scary insects are and how much they hate them.  Sigh…




If you all haven’t figured it out, I kinda like roaches.  These guys were stunning!  They were quite large and blended in a bit with their environment, but look how beautiful they are!  If all roaches were this pretty, people might not have as many problems with them.

Hercules Beetles

Hercules beetle

Eastern Hercules beetle

I’m just going to assume that these are the eastern Hercules beetles rather than the Grant’s Hercules beetles that I’m used to from the west, but they’re awfully similar.  Every time I see them I am reminded of how amazing beetles are.  They’re huge and anything with those kinds of horns is alright in my book!  I’ve always wondered if they can actually pinch you with those horns.  Anyone know?

Cecropia Caterpillars


Cecropia caterpillar. This will turn into a big, beautiful moth!

The curator of the Arthropod Zoo really likes cecropia moths, so it seems only fitting that they fill one of the biggest displays.  I’ve caught the moths before and have two in my collection, but I hadn’t ever seen the caterpillars.  Wow!  They’re so beautiful!  And the curator’s going to give me some eggs to rear too.  When I get them, I’ll share their progress with you all so you can see what happens right along with me!

Tiger Longwing Butterfly



Right next to the Arthropod Zoo is a live butterfly exhibit.  It’s quite small, but I still enjoyed it.  It had a lot of the same butterflies as the slightly larger butterfly exhibit in Tucson, including this butterfly that I photographed at both exhibits.  This exhibit has one thing that Tucson’s does not, though: a sloth!  It was way too high up for me to get a photo of it, but man was the sloth cute! The butterflies were cute too, but considering that they don’t rank very high on my list of favorite insects, I think I actually preferred the sloth…

And with that I need to get some sleep so I can get up tomorrow in time to see what came to the moth traps I helped set up this evening.  The researcher setting the traps is interested in discovering which moths are using a species of native bamboo in North Carolina and we set out two traps.  Hopefully they won’t be completely full of rainwater tomorrow so I can start to learn some of the moths of my new state!


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

11 thoughts on “Friday 5: Insects of the Arthropod Zoo

  1. I love your posts about your new job and environment! (Long-time lurker, first-time commenter.)

    I used to work at an insect zoo, and there were indeed a lot of people who would loudly discuss how awful and icky and gross insects (and especially spiders) were. But the kids, who almost universally loved all the animals, mostly made up for it–and every now and then we’d get an adult who overcame a long-standing fear (usually spiders) or learned something that made them go “Huh, I never thought of it that way…” and that was awesome, too.

    • Yes! Getting an adult to overcome a fear is always a great experience, and hearing all those excited kids can make the rest okay. I’ve always wondered at what age kids stop liking insects and start thinking of them as dirty, disgusting animals. I’m thinking right around 7 or 8, if not before for some people. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject if you check back!

      • I think it depends a lot on what the parents model and encourage. We had really good school saturation in our area, so in general most kids who had visited at some point before…oh, maybe age 10? Would be super excited. Older kids who had never visited were a lot more cautious. I think about 50% of two-year-olds were terrified of butterflies–I think because of their unpredictable flight patterns–but this seemed to be a temporary thing, although really strongly age-linked.

        But I’m not really sure–I actually never liked insects much as a kid, and really did not want to touch most arthropods, and I didn’t get to see the same kids over long periods of time. It’s just in the last few years as an adult that I’ve gotten into insects. I think maybe insects appeal to kids partly because kids are down lower and focusing closer (you know how little kids are often very unaware of their general surroundings?), and insects are on their level, something they can interact with really concretely. So it’s possible the shift has something to do with that–as kids’ focus shifts upward/outward maybe?–but I’m not sure exactly how.

  2. But all cockroaches are that beautiful. Really. Look at them without years of cultural animosity against them clouding your thinking and they’re all rather attractive animals. The only thing that lets you see these guys as more attractive than our house pests is that they look different enough to throw off your sense of revulsion that you’ve built up.

    • I wholeheartedly agree with you! I like the bug guys pictured abover especially well, but I like them all. Good thing too because my office on campus in Tucson was FULL of them! They’d run across my hands as I was typing during the middle of the day, so they seemed quite fearless for roaches. I feel sorry for any squeamish people who take over that space…

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