Insect Zoos (Insects)

Insect zoos, exhibits that display live insects and arthropods to the general public, have gained recognition for their broad appeal and enormous educational value. They have demonstrated that insects are interesting to millions of people, not just a select few and draw huge visitation crowds if done well. Insects represent the majority of terrestrial species on earth and display a dazzling diversity of lifestyles, behaviors, and adaptations. The great naturalists Pliny, Fabre, Wallace, Darwin, Belt, and Wheeler possessed a boundless desire to observe living insects in the natural world. The observation of living insects in the field and lab still excites the imagination of naturalists today, and the general public has been increasingly infected with this enthusiasm through exposure to the lives of insects through superb nature films and photography. Insect zoos provide opportunities for positive firsthand observations of live insects to millions of people each year. These exhibits are intended to inspire a desire to learn more, to balance the myths and misrepresentations promoted by the cinema and other commercial media. Insectariums have proven to be enormously popular with the public wherever they appear, whether modest or grand, whether showcasing native or exotic species. Today there are over 100 insect zoo exhibits throughout the world.


The term “insect zoo” has been applied to facilities of many different types. Defined broadly, an insect zoo or insectarium is an exhibit facility dedicated to the display of live insects housed in a separate room, building, or distinct exhibit hall and maintained primarily for public visitation. Insect zoos typically are permanent, year-round facilities that house live insects and related groups of arthropods (arachnids, centipedes, millipedes, and crustaceans) and occasionally representatives of other invertebrate groups. Insect zoos have been built in zoological parks, natural history museums, botanical gardens, county parks, horticultural centers, amusement parks, nature reserves, and universities, and on privately owned land. Interest in their development has increased (excluding the period between the first and second world wars) with growing public interest in biodiversity and the documented success of insect exhibits (Table I ).
Most facilities contain a series of terrariums, where species are displayed in naturalistic mini-environments. A major insectarium is a comprehensive coverage of the class Insecta, representing many different orders such as Coleoptera, Hymenoptera, Orthoptera, and Mantodea. Observation honey bee hives, ant and termite colonies, walkingsticks, katydids, lubber grasshoppers, and assassin bugs are a few examples of typical displays. These facilities can be distinguished from collections of a few species of arthropod housed in a reptile house or aquarium or included in an exhibit that focuses on the interpretation of a particular ecosystem. Many tropical rain forest exhibits today include a few displays of insects, often a leafcutter ant exhibit and a few other invertebrates as nominal representatives of the vast diversity of invertebrates. However, overall these exhibits emphasize the vertebrate fauna of rain forests and present a relatively minor treatment of the subject of invertebrates. Major insectariums typically have between 30 and 100 live displays, exhibiting up to 100 species of arthropods.
A butterfly house or lepidoptery is a type of live insect facility that primarily displays members of the order Lepidoptera, typically in a large walk-through immersion exhibit enclosed in glass or screening, such as the Cockerell Butterfly House in Houston. Some facilities are combinations of both insect zoos and butterfly houses. Year-round walk-through butterfly houses vary in size. The Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House in Chesterfield, Missouri, covers 511m2, whereas the Penang Butterfly House in Penang, Malaysia, is much larger (1474 m2). Seasonal exhibits are generally smaller. A few facilities, such as the insectarium at the Tama Zoo in Japan, display grasshoppers and aquatic species in walk-through immersion exhibits more typical of butterfly houses.


Live insects are one of the best teaching tools for children and adults alike. Despite an enormous range and intensity of educational, research, and conservation activities, most insectariums and butterfly displays offer some level of educational programming that promotes the appreciation and understanding of insect life. Aside from the actual live exhibits and graphics, these programs take the form of informal presentations, hands-on opportunities to touch live animals, formal classes and lectures from kindergarten to university level, teacher training, field trips, outreach programs, printed educational materials, multimedia materials, Web-based resources, and special events such as insect fairs and film festivals. In addition to these more lofty goals, insects have proven to be enormously popular with the public and thus are used to generate increased visitation and revenue for various types of nonprofit organizations and commercial enterprises.


List of Selected Insect Exhibits Built Worldwide from 1797 through 2008
Exhibit Date of establishment
Small early acclimatization collections
Jardin des Plantes, Museum d’Histoire Naturelle et Menagerie, Paris, France 1797
Jardin d’Acclimatisation, Paris, France 1860
Permanent exhibits
Insect House. London Zoo, London, England (renovation 1913, Web of Life, 1999) 1881
Insect House (renovated in 2005), Butterfly Pavilion (2006), Artis Zoo, Amsterdam, Netherlands 1898
Frankfurt Zoo, Frankfurt, Germany (renovation 1957) 1904
Zoologischer Garten KSln, Cologne, Germany (new Insektarium 1971) 1905 – 1929, 1971
Budapest Zoo, Budapest, Hungary (renovations: Vivarium, 1970; Butterflies, 2000) 1907
Zoo-Aquarium Berlin, Berlin, Germany (renovated 1978-1983) 1913
Zoologischer Garten, Leipzig, Germany 1913
Gruga Park, Essen, Germany 1956
Sherbourne Butterfly House, Dorset, England 1960
LSbbecke Museum and Aquazoo, Dusseldorf, Germany (renovation in 1987) 1970
Guernsey Butterfly Farm, England 1977
Insektarium, Zoological-Botanic Garden Wilhelma, Stuttgart, Germany 1980
London Butterfly House, Syon Park, England 1981
Stratford-Upon-Avon Butterfly Farm, Stratford-upon-Avon, England 1985
Papiliorama-Nocturama, Marin Center, Neuchatel, Switzerland 1988
Dortmund Zoo, Dortmund, Germany 1991
Bug World, Bristol Zoo, Bristol, England (renovated in 1996) 1992
Butterflies Center, Girona, Spain 1995
Mariposario del Drago, Tenerife, Spain 1997
Idea Schmetterlings-Paradies Neuenmark, Germany 1998
Krefeld Zoo, Krefeld, Germany 1998
Micropolis, Saint-Leon-en Levezou France 2000
The Butterfly Arc, Montegrotto Terme, Italy (seasonal, 1988) 2001
Projeckledare Aquademin, Sweden “Science Centre,” GSteborg, Sweden 2001
Takarazuka Insectarium, Takarazuka Zoological and Botanical Garden, Japan 1954 – 1967
Toshima-en Insectarium, Toshima-en Amusement Park, Tokyo, Japan 1957
Insectarium, Tama Zoo, Japan (renovations in 1966, 1975, 1988) 1961
Penang Butterfly House, Penang, Malaysia 1986
Phuket Butterfly Garden and Insect World, Phuket, Thailand 1990
Fragile Forest, Singapore Zoo, Singapore 1998
Insectarium, Hiroshima City Forest Park, Hiroshima, Japan unk
Bangkok Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, Bangkok, Thailand unk
Insectarium, Shanghai Zoo, Shanghai, China unk
North America
United States
Early short-lived or seasonal exhibits
Bronx Zoo, New York Zoological Society, New York 1910, 1940, 1945
Goddard State Park, Providence, Rhode Island 1934 – 1937
Chicago (Brookfield) Zoo, Brookfield, Illinois 1938,1947-1950
Flushing Meadow Zoo, New York 1969 – 1970
Insect Zoo, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC 1971
Permanent year-round exhibits
Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum, Tucson, Arizona 1952
Otto Orkin Insect Zoo, Butterfly Pavilion added in 2008, Smithsonian Museum ofNatural History, Washington, DC 1976, 2008
World of the Insect, Cincinnati Zoo and Botanic Garden, Cincinnati, Ohio 1978
Insect Zoo, San Francisco Zoological Gardens, San Francisco, California 1979
Invertebrate Exhibit, National Zoological Park, Washington DC 1987
Butterfly World, Coconut Creek, Florida 1988
Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center, Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain, Georgia 1988
Ralph K. Parsons Insect Zoo, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, California 1992
Cypress Gardens, Winter Haven, Florida 1992
Terminex Insect City, Fort Worth Zoo, Fort Worth, Texas 1992
Butterfly Encounter, San Diego Wild Animal Park, Escondido, California 1993
Moody Gardens, Galveston, Texas 1993

TABLE I Continued

Exhibit Date of establishment
Cockerell Butterfly House, Insect Zoo (IZ renovation 2007), Houston Natural Science Museum, Houston, Texas 1994
Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center, Westminster, Colorado 1995
Detroit Zoo, Royal Oak, Michigan 1995
Bug World, Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle, Washington 1996
Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House, Chesterfield, Missouri 1998
Chicago Academy of Sciences, Chicago, Illinois 1999
Tropical Butterfly House and Insect Village, Pacific Science Center, Seattle, Washington, California 1999
Mosanto Insectarium, St Louis Zoo, St Louis, Missouri 2000
Puelicher Butterfly Wing, Milwaukee Public Museum, Wisconsin 2000
Magic Wings, South Deerfield, Massachusetts 2000
Butterfly House & Insectarium, North Carolina Museum ofLife & Science, Durham, North Carolina 2000
Audubon Insectarium, Louisiana 2008
L’Insectarium de Montreal, Montreal, Quebec 1990
The Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory, Niagara Falls, Ontario 1996
Newfoundland Insectarium, Deer Lake, Newfoundland 1997
Victoria Bug Zoo, Victoria 1997
F. Jean MacLeod Butterfly Gallery, Science North Sudbury, Ontario 2000
L’Arche des Papillons cm. Inc., Quebec 2000
Insectarium de Quebec, Quebec, Canada 2007
Butterfly House andWorld ofBugs (2002), Royal Melbourne Zoological Park, Parkville, Victoria 1985
Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, Kuranda, Queensland 1987
Insectarium of Victoria, Woodend Victoria 1993-2007
Bugs Alive, Melbourne Museum, Melbourne 2004
New Zealand
Butterfly and Orchid Garden, Thames, New Zealand 1999
Latin America
The Butterfly Farm, La Guacima de Alajuela, Costa Rica 1990
The Butterfly Garden at Shipstern Nature Reserve, Belize 1990
Spirogyra Butterfly Garden, San Jose, Costa Rica 1992
La Selva Butterfly Farm—Primary Forest, Ecuador 1992
Green Hills Butterfly Ranch and Botanical Collection, Cayo District, Beliz 1997
Tropical Wings Nature Center, Cayo District, Belize 1998
Insectarium de la Reunion, Reunion 1992
ButterflyWorld, Klapmuts, South Africa 1996
West Indies
La Ferme des Papillons, St Martin, French West Indies 1994

Basic and applied research is carried out by some facilities, resulting in presentations at conferences and publications in conference proceedings and scientific journals. Several insectariums participate in captive breeding programs for threatened or endangered species such as the American burying beetle, Nicrophorus americanus, the Italian ground beetle, Chrysocarabus olympiae, the giant wetas, Deinacrida spp., and the Lord Howe Island stick insect, Dryococelus australis (Fig. 1). For example, London Zoo currently manages six invertebrate conservation programs, involving 38 species. In situ conservation programs are also supported by a number of insectari-ums and their parent organizations.
Some of the early insectariums began with the immediate goal of raising food for insectivorous zoo animals such as the Tama Zoo’s Insectarium, which opened in its first form in 1961. It was felt that decreases in wild populations of grasshoppers due to widespread use of insecticides required the development of stable food sources. An earlier insectarium at Tokyo’s Toshima-en Amusement Park was developed with the idea of using its live insect residents for making nature films.


Facilities that house live insects are as diverse in construction as in the type of sponsoring institution. To face the challenges of exhibiting small, short-lived, seasonally limited, diapausing animals with radically different life stages, major facilities rely heavily on the in-house maintenance of breeding colonies so that the specimens are available year-round. Founder stock is collected from the wild or obtained through exchange or purchase from other insectaries to establish and maintain genetically healthy colonies. In contrast, many butterfly houses rely on independently run breeding facilities, often in the species’s country of origin. Pupae are generally received weekly from various butterfly ranches or farms. Some butterfly houses also have supplemental in-house breeding colonies of selected species of butterflies. Many for-profit butterfly houses maintain breeding populations both for their own display and to sell to other butterfly houses.
Exhibit techniques have not changed much during the 120 years since the opening of the first insect exhibit at the London Zoo
The Lord How than 80 years e Island stick insect Dryococelus australis of which both sexes are flightless was thought to have become extinct more ago after the supply ship Mokambo ran aground in 1918 and rats were released onto the island. In 2001, a National Parks and Wildlife Service survey rediscovered individuals on nearby, almost soilless, Ball's Pyramid Island and Melbourne Zoo's Insect Department embarked on a captive breeding program for this very endangered species. Photograph © 2008, courtesy of the Melbourne Zoo.
FIGURE 1 The Lord How than 80 years e Island stick insect Dryococelus australis of which both sexes are flightless was thought to have become extinct more ago after the supply ship Mokambo ran aground in 1918 and rats were released onto the island. In 2001, a National Parks and Wildlife Service survey rediscovered individuals on nearby, almost soilless, Ball’s Pyramid Island and Melbourne Zoo’s Insect Department embarked on a captive breeding program for this very endangered species. Photograph © 2008, courtesy of the Melbourne Zoo.
in 1881 (Fig. 2) . Even in 1881, informative labels and preserved specimens accompanied live insects. The major change has been the inclusion of interactive techniques and graphics to enhance the interpretive experience of the display. Today, insectariums are really zoo-museum hybrids. Interactive computer modules, microscopes, audio tracks, video loops, models, robotics, and cultural artifacts are now used to enrich and enliven the educational messages. Special displays on topics related to cultural entomology have been included in some facilities such as the Insect Zoo at the San Francisco Zoo, which has produced special exhibits on ancient cricket cages of China, insects as human food, and aquatic insects, fly fishing and fly tying in North America. These techniques combine to address different visitor learning styles, ages, and interests. Some facilities have educational outdoor garden displays to focus attention on native insects and plant interactions, and a few facilities adjoin or are sister organizations to native wildlife reserves.
Most often, insect exhibit facilities are associated with larger institutions. Zoological gardens such as the London Zoo, Cologne Zoo, Berlin Zoo, Tama Zoo, Cincinnati Zoo, San Francisco Zoo, and St Louis Zoo all contain major insectariums. General histories of zoos and aquariums, while focused on vertebrates, can be found in the detailed records of zoo registrars and in edited volumes by Kisling, and Hoage and Diess. Natural history museums such as the Smithsonian National
The London Zoo opened the first major insect exhibit in the world in 1881.
FIGURE 2 The London Zoo opened the first major insect exhibit in the world in 1881.
Museum of Natural History, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and the Houston Museum of Natural Science have insect zoos or butterfly houses; the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center is located within Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia; universities such as Kansas State University, Michigan State University, the University of Joensuu in Finland, and the University of Alberta in Canada all have seasonal butterfly gardens or insect zoos. The Insectarium de Montreal (Canada), the Insectarium of Victoria (Australia), the Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center (Colorado) are examples of independent stand-alone facilities. Insectariums vary from tax-supported municipal institutions to nonprofit organizations to for-profit corporations. The for-profit businesses such as the Penang Butterfly House in Malaysia, Stratford-Upon-Avon Butterfly Farm in England, Butterfly World in Florida, and the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary in Australia serve as both public exhibits and commercial suppliers. While many are permanent, year-round facilities, the popularity of live insect exhibits (and perhaps the short life span and easy transportability of insects) has allowed for the explosion of temporary or seasonal exhibits, particularly butterfly displays.


During the 19th century, expanding empires, increased trade, and improved transportation and communication stimulated interest in exotic wildlife. European powers sent expeditions to bring back specimens for potential domestication and commercial use. Illustrated publications on biological subjects appeared, and topics recounting the adventures of naturalist explorers allowed the public the vicarious thrill of discovery. With the emergence of modern systematics, the number of described genera rose. This was a fertile time of new discoveries and new theories. Darwin, Wallace, and others pondered the origin of species. From 1828 through 1914, each year an average of two zoological institutions opened throughout the world; the total was 168, with 86 in Europe alone. Themes of metamorphosis and evolution permeated art and literature. The Industrial Revolution transformed commercial production and altered attitudes toward nature as reflected in the diverse philosophies encompassed by the Art Nouveau movement (~1870-1914). Menageries toured, zoological gardens sprang up, and exotic nature became a source of fashionable urban pleasure and scientific study.


FRANCE Loisel’s 1912 history of zoos documents the early development of zoos in general and includes some interesting details about a few insect exhibits. In France, the Jardin des Plantes was created in 1793 adjacent to the Museum d’Histoire Naturelle and the Menagerie d’Observation Zoologique. A chair of Insects and Worms was created, and its first occupant was Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. The Jardin’s mission was exploration to find species of plants and animals for utility or ornament, with instruction of the public as a minor goal. In 1797, the visitors could view silkworms and stroll through the grounds past honey bees, which were housed in a large glass hexagonal structure. In the middle of the 19th century, a disease killed almost all the silkworms in France. In 1860, the Jardin Zoologique d’Acclimatisation was created on the western fringe of Paris to focus on the study of animals of economic utility. New species of silkworm were imported from China and India and kept at the Jardin d’Acclimatisation. Two of these species were acclimatized, and a fertile hybrid was produced. French scientist Louis Pasteur, in 1870, rescued the silk industry by discovering that the then epidemic “pebrine disease” of silkworms, now known to be borne by Nosema bombycis, could be prevented through microscopic examination of adult moths and isolation of uninfected stock. These advances set the trend for a more scientific approach to silk production.
In France today, a handful of butterfly houses have appeared as independent facilities. In 2000, a new theme park called Micropolis opened in the town Saint-Leon-en Levezou, which was home to the famous French entomologist Jean-Henri Fabre, and another opened in Aveyron, Fabre’s birthplace.


In 1828, the Zoological Society of London (London Zoo) opened, and visiting it became a popular recreational pastime. Commercial butterfly farms appeared as early as 1865 in Colchester, England. In 1881, a mere 53 years after its debut, the London Zoo opened the first major public insect house. In what had been a refreshment room, a series of terrari-ums on tables along the wall and in the center of the room displayed live specimens of silkworms, aquatic insects, and other invertebrates. Display tanks were well labeled, and mounted specimens enhanced the exhibit.
Seventeen years after the opening of London’s insect zoo, in 1898, the Artis Zoo in Amsterdam opened the Insectarium founded by schoolteacher Rudolph A. Polak, who feared that the urban population was becoming alienated from nature. Polak was part of the ” Biologisch Reveil” (reveil means wake-up call) movement—to remind people of their connection to the natural world. His goal was to use insects to bring children into close contact with nature, and this tradition is still carried on today at the Artis Zoo. Amazingly, Polak continued to work as a teacher and ran the Insectarium as a volunteer staff person.
In the early 1900s, other insect-viewing opportunities existed as well. In 1900, a businessman operated a butterfly farm in Kent, where he bred various species to sell to collectors, museums, and universities in England and America. In 1908, Londoners could pay 6 pence (equivalent to perhaps $10 today) to visit the storefront menagerie display of an enterprising optician, filled with display cases of live bees and ants. The London Zoo, where the formal display of live insects really began, celebrated the new millennium by creating the Web of Life facility in 1999, boasting 65 live displays, 156 invertebrate species, a room-sized enclosure for desert locusts, Schistocerca gregaria (including a half-buried jeep for atmosphere), and a giant anteater.
Long involvement with the silk industry and an active amateur naturalist community seemed to make England fertile ground for the birth of modern-day butterfly houses. Businessman David Lowe, who created the Guernsey Butterfly Farm in 1977, went on to create seven other facilities in England by 1984. The London Butterfly House in Syon Park opened in 1981, and Stratford-Upon-Avon Butterfly Farm, which followed in 1985, includes an extensive insect zoo exhibit adjoining the free-flight butterfly display. In 1986, there were approximately 40 butterfly houses in England. They number closer to 20 today.


The Frankfurt Zoo opened its first insect house in 1904 as a seasonal exhibit in the summer (in the winter it was used for storks). In 1957, Frankfurt Zoo built a new large insectarium on top floor above the renovated aquarium. The Zoologischer Garten Koln (Cologne Zoo) opened an insect house in 1905 and maintained it through 1929. A new insectarium was built in 1971, with a butterfly room at its entrance on the first floor of the new aquarium-terrarium, with approximately 60 species maintained in this facility. The Budapest Zoo in Hungary opened its first insect exhibit in 1907 and renovated the vivarium in 1970, exhibiting 68 species. In 2000, a butterfly exhibit was added to the zoo. In 1913, the Berlin Zoo opened a large insect exhibit on the third floor of the new aquarium, as did the Zoologischer Garten Leipzig. The Berlin Zoo’s building, destroyed during World War II, was rebuilt after 1945. The exhibit was renovated again in 1978 through 1983 and maintains over 35 species. An insect section was opened in Gruga Park in Essen in 1956, and in 1970, the Lobbecke Museum in Dusseldorf built a large insect exhibit associated with its aquarium. In 1987, the new Lobbecke Museum and Aquazoo opened an insectarium as the centerpiece of the whole new building. In 1980, the Zoological-Botanic Garden Wilhelma in Stuttgart built an insectarium exhibiting 35 species. The Dortmund Zoo and the Krefeld Zoo built butterfly exhibits in 1991 and 1998, respectively. The Noorder Zoo in the Netherlands, the Zoologicka Zaharada Praha in Czechoslovakia, and the Tiergarten Schonbrunn in Austria also have insect zoo exhibits.
Although no records have been found to document the early exhibition of live insects in China, the Chinese have long had a complex appreciation of the insect world. The development of silkworm culture and silk production, the development of bee culture, the early and extensive use of insects in traditional medicine, and the use of crickets as pets in the T’ang dynasty (618-906) suggest an advanced appreciation of the utility and aesthetics of insect life.
Yajima describes the development of insectariums in Japan. The Insectarium at the Takarazuka Zoological and Botanical Garden opened in 1954 and was expanded in 1967. The Toshimaen Insectarium, at the Toshima-en Amusement Park in Tokyo, opened in the late 1950s. In 1961, Yajima went on to design the first incarnation of the Insectarium at the Tama Zoo. In 1966, Tama Zoo’s Insectarium opened a walk-through grasshopper greenhouse filled with 6000 grasshoppers in addition to a walk-through butterfly house. A firefly building was added in 1975. In 1988, a new insectarium was built at the Tama Zoo, which mixed traditional terrarium-type exhibits with walkthrough exhibits without guardrails of Orthoptera, fireflies, butterflies, beetles, ants, and aquatic insects. Insect Ecological Land had a construction cost of over $5 million and increased attendance to the zoo by 20%. At its opening, 94 species were maintained by a staff of 12. As of 1995, there were 30 live insect exhibits in Japan alone.
Other insectariums and butterfly houses can be found throughout Asia. The Penang Butterfly House in Malaysia was founded in 1986. Attached to the butterfly display is an exhibit of Malaysian insects and arthropods. The Fragile Forest exhibit, which opened at the Singapore Zoo in 1998, displays butterflies and other insects. Insect exhibits have opened in Hiroshima, Japan, Sentosa Island, Singapore, and Bangkok, Thailand.

North America

Insectariums developed more slowly in the United States. Although the early entomologist Thomas Say contributed to bringing respect to the science of entomology in the early part of the 19th century, the zoological gardens in the United States remained focused on the display of vertebrates and the natural history museums focused on nonliving exhibits. Interest in representing invertebrate biodiversity, either taxonomically or zoogeographically in these institutions, lagged behind that shown by their European counterparts. Enduring insec-tariums did not take hold in America until the late 1970s.
However, a number of early successful experiments at both zoos and museums proved extremely popular with the public. The New York Zoological Society Bulletin chronicles several early attempts. Raymond L. Ditmars, Curator of Reptiles at the Bronx Zoo and world-renowned herpetologist, actually began his career in science as an entomologist working as an assistant curator in the Entomology Department at the American Museum of Natural History. Throughout his tenure, he maintained a keen interest in insects. In 1910, under his direction, a live arthropod exhibit consisting of 56 cages and containing silk moths in various life stages, lubber grasshoppers, Hercules beetles, and tarantulas was set up as an experiment. A portion of the moths that emerged from the silk moth collections were mounted and sold as souvenirs by the Bureau of Information in the Lion House. The exhibit was so popular with visitors that plans were made to make it a permanent feature at the zoo. The permanent facility was never built, but Ditmars persevered and in 1940, a Department of Insects was created with Ditmars as curator. Ditmars died in 1942, however, without having brought the plan to fruition. Brayton Eddy, an entomologist for the state of Rhode Island, was hired as the new curator of insects in 1945. Eddy’s experience included the development of a seasonal live insect zoo at Goddard State Park in Providence, housed in the first floor of the stately mansion on the property from 1934 to 1937. Then Eddy died unexpectedly in 1950, and again a planned permanent insect exhibit never got started. The new exhibit was to have featured local insects and tropical imports sent by Dr William Beebe from his research station in Venezuela.
During the 1930s and 1940s, the Chicago Zoo (later renamed the Brookfield Zoo) was planning and experimenting with its own invertebrate exhibit; construction on the Insect House (also called the Invertebrate House or the Special Exhibit and Demonstration Building) was completed between 1934 and 1938. Grace Olive Riley, acting as curator of reptiles and invertebrates, was succeeded by Robert Snediger as reptile curator. Snediger organized the “Animals Without Backbones” exhibit, which ran from 1947 into the early 1950s. Bees, cockroaches, aquatic insects, spiders, scorpions, centipedes, leeches, and other invertebrates were displayed, along with amoebas. Though planned as a permanent feature by Brookfield Zoo’s early designers, the Insect Building was later converted into the zoo’s library. The exhibits developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were not very different from the exhibits of today. Glass terrariums with screened lids displayed on tables containing local and exotic insect life were the state of the art in 1881, 1910, the 1940s, 1970s and 1990s.
Worth mentioning is the arthropod exhibit that was included as a permanent feature in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum from its
opening date in 1952. Although not large, either in species number or in size of tanks, this collection was innovative in that it included invertebrates in the interpretation of an ecosystem. Then 20 years passed during which the early invertebrate exhibits seem to have vanished from the consciousness of zoo administrators.
Another period of experimentation with short-lived insect exhibitions emerged. An insect zoo was created at the Flushing Meadows Zoo from 1969 to 1970, and another was assembled at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in 1971. The immense popularity of the exhibit at the Smithsonian resulted in the opening of the museum’s permanent insect zoo in 1976, in time to greet the International Congress of Entomology, which held its meeting that year in Washington, DC. A natural history museum had now stepped permanently into the world of live insect display, an endeavor formerly restricted to zoological gardens or commercial rearing facilities staffed by persons used to dealing with the challenges and demands of live animals. From the start, the Smithsonian staff interacted with visitors daily with informal hands-on demonstrations, and the species inventory included both local and exotic specimens collected by Smithsonian entomologists in the field.
Cincinnati Zoo followed the Smithsonian in 1978 and opened a new building containing 68 live displays and housing 70-100 species. This facility, the World of the Insect, set a new standard for insec-tariums in the United States. It also set a new standard for monetary commitment to insect exhibits, with a price tag of $1 million, including the cost of the new stand-alone building, custom-made terrari-ums, colorful graphics, and educational interactive exhibits borrowed from museum methodology.
The Insect Zoo at the San Francisco Zoo opened in 1979 as a temporary summer exhibit in an unused auditorium building in the children’s zoo section. Zoo attendance instantly increased by 50%, and the collection became a permanent facility, the second largest in the United States for two decades, containing 35 displays and maintaining 70 species.
In the United States, the three permanent insectariums created in the 1970s (at the Smithsonian, the Cincinnati Zoo, and the San Francisco Zoo) were really “arthropod zoos,” with an occasional mol-lusk, leech, or annelid thrown in. Yet these exhibits became models for many subsequent projects that followed throughout the country. Emphasis was placed on the development of year-round breeding colonies and use of native and exotic species.
The only other invertebrate exhibit to open in the following decade, excluding the butterfly houses, was the Invertebrate Exhibit, which opened in 1987 on the lower floor of the Reptile House of the National Zoo, showing tropical insects alongside marine invertebrates such as cephalopods. A pollinarium exhibit was added in 1996.
The only nonbutterfly insect exhibit to emerge in the 1990s was the Ralph K. Parsons Insect Zoo at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Modest at its opening in 1992, it has grown to 40 live displays.
New walk-through butterfly exhibits dominated the late 1980s and early 1990s modeled on free-flight greenhouse exhibits in England. In 1988, the $3 million Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens opened in Georgia. Two for-profit Florida endeavors, Butterfly World and the Butterfly House at Cypress Gardens, opened in 1988 and 1992, respectively. Back in the zoo world, the San Diego Wild Animal Park’s Butterfly Encounter debuted in 1993. In 1994, the Houston Museum of Natural Science opened the Cockerell Butterfly Center, a three-story immersion butterfly glasshouse attached to the museum, attracting 700,000 visitors during its first year of operation. A live arthropod exhibit room was later added to this facility. In 1995,the Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center became the first stand-alone nonprofit insect facility in the United States.
In the 1990s, at least 20 seasonal butterfly houses emerged, including several supported by universities such as Michigan State University and Kansas State University under the auspices of their respective Departments of Entomology. The insectarium at the St Louis Zoo opened in 2000. Costing $4 million and maintaining 80-100 species in addition to a butterfly display, it became the most important facility to open in over a decade.
Parallel developments have occurred in Canada, but the most notable was the development of the Insectarium de Montreal founded by Georges Brossard in 1990. This $8 million exhibit mixed classic European museum design with multimedia interactive displays and challenged the live animal exhibit community to set a higher standard for the construction of new insectariums to educate the public about insects, which represent 80-95% of the animal species on terrestrial earth.


In Australia, the Melbourne Zoo was the first to get into the invertebrate business by opening a butterfly house in 1985. The Insectarium of Victoria and the Victorian Institute of Invertebrate Sciences opened at Heathcote in 1993, moving in 1998 to Woodend until closing in 2007. They displayed Astacopsis gouldi, or the giant yabby or crayfish, one of the largest freshwater invertebrates on earth. Bugs Alive! (Fig. 3) is Melbourne’s newest insect exhibit.

Latin America and Africa

Butterfly exhibit houses in Latin America are most commonly derived from commercial butterfly ranching and farming operations. The Butterfly Farm in La Guacima de Alajuela, Costa Rica, founded in 1990, and Spirogyra Butterfly Garden in San Jose, Costa Rica, established in 1992, typify these facilities. The Green Hills Butterfly Ranch in Belmopan, Belize, is a display as well as commercial supplier, as is the La Selva Butterfly Farm in Ecuador. The Butterfly World in Klapmuts, South Africa, was opened in 1996.



Insectariums can play a strong role in conservation education. They can also play a role in the conservation of biodiversity in nature by providing economic opportunities for local populations that are alternatives to destructive resource extraction such as logging, mining, or conversion of forest land to agricultural enterprises such as cocoa, coffee, or oil palm plantations. It is difficult, if not impossible, to conserve natural resources where alternative economic opportunities are limited or absent. In response, as general awareness and concern for loss of tropical forest ecosystems and biodiversity emerged, the government of Papua New Guinea deemed insects a national resource and candidate for economic development. This policy resulted in the establishment of the Insect Farming and Trading Agency (IFTA) in 1978, to create income-producing opportunities for villages through nondestructive extraction of forest resources while at the same time creating incentive for preserving forest habitat. In 1983, a report published by an advisory committee of the National Research Council, in cooperation with the IFTA, promoted the idea of butterfly ranching and farming to supply research scientists, butterfly collectors, and other commercial uses. The report estimated that the current trade was between $10 and $20 million annually. Gram for gram, butterflies became more valuable than cattle. In 1981, it was estimated that an industrious butterfly farmer could earn from $100 to $3000 a year vs.
The aquatic beetles tank is one of 50 live invertebrate displays in the Bugs Alive! exhibit at the Melbourne Museum in Australia which opened in 2004. The uplighting helps highlight the water bubble on the undersides of the hydrophilid beetles. The exhibition also includes 12,000 pinned invertebrates
FIGURE 3 The aquatic beetles tank is one of 50 live invertebrate displays in the Bugs Alive! exhibit at the Melbourne Museum in Australia which opened in 2004. The uplighting helps highlight the water bubble on the undersides of the hydrophilid beetles. The exhibition also includes 12,000 pinned invertebrates
the mean per capita of $50. The IFTA sells $400,000 worth of stock annually and provides income for 1500 villagers in Papua New Guinea.
The worldwide explosion of public walk-through butterfly houses in the 1980s and 1990s created a new market for butterfly ranching and farming projects. Nairobi University scientists, working with the East African Natural History Society and the National Museums of Kenya, began the Kipepeo Project (kipepeo is Swahili for butterfly) in 1993 to protect the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest in Kenya. A United Nations Grant was awarded to develop sustainable utilization of butterfly biodiversity for the benefit of surrounding rural communities. In addition, a butterfly house was established as an ecotourism attraction to diversify the coastal tourism industry and to promote conservation of the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. Several butterfly ranching projects have been created in Costa Rica to promote the conservation of remaining remnants of forest habitat in that country. These projects rely on the purchase of pupae by live butterfly exhibits. Organizations such as the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, and the World Wildlife Fund have now participated in the development of similar projects in Central America, and in Irian Jaya and Sulawesi in Indonesia.
PapiHorama-Nocturama Tropical Gardens in Neuchatel, Switzerland, an exhibit and nonprofit organization that opened in 1988, invests income into a sister foundation, the International Tropical Conservation Foundation, which runs the 8.9 hectares Shipstern Nature Reserve in Belize. Shipstern also has its own public butterfly house on the reserve grounds.
Approaches to conservation have shifted in the past decade from focusing on single-species protection to ecosystem preservation. In 1987, for example, the Center for Ecosystem Survival, a nonprofit consortium serving zoos, aquariums, museums, and botanical gardens, was created in San Francisco to raise funds for biodiversity conservation through habitat protection, conserving invertebrates and plants as well as vertebrates and other forms of life. In 2008, a total of 138 informal science institutions collaborated in this program and raised over $3.5 million for habitat purchase and protection, fueled in part by increased public awareness of the magnitude and importance of insect biodiversity.

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