Did you know that the combined weight of the world's insects exceeds the combined mass of humans by a whopping 50 to 1? The Audubon Insectarium in New Orleans offers a fascinating look at the life of insects and will have you well-versed in all things bug by day’s end.
Brightly painted murals just inside the Canal Street entrance tell a colorful history and transport visitors back to prehistoric times when many giant insects roamed the Earth. The ancestral dragonfly, for instance, had an intimidating 30-inch wingspan, longer than certain hawks today.
In an "underground" exhibit, you wind through tunnels where replications of insects dwell in the darkness. Under a canopy of fake leaves, only the slightest hint of light filters in, and the room feels like the underground lair of a terrifying assortment of legs and pinchers. Video installations show these underground dwellers busy at work in the ground beneath our feet.
Enter the Louisiana Swamp exhibit into a dimly lit room awash in the sounds of chirping cicadas. A cylindrical pool mimics the dusky atmosphere of the wetlands and plays host to alligators, crawfish and insects such as predacious diving beetles, water scorpions and the Carolina praying mantis. Here, visitors can marvel at the infamous Black Widow spider. Kept safely encased behind glass, this intricately formed arachnid has a bite that packs a powerful, venomous punch.
In the Metamorphosis Lab, glass containers house butterflies at all stages of development. During the course of a day, multiple butterflies emerge from chrysalises while lucky visitors watch. At Bug Appetit, the brave can sample insect-inspired culinary creations such as "Cajun crispy crickets," cinnamon-and-sugar waxworms, and "mealworm salsa."
While much of the information written or shown through photographs, the live bugs are the most interesting (sometimes skin-crawling) part of the education. Witness a massive colony where tiny worker ants haul bits of leaves and flowers much larger than their bodies up a tall branch. Squirming maggots might not be much to look at, but they assist forensic scientists in their work, piecing together the time and cause of death at a crime scene. Love bugs, often mistakenly thought to be two-headed, spend the entirety of their brief lifespan in the throes of mating.
For adults and children, the insectarium offers a spectacular glimpse into the world of insects and demonstrates how these tiny creatures play a crucial, often overlooked, role in every ecosystem.