Imagine that you look up to see two 11-foot Atlas beetles lock horns to engage in a battle for a fair maiden, then hear the hissing sound of a 22-foot jungle nymph rubbing its wings together in self-defense, and turn around to see a giant caterpillar foraging for food before it morphs into a butterfly, and then catch sight of a desert locust with a 20-foot wingspan and then a 19-foot praying mantis preparing to lunge at its prey. You might think you are in the midst of your weirdest dream ever but, in fact, you could be standing in the middle of the “Giant Insects” touring exhibit, which opened this month at the Science Museum of Virginia.

Designed by the acclaimed Kokoro Exhibits company, known for the scientific accuracy of its animatronic replicas of a spectrum of creatures and their movements, the exhibit is immersive and interactive and conveys the wonders of entomology through an impactful and unforgettable experience.

“How fun is it to seem like you are the size of a bug and the bug is your size,” said Timshel Purdum, Director of Playful Learning. “Along the way, we hope to ‘squash’ some of the fears people have about bugs. Visitors will leave with a new appreciation for their amazing adaptations and complex behavior.”

The highlights of the wildly popular exhibit are six robotic insects that are from 40 to 120 times larger than life size. Additional displays invite visitors to remotely control the heads of dragonfly, honey bee and mosquito, viewed through props of giant magnifying glasses, to observe the way each moves its jaw to eat. At other interactive displays, children can test their knowledge at activity stations where they can match camouflaging insects with their environments, attach a head, wings and legs to a thorax to assemble an insect, and explore the different sounds made by insects as well as view the amazing process of metamorphosis.

“There is also an element of the exhibit called ‘Bug Bytes’ that conveys at-a-glance fascinating information about various insects. Our staff will be on-site to engage visitors and will tailor their conversations to the interests of each guest,” said Jennifer Guild, Manager of Communications and Curiosity. In addition, the museum will feature a live “bug zoo” with eight enclosures with different species of arthropods that staff members will show visitors and talk about.

While all the exhibits may beckon the snap of a cell-phone camera, there will also be photo-op stations for selfies with a larger-than-life ladybug or black widow spider.

“The exhibit is packed with so much mind-blowing information, guests may not be able to remember everything they heard, but we hope they will remember one or two facts that will spark their curiosity and desire to learn more,” said Guild.

In addition to the exhibit, the museum will also be hosting their ongoing activities that will be adapted for the “Insects” theme. The Boost! Kitchen demonstrations will feature concoctions created with cricket flour and provide all participants with an “I Ate a Bug!” stickers.

The “Science After Dark” program offered Friday evening will be dubbed “Bug Out!” and will include opportunities for visitors to make LED lightning bugs and chromatography butterflies as well as take in a planetarium show in the Dome theater at 6:30 and 7:15 p.m. At 8 p.m., the Dome will feature a viewing of the classic family film “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” and after the shows, visitors are invited to step outside (weather permitting) to stargaze through telescopes provided by the Richmond Astronomical Society.

Collette Caprara is a local writer and artist.

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