The Natural Science Center of Greensboro has bugs
Entering the Bug Discovery room of the Natural Science Center of Greensboro is like making your way through a deep, undiscovered jungle filled with wonder and uncertainty. The sounds of chirping and chattering insects can be heard as you enter the dark halls dimly lit with florescent tubes and blacklights. A large rhinoceros beetle sits in a corner as you enter, large enough for an adult to sit on and sure to make any wide-eyed kid feel the size of a bug him or herself.
Across from the beetle sits a small glass aquarium filled with giant hissing cockroaches from the forests of Madagascar. Though they are behind glass you can almost feel them crawling under your clothes as you watch them scurry about a giant log in their cage. Nearby in a separate aquarium a dead leaf mantis sits very still on a twig. This four-inch-long insect is from the rain forests of Malaysia and looks just like its name implies, like a dead leaf. It would be almost impossible to spot among a branch of brown leaves but, thankfully, would be as harmless as the hissing cockroaches if one were to stumble upon it in the wild. Not everything is from a foreign country, like the huge eastern lubber grasshoppers that can be found in the southeastern and central parts of the United States. I remember a summer vacation to Florida as a child where I found these large hoppers all over a campground and was amazed by their size. I took two back home for pets. They survived the 12-hour car trip but only lived a couple of months.
But not everything is innocent in the Bug Discovery room. There’s the Mexican fireleg tarantula that’s venomous but not aggressive, and the beautiful golden orb web spider from Australia that’s venomous, but not enough to harm. Then there are a large black widow spider and a brown recluse, both highly venomous and, in some cases, deadly. Luckily, they’re all safely behind lock and key.
Most of the creepy-crawlies found in the room are larger than what you normally find around North Carolina. Giant centipedes, millipedes and scorpions also command attention in the room.
Kids, of course, are fascinated with bugs and executive director Glenn Dobrogosz says the Bug Discovery room is one of the most popular exhibits. With few exceptions, mostly those of the poisonous varieties, many of the large critters came from people who once owned them as pets and decided, for whatever reason, they didn’t want them anymore. That’s how most of the animals at the Science Center came to be there as well, like a large anaconda that became too strong and aggressive for his owner, countless lizards and several turtles. Orphaned squirrels, birds, chipmunks and groundhogs also make up many of the zoo animals. There’s even an alligator and a crocodile that were confiscated by authorities in another state that make their homes at the Center. The gator was ordered illegally from a foreign country over the Internet and police found the croc in a bathtub while searching a home. Two 250-pound Aldabra tortoises will also become a part of the Center. These tortoises that come from the coast of Africa are also former pets that currently live in New York. The giants have become too large for their owner to handle and each eats two heads of cabbage per day.
Almost not a day goes by, says Dobrogosz, that the Center doesn’t receive a phone call from someone asking if they can take in a pet turtle, iguana, bird or some other animal. So plans for a new zoo to open sometime in early fall of next year will include a ‘Pets Gone Wild’ exhibit, one comprised of all the former pets taken in by the Center. The purpose of the exhibit will be to educate youngsters on how to properly care for a pet such as a spider, lizard or snake that will grow large and become smelly and cumbersome, and decide if such a pet is right for them after all.
The new 18-acre zoo will also include some new animals, such as tigers and bears, along with the animals already making the Center home. All current exhibits will be moved and revamped to make the exhibits flow better from one to another. Future plans also include a prehistoric zone, an Imax theatre, a science and technology area, and a water exploration zone and aquarium center.
The Center calls their plan ‘“the most creative, compelling and cost-effective museum vision and master plan in the state of North Carolina.’” As painters busily work on the ceiling and construction takes place outside the new vision is an exciting one that I can’t wait to see. But then again, if I can just go see the giant bugs once in awhile I’m as happy as if I were 10-years-old again.
To comment on this story, e-mail Lee Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org.