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Get Up Close and Personal With ‘Xtreme Bugs’ at the Academy of Natural Sciences

More than 20 massive animatronic bugs invade the museum in this new immersive exhibit.

Eeek! Giant bugs have invaded the Academy of Natural Sciences! “Xtreme Bugs”—opening this weekend and running through January 21—features nearly 20 gigantic insects that move, hiss, click, and display their creepy behaviors on a massive scale.


From the beautiful (fluttering, oversized monarch butterflies) to the unsettling (a towering Madagascar hissing cockroach, complete with long, moving antennae), this exhibit truly spans the world of insects, and teaches much about their lives.

Experience the Xtreme Bugs!

Each scene will introduce animatronic bugs in their environs, whether it’s an exaggerated garden scene for a butterfly or an all-too-realistic bedroom for the terrifying 5-foot-long bed bug!


The bugs move their appendages, wings, antennae, tails, and mandibles in disturbingly accurate timing and motions. Unlike 2016’s “Dinosaurs Unearthed” (which had the same creators), these creatures move in response to both a timer and motion sensor rather than push buttons, which creates less of a bottleneck and more of a surprise!


The level of detail is also impeccable—you can see every physical characteristic down to each little hair-like bristle. “These fantastic models give the visitor the view I get when I look at these insects under the microscope in carrying out my research,” Jon Gelhaus, an entomologist and curator at the museum, said in a press release.


With a “bug’s-eye view” of these creatures, you can better observe their extreme behaviors and the physical characteristics that allow them to succeed in their habitats.


“On a tiny bug, this is hard to see, but when you’re met with a 9-foot-tall assassin bug, it’s hard to miss!” remarked Academy president and CEO Scott Cooper at the exhibit’s media preview.


Hands-on Activities

Within the exhibit, there are various opportunities to play, learn, and interact. You can dig for fossils of ancient arthropods in a bin, dress-up like a bug in the costume area, and play games that test your bug knowledge. One of the walls contains a magnetic game asking visitors to match the bugs to their unique habitats—hint: use the color of the ecosystems to help the insects camouflage in their homes.


Elsewhere, a giant touchscreen set up like a table top reveals the “Touch a Bug” game, where you spot and “touch” the various bugs in the animated ecosystem and learn about each species’ social behaviors, calls, and more with trivia questions.


Creature Keeper Creepy Crawly Q&A

On Wednesdays and weekends at 11:45 am, you can hear the museum’s knowledgeable, engaging staff give short insect talks and answer your questions. Learn all about invertebrate husbandry, biology, and conservation; and also meet some of the invertebrates that live upstairs in “Outside In” up close!

Bug Fest

August 11—12

During the exhibit, the museum will celebrate its annual Bug Fest, a weekend in August that highlights the world of insects with live displays and shows, scientist talks, hands-on activities, and more. In the Roach Race 500, you can cheer on your favorite roach as it tries to conquer three different tracks! Meanwhile, maggots will crawl and scurry across paper to create one-of-a-kind works of art that you can take home (the art, not the maggots).


You can even try some bug-filled cuisine or hold a cockroach if you’re feeling particularly adventurous! If you’re feeling less adventurous, there are also less creepy activities like crafts, face painting, and trivia. Whatever your level of comfort, it’s a very fun weekend where you can get to learn more about these complex creatures.

“Xtreme Bugs” is at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, at 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, from May 26 through January 21. The exhibit is open from 10 am – 4:30 pm during the week and 10 am – 5 pm on the weekends. Admission is $7 above general admission for non-members, $4 for individual and family members, and free for Family Plus members and above. Military, senior, and student discounts apply.


Photographs by Laura Swartz.

Contributing Writer