Something is buzzing at the Phoenix Zoo. And it’s big. Really big.
Bugs. BIG BUGS!
The Zoo’s latest can’t-miss animatronic exhibit.
Twenty-one gigantic bugs that you really need to see to believe,
encounters with real live bugs and tons of activities for the entire family.
- Exhibit Info
- Unsung Heroes
- Meet the Bugs
- Bug Superpowers!
- Superhero Sidekicks
- Bug-tastic Activities!
Exhibit Ends: April 28, 2019
Pricing: $4 Member, $5 General (ON SALE SOON!)
Number of Giant, Animatronic Insects: 21
Beautifully detailed, the bugs are made from a combination of steel, fiberglass and skin material made from a special urethane compound that protects them against sun, rain and snow, making them perfect to display in their natural environment. Like our dinosaurs, the realistic movements on our bugs are powered by a pneumatic system that enables smoother and finer movements.
The word itself elicits a natural, visceral and divisive reaction from most humans.
Maybe it’s because from a young age we’re conditioned to think bugs are nasty, disease-carrying, fear-inducing pests destined to be smushed. Or, maybe we simply fear the misunderstood? Whatever the reason, one fact remains: Insects make up nearly 80 percent of all animal species on Earth. Without them, our lives would be remarkably different. In that spirit, rather than view bugs as annoyances, perhaps we should instead look at them as beautiful, unique, and most importantly, necessary.
In many ways, bugs (we are using the term ‘bugs’ loosely here to include all insects, arachnids, and other arthropods and their kin, not just the true bugs in the order Hemiptera) are greatly underappreciated in our world today. Through pollination, the recycling of plant material and their central role in the food web, these tiny species play a huge part in a much larger picture.
“Insects are key components of biological communities and play numerous, critically important roles,” said Drew Foster, Animal Curator for the Phoenix Zoo. “They contribute greatly to nutrient cycling, the trophic web, as both predator and prey, and successful reproduction of flora through pollination, a process crucial to all life as we know it. The survival of most plant and animal species truly depends upon insects, either directly or indirectly.”
Indeed, bugs are the lone source of food for countless mammals, reptiles and birds. Without this vital food chain, numerous species would cease to exist. Furthermore, bugs such as bees and beetles are responsible for pollinating nearly 90 percent of the world’s plants. Thanks to this extraordinary process, humans are able to enjoy a plethora of fruits, vegetables and flowers.
The world’s ecosystems need bugs to thrive, not just survive. Insects are adept decomposers and help to clean our environment as they break down waste, dead animals, trees and plants. Through the intricate balance of nature, insects also help control other “predatory” bugs from destroying crops and other food sources for both humans and animals.
To celebrate these unsung heroes, the Phoenix Zoo has announced a one-of-a-kind exhibit premiering in October 2018: Bugs. BIG BUGS! We’re pleased to once again be working with the acclaimed team at Billings Productions, Inc., who also designed the record-breaking Dinosaurs in the Desert exhibit recently displayed at the Zoo.
Bugs. BIG BUGS! will showcase the superhero qualities of insects and why they are so important to life on Earth. All larger-than-life species of bugs in our exhibit (including a red-tailed bumble bee, devil’s flower mantis, emperor scorpion and Mexican red-knee tarantula) have been meticulously created based on extensive research.
Beautifully detailed, the bugs are constructed with a combination of steel, fiberglass and skin material made from a special urethane compound that protects them against sun and rain – making them ideal for the gorgeous Phoenix weather in the fall and spring.
Each animatronic bug features realistic movements powered by a pneumatic system that enables smoother and finer bug-like maneuvers. As you spend time meeting the bugs in our exhibit, you’ll also learn more about the essential role each one plays in our ecosystem. Guests will be invited to become superhero sidekicks to these amazing insects by participating in activities and events throughout the run of this bug-tastic showcase.
Plus, each ticket purchased to Bugs. BIG BUGS! allows the Zoo to continue providing experiences that inspire people and motivate them to care for the natural world – no matter how big or small.
Bugs. BIG BUGS! opens at the Phoenix Zoo on October 27.
Black Ants | Dimensions: 6 feet 6 inches tall, 7 feet long
Black ants belong to the genus of non-stinging Formicine ants. They are the ant species that’s most commonly found in the garden and are the only ant regularly seen indoors.
Black ants like to nest in soil that is dryish and sandy, but not desiccated or exposed. They are important soil engineers, mixing it up and increasing its fertility.
Black ants are entirely harmless. Its jaws are its main defense, but they are not strong enough to break someone’s skin.
Blue-eyed Darner | Dimensions: 7 feet 10 inches tall, 11 feet 3 inches long
The Blue-eyed darner is a common dragonfly found in western North America and Central America. They are drawn to water bodies such as lakes, ponds, slow moving streams, canals and marshy areas.
The eyes of both males and females are bright blue. The male is dark brown or brownish black. The male’s abdomen is marked with large or small blue spots. The female is marked similarly, but the base color is brown and the markings are green.
Darners mate while flying. The female will fly by the male and pick up a sperm packet off the male and use it to fertilize her eggs.
Bombardier Beetle | Dimensions: 7 feet 2 inches tall, 10 feet 4 inches long
The bombardier beetle is a black and brown ground beetle belonging to the Carabidae family. It is most notable for the defense mechanism that gives them their name.
When threatened, the bombardier beetle ejects a boiling noxious chemical spray from the tip of their abdomen with a popping sound.
Bombardier beetles inhabit all the continents except Antarctica. They typically live in woodlands or grasslands in the temperate zones but can be found in other environments if there are moist places to lay their eggs.
Devil’s Flower Mantis | Dimensions: 8 feet 8 inches tall, 14 feet 8 inches long
The devil’s flower mantis is one of the largest species of praying mantis, possibly the largest that mimics flowers. This species occurs in Central and East Africa, most notably in Tanzania.
The adult devil’s flower mantis is white-and-green-striped on the outside. When threatened, it will raise its body and point its arm upwards, showing off its magnificent colors of red, white, purple and black.
Its antennas can detect chemical cues, motion, and odors when pointed outward. A carnivore, it prefers to eat airborne insects.
Emperor Scorpion | Dimensions: 15 feet tall, 23 feet 9 inches long
The emperor scorpion, Pandinus imperator, is a species of scorpion native to rainforests and savannas in West Africa.
It is one of the largest scorpions in the world, with adults averaging about 20 centimeters in length and 30 grams in weight.
The body of the emperor scorpion is black, but like other scorpions it glows pastel green or blue under ultraviolet light. It survives on a diet of mainly termites and has a lifespan of six to eight years.
The emperor scorpion is often featured in movies due to its docile nature and relatively harmless toxin.
Grasshopper | Dimensions: 7 feet 1 inch tall, 11 feet 6 inches long
The meadow grasshopper is a common species of grasshopper found in non-arid grasslands throughout the well-vegetated areas of Europe and some adjoining areas of Asia.
Females grow to approximately 2 cm and are larger and less active than males that grow to approximately 1.5 cm. Both sexes are flightless.
Grasshoppers are primarily herbivores. They are highly adaptable and will eat whatever plants or vegetables are available. They are particularly fond of cotton, clover, oats, wheat, corn, alfalfa, rye and barley, but will also consume grasses, weeds, shrubbery, leaves, bark, flowers and seeds.
Madagascan Sunset Moth | Dimensions: 7 feet 8 inches tall, 8 feet long
The Madagascan sunset moth is a brightly colored day-flying moth native only to the island of Madagascar.
The moth’s wings are iridescent and appear in shades of black, red, green and blue. However, much of the moth’s wings contain no pigment at all. The flashy colors are created by the curvature of the scales on their wings that reflect light in different angles, giving the appearance of color.
The Madagascan sunset moth is toxic to most predators, and its colorful wings may actually serve as a warning to predators to leave them alone.
Mexican Redknee Tarantula | Dimensions: 8 feet tall, 21 feet long
Mexican redknee tarantula is a type of burrowing tarantula native to the pacific mountains of Mexico but is also found in southwestern United States and Panama.
It is most known for its hairy body and the red bands that are along its legs.
An adult male can grow between 10 and 18 cm, and weigh between 15 and 16 g. Both sexes are similar in appearance, with the male having a smaller body, but longer legs. Though the male is of comparable size to the female, the male has a much smaller mass.
Like most tarantulas, they have a long lifespan. The females of this species can live up to 30 years, but the males tend to live for only 5 or so years.
Orb Web Spider | Dimensions: 8 feet 3 inches tall, 10 feet long
The orb web spider or garden orb weaving spider is one of the most easily recognizable spiders.
Usually a grey or brown color, it has what appears to be a large white cross on its leaf-shaped body, which upon closer examination, is made up of lots of pale spots and streaks.
Orb web spiders can be found in most gardens, fields and forests. They make suspended, sticky, wheel-shaped orb webs often in openings between trees and shrubs where insects are likely to fly. Flying insects such as flies, beetles and bugs are common prey.
Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar | Dimensions: 3 feet 10 inches tall, 12 feet long
The spicebush swallowtail is a common black swallowtail butterfly found in eastern North America. Also known as the green-clouded butterfly, it derives its name from its most common host plant, the spicebush.
The spicebush swallowtail belongs to the Papilionidae family of butterflies, which include the largest butterflies in the world. The swallowtails are unique in that even while feeding, they continue to flutter their wings. Unlike other swallowtail butterflies, spicebushes fly low to the ground instead of at great heights.
The spicebush caterpillars look like small snakes, complete with large eyespots. They hide in folded leaves during the day and come out to feed in the evenings.
Red-tailed Bumblebee | Dimensions: 4 feet 1 inch tall, 6 feet 3 inches long
The red-tailed bumblebee is probably the most easily recognized species of bumblebees with its black body and bright orange tail.
Bumblebees can be found throughout much of Central Europe. They thrive in early spring right through to fall and they play a very important role in pollinating plants and crops.
The bumblebee feeds primarily on nectar but they also eat pollen, and honey when there is no nectar available.
Say’s Firefly | Dimensions: 8 feet 1 inch tall, 6 feet 1 inch long
Say’s firefly is not a fly but in fact a beetle. There are around 2,000 species of the winged-beetle mainly found in moist, tropical climates.
They thrive in wet meadows with tall grasses or at the edge of hot, humid bogs, marshes, streams or lakes.
The light in the firefly’s tail is created by an enzyme that drives a chemical reaction to create a beautiful amber light. Fireflies vary the pattern or length of their flashes to communicate with each other or even attract prey.
The firefly has an average lifespan of two months. Although fireflies are found all over the world, their populations are dwindling.
Seven-spot Ladybird | Dimensions: 6 feet 7 inches tall, 8 feet 4 inches long (Animated) | Dimensions: 3 feet 8 inches tall, 6 feet long (Static)
The seven-spot ladybird (or seven-spotted ladybug in North America) originated in Europe and Asia but is now found throughout the Middle East, India, and North America.
Its elytra are of a red color, but punctuated with three black spots each, with one further spot being spread over the junction of the two, making a total of seven spots.
These ladybirds live almost anywhere there are aphids for it to eat. Both the adults and the larvae are voracious predators of aphids.
Stag Beetle | Dimensions: 6 feet tall, 12 feet 6 inches long
Stag beetles are a group of about 1,200 species of beetles. Its name is derived from the large and distinctive mandibles found on the males of most species, which resemble the antlers of stags.
The stag beetle is the largest terrestrial insect in Europe. Most are about 5 cm (2.0 in) but some grow to over 12 cm (4.7 in). It is omnivorous, but it eats a predominantly vegetarian diet.
Black Ants – Superpower: Telepathy (ability to communicate without words over long distances)
- Found all over Europe as well as parts of North America and Asia
- Queen lives to about 15 years, with some having lived for 30 years
- The average black ant colony has between 4,000-7,000 individuals
- Some have reached up to 40,000 ants
- Communicate by leaving pheromone trails that can mark new paths or the way back to the colony
- Black ants mate while flying
- Males and immature queens can fly
- Once the queen has mated, she lands, detaches her wings, and begins to dig a tunnel
Blue Eyed Darner – Superpower: Selective Attention (ability to ignore all distractions and focus on one particular thing, makes them very effective hunters)
- Dragonfly species found in western North American and Central America
- Can be found at both low and moderate altitudes
- An extremely effective hunter, dragonflies have a 95% midair capture rate
- They live near water bodies, including lakes, ponds, slow moving streams, canals, and marshy areas
- Females lay eggs among dense water plants or on floating branches in open water
- Eggs are deposited both above and below the surface of the water
Bombardier Beetle – Superpower: Chemical Generation (ability to spray boiling hot chemicals on their enemies)
- Live on all continents except Antarctica
- When disturbed, they eject a hot poisonous chemical spray from the top of their abdomen
- This defense mechanism is how they got their name
- The spray can be fatal to attacking insects
- Their spray gland can swivel 270 degrees and can spray liquid at the same temperature as boiling water (100 degrees C or 212 degrees F)
Devil’s Flower Mantis – Superpower: Shapeshifting (ability to transform into a flower)
- Native to eastern Africa
- One of the largest species of praying mantis
- Impersonates a flower and remains motionless to lure prey
- When threatened, they attempt to scare off or distract the predator by displaying the vibrant colors and patterns on their wings and abdomen
- This is known as a deimatic display
- They have compound eyes which gives them a broad field of vision
- Made up of thousands of individual cells called photoreceptor cells
- This allows them to see a span of 180 degrees
Emperor Scorpion – Superpower: Venomous Sting (ability to produce venom)
- Native to the rainforests and savannas in West Africa
- One of the largest species of scorpions in the world and lives about 6-8 years
- They burrow beneath the soil, often in termite mounds, and will hide beneath rocks and debris
- They glow pastel green or blue under UV light
- Because emperor scorpions tend to be docile in nature and their toxin is relatively harmless, they are often featured in movies and have become a popular choice for a pet
- They were over-collected in the wild because of the pet trade and are now protected by CITES
Grasshopper – Superpower: Superhuman Jump (ability to jump incredible distances and land safely)
- Grasshoppers are found all over the world
- They are plant eaters and are often considered pests
- Can swarm in the millions and destroy crops over wide areas
- Females can sometimes be pink in color, but this makes them more likely to be seen by predators
- Pink females rarely survive to adulthood
- Oldest living group of chewing herbivorous insects, dating back to the early Triassic period
- They have compound eyes which gives them a broad field of vision that can detect movement, shape, color, and distance
- A large grasshopper can jump about a meter without using its wings
Madagascan Sunset Moth – Superpower: Poison Generation (ability to produce a poison that is toxic when consumed)
- Native to Madagascar
- Was originally thought to be from China or Bengal
- Considered one of the most impressive and appealing looking day-flying moths
- The color on their wings is not true color
- It comes from the light reflecting off the scales on their wings
- The scales are curved, which creates this reflection
Mexican Redknee Tarantula – Superpower: Enhanced Touch (ability to feel vibrations in the ground to catch prey)
- Native to western Mexico
- They grow slowly and mature relatively late
- Females can live up to 30 years, but males tend to only live for about 5 years
- Although the male and female are both about the same size, the male weighs much less
- As tarantulas grow they molt, often multiple times a year
- Their exoskeleton cannot stretch so it must be replaced by a new one from beneath
- They can spin silk from the ends of their feet to save themselves from a potentially fatal fall
Orb Web Spider – Superpower: Web Generation (ability to create strong silk to make webs)
- Found all over the world except in polar regions
- Build flat webs made from a sticky spiral capture silk
- Normally their webs are vertical, and the spider hangs with their head downward
- The spider will devour its entire web every evening, including any caught insects
- This is different from black widow spiders who tend to leave their web built for much longer periods of time
- Most orb spiders tend to be active during the evening hours and hide for most of the day
Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar – Superpower: Animal Mimicry (ability to mimic characteristics of a snake for protection)
- Found most commonly in eastern US and southern Ontario
- Can also be seen in the American Midwest, Cuba, Manitoba, and Colorado
- The caterpillars tend to remain on the leaf of the plant on which they were laid
- Larvae are brightly colored with two large black dots on the thorax that look like eyes
- These false eyes give the illusion that the caterpillars are common garden snakes
- Mimicking snakes is a defense mechanism against predators, specifically birds
Red Tailed Bumblebee – Superpower: Plant Growth (ability to influence the growth of plants through pollination)
- Found throughout central Europe
- Typically distinguished by its black body with red markings around the abdomen
- Worker females and the queen look similar, except the queen is much larger
- Males can also have a yellow band around the abdomen and yellow markings on the face in addition to the red markings
- Average colony consists of about 100-200 worker bees
- Significantly smaller than many other species of bees
- They create a loud buzzing sound to vibrate and shake pollen from flowers
- They typically appear in June, July, and August
- Colonies begin with the queen, followed by workers and males who keep the colony thriving
- Bumblebees are extremely important pollinators
- For many species of plants, only bees and butterflies have mouth parts, or proboscides, long enough to pollinate effectively
Say’s Firefly – Superpower: Luminescence (ability to generate light)
- Found in temperate and tropical climates around the world
- Fireflies are winged beetles, commonly called lightening bugs for their use of bioluminescence during twilight hours to attract mates or prey
- A male firefly flashes a unique light pattern and an attracted female will reciprocate with the same pattern
- Firefly larvae are called glowworms
- Females lay their eggs just below the surface of the ground
- Eggs hatch four weeks later and the larvae feed until the end of summer
- Most fireflies are distasteful to eat and can even be poisonous to vertebrate predators
Seven Spot Ladybird – Superpower: Environmental Adaptation (ability to adapt and survive in a wide range of environmental conditions)
- Originally native only to Europe, they have been introduced to North America as a biological control agent to reduce aphid numbers
- Have thrived in North American and they are now the official state insect of 5 different states (Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Tennessee)
- Commonly red or orange with three spots on each side and one in the middle
- They also have a black head with white patches on each side
- Often considered useful insects because they prey on agricultural pests such as aphids or scale insects
- Often thought that the number of spots on the ladybug’s back indicates its age
- Not actually true. The number of spots are determined by the species and genetics of the beetle
Stag Beetle – Superpower: Enhanced Combat (ability to use large mandibles to fight off opponents)
- Most commonly found in Europe, though they can be found worldwide
- Use their large mandibles to fight off opponents, similar to a male deer
- How they got the name “stag” beetle
- Larvae feed for several years on rotting deciduous wood and grow through three larval stages until pupating inside a pupal cell made from the surrounding wood pieces and soil
- Most stag beetles are about 2 inches long, but some can grow as large as 4.7 inches long
- Females tend to be smaller than males with smaller mandibles
- However, the females are still much more powerful than the males
- Though they look intimidating, stag beetles aren’t known for being aggressive to humans
Superhero Sidekicks – Bugs and Humans Teaming Up for Conservation
In late October we will debut our latest special exhibit, Bugs. Big Bugs! These giant creatures are sure to captivate and inspire as much as their live counterparts do. The Arizona Center for Nature Conservation (ACNC) – which includes the Phoenix Zoo and South Mountain Environmental Education Center (SMEEC) – invites you to celebrate with us the beauty, weirdness, importance and wonder of bugs.
Bugs, as we see it, are superheroes to their ecosystems. And like all superheroes, bugs have superpowers! From shapeshifting and super senses, to the ability to leap great distances, these superpowers not only allow bugs to thrive, but they also help to maintain healthy ecosystems for other organisms, including humans.
Every good superhero needs a sidekick, and since bugs make up more than 70% of Earth’s biodiversity, we need a lot of sidekicks! Enter ACNC and our guests – we’ve got this.
We’re placing a call to help bugs through everyday actions. Just like Batman and Robin, bugs and humans together make a stronger team. ACNC will provide the sidekick tools, you just need to participate. Join us at the exhibit, on our website, throughout the Zoo and SMEEC, and in our events and programs to learn why bugs need us, why we need them and many other fascinating things. Together we’ll see how bugs provide a window to the world that allows us to follow our curiosity. We’ll explore how bugs have inspired and shaped human history through art, music, medicine, invention and more. Most importantly, we’ll learn how to develop our own powers to be the best superhero sidekicks we can be. There are opportunities for all ages to be part of the team.
Check back soon to learn all the ways you can become involved.
With great power comes great responsibility. Will you answer the call?
Have you heard the buzz? A swarm of larger-than-life insects will soon be arriving at the Phoenix Zoo!
Join us as a Phoenix Zoo member today and you’ll receive exclusive access to the Members-only Previews of our newest exhibit: Bugs. BIG BUGS!
Gigantic animatronic bugs — some as tall as 15-feet high and 24-feet wide — will shed light on creatures that are often feared and avoided. On October 25 and 26, you and anyone listed on your membership will be able to visit the exhibit FIRST and for FREE during our Members-only Previews!
As a Zoo member, you and your family will also enjoy 12 months of cost-saving benefits like unlimited FREE daytime admission to more than 3,000 animals and 125 acres of adventure, early entry to the Zoo, discounts on special events and activities, merchandise, programs and much more.
Current members – renew by using the above button.
Exclusive Member Bugs Pass!
For an additional $39 you can add a Bugs Pass to your membership. The Bugs Pass allows you and anyone listed on your membership card unlimited access to the Bugs, BIG BUGS! exhibit. The Bugs Pass is automatically included in Supporting and Guardian Conservation Society memberships!
Bugs Pass is valid for exhibit admission during daytime hours, ZooLights and select special events only. Bugs Pass covers only individuals listed on the membership card; named individuals on the card must show valid ID. Bugs Pass is non-refundable.
Sidekick Headquarters (on the “Bugs Trail”)
- Learn how to be a Bug Superhero Sidekick
- See “live” and pinned bugs!
Bug Discovery Stations
- Keep an eye out for opportunities to see live bugs up close and maybe even touch some!
- Bug Discovery Stations can be near the front entrance or at the Sidekick Headquarters on the Bugs Trail
Live Bugs on Exhibit
- Be sure to check out these locations for live bug viewing
- Arizona Trail – Diversity in the Desert exhibit
- Forest of Uco
- Small Wonders exhibit on the Nina Mason Pullium Children’s Trail
Roars & Pours | November 1, March 7, April 4
Noon Year’s Eve | December 31
Wild Arizona | February 10
Bug Love | February 14
Buggie Nights | February 21, March 1, March 22, April 5, April 25
Earth Day – It’s a Party for the Planet! | April 13
Dia del Nino | April 28
Nature at Night Walks | October 13, November 10
$4 Member, $5 General
ON SALE SOON!