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
  • Bugs: Unsung Heroes
  • Bug Superpowers!
  • Tickets
Exhibit Opens: October 27, 2018
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.

But why?

Maybe it’s because from a young age we’re conditioned to think all 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 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 like 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 ecosystem needs 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 recently found at the Zoo.

Bugs. BIG BUGS! will showcase the superhero qualities of insects and why they are so important to life on Earth.

All 13 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.

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 imperative 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 26.

Black Ants – Dimensions: 6 feet 6 inches tall, 7 feet long

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 – Dimensions: 7 feet 10 inches tall, 11 feet 3 inches long

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 – Dimensions: 7 feet 2 inches tall, 10 feet 4 inches long

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 – Dimensions: 8 feet 8 inches tall, 14 feet 8 inches long

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 – Dimensions: 15 feet tall, 23 feet 9 inches long

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 – Dimensions: 7 feet 1 inch tall, 11 feet 6 inches long

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 – Dimensions: 7 feet 8 inches tall, 8 feet long

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 – Dimensions: 8 feet tall, 21 feet long

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 – Dimensions: 8 feet 3 inches tall, 10 feet long

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 – Dimensions: 3 feet 10 inches tall, 12 feet long

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 – Dimensions: 4 feet 1 inch tall, 6 feet 3 inches long

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 – Dimensions: 8 feet 1 inch tall, 6 feet 1 inch long

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 – Dimensions: 6 feet 7 inches tall, 8 feet 4 inches long (Animated) | Dimensions: 3 feet 8 inches tall, 6 feet long (Static)

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 – Dimensions: 6 feet tall, 12 feet 6 inches long

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

$4 Member, $5 General