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
- 🌐Sidekick Central
- 🏅Unsung Heroes
- 🐞Meet the Bugs
- 💥Bug Superpowers!
- 💯Superhero Sidekicks
- 🎊Bug-tastic Activities!
Number of Giant and/or Animatronic Insects: 21
Exhibit Opens: NOW!
Exhibit Ends: April 28, 2019
Pricing: $4 Member, $5 General (admission to the Zoo required)
October 27 – 31 | Opens at 9 a.m. (8:30 a.m. for Members), Last Entry at 4:30 p.m.
November 1 – January 14 | Opens at 9 a.m. (8:30 a.m. for Members, Last Entry at 3:30 p.m.
January 15 – April 28 | Opens at 9 a.m. (8:30 a.m. for Members) Last Entry at 4:30 p.m.
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.
Take action in November: Think Before You EEK!
Sometimes we fear things we don’t fully understand.
The small size of bugs can make them hard to comprehend, so it’s perfectly natural to think of bugs as scary.
The good news is that we have our own superpowers, the ability to learn to overcome our fears of bugs.
During November (and beyond) try at least one of these activities to harness your own power and think before you eek!
Current Sidekick Assignment
Draw a picture or make a collage of your favorite bug and explain its role in the environment. You can even use “found” materials to create models of bugs! Snap a photo of your collage and share it with us!
More Ways to be a Hero
- Make a capture kit to relocate bugs in your house. A net or a large container (coffee can, yogurt container, Tupperware, or a cup) and a piece of laminated cardboard (like on cereal boxes or postcard mailers). Keep it handy so you’re ready to move bugs outside. (Pro tip: Attach “handles” like popsicle sticks or wooden dowels to increase the space between hesitant humans and bugs.)
- Get a field guide to bugs or try out a cool app like iNaturalist and go on safari in your yard! Keep a checklist or photo guide of the species you see! See something cool? Let us know on social media!
- Get a magnifier to view bugs in your yard up close. What are they doing? Hunting? Hiding? Eating? Building? Gathering resources? Why are they doing that? What other questions do you have? Is there a bug-friendly way you might start to find the answers?
Superhero Sidekick Resources
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 Red-Knee Tarantula | Dimensions: 8 feet tall, 21 feet long
Mexican red-knee 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 Bumble Bee | Dimensions: 4 feet 1 inch tall, 6 feet 3 inches long
The red-tailed bumble bee is probably the most easily recognized species of bumblebees with its black body and bright orange tail.
Bumble bees 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 bumble bee 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 garden ants harness the power of teamwork. Colonies as big as 10,000 ants will work together to care for young, protect food sources and build elaborate nests. They can recognize fellow colony members and will even take great risks to help a friend in trouble.
Many ant species are important ecosystem engineers. By digging nests and taking food underground, they invigorate the soil with oxygen and nutrients, improving the environment for other species.
A dragonfly’s aerial agility is unmatched. Like a highly advanced drone, it can fly backwards, change directions in a flash and hover for over a minute.
With a 95 percent success rate, dragonflies are among the world’s best mosquito hunters. Their flying skills have even inspired new innovations in drone technology.
Don’t mess with a bombardier beetle! When threatened, it shoots a blast of noxious, boiling chemicals out of its rear abdomen.
The bombardier beetle’s explosive defense mechanism has inspired new technological designs for fire extinguishers, medical inhalers and car fuel injection systems.
The devil’s flower mantis wards off hungry adversaries by displaying startling colors, fierce features and bold body language.
A highly effective predator, it helps keep populations of flying insects, like flies, in check.
The advanced weaponry of the emperor scorpion includes powerful pincers and a venomous stinger — excellent tools for subduing prey and discouraging predators.
Recent research shows that emperor scorpion venom has anti-malarial and anti-bacterial qualities and may be useful in the treatment of heart disease.
A grasshopper can jump several feet to avoid being caught by a predator. This is like a human jumping the length of a football field!
Grasshoppers play an important role in the food chain by eating plants and preventing overgrowth, fertilizing the soil, and providing food for many species, including humans!
The Madagascan sunset moth’s stunning color warns potential predators that it is toxic and should be left alone.
This moth is an important pollinator of a variety of rare plants found only in Madagascar.
The Mexican red-knee tarantula has an abdomen covered in tiny, barbed hairs. Should trouble arise, it can kick a cloud of irritating hairs into the skin, eyes and mouth of its assailant.
Tarantulas are predators of insects and prey to many birds, reptiles and mammals, and even some wasps. It is a keystone species on which others depend. If it were to disappear, its ecosystem would change drastically.
Spiders build their webs by producing a silk that is extremely elastic and resilient, and stronger by weight than steel!
By studying spider webs, researchers are developing new technologies to improve bullet-proof vests, regenerate damaged nerves and make artificial tendons.
The spicebush swallowtail caterpillar is a master mimic. Displaying snake-like markings, it will rear up as if to strike and stick out an imitation tongue to increases the illusion and discourage predators.
Spicebush swallowtail adults and larvae serve as a food source for dragonflies, birds and spiders, and adults are pollinators of plant species such as bee balm, honeysuckle and clover.
Bumble bees have the power of “buzz pollination.” By contracting their flight muscles hundreds of times per second without moving their wings, they create a forceful vibration that causes flowers to release their pollen.
Few animals are as crucial to maintaining healthy ecosystems as bees. For many plant species, bees and butterflies are the only pollinators.
Say’s fireflies can “glow in the dark” thanks to a chemical reaction called bioluminescence. This ability to produce flashes of light is used in communication, courtship and to attract prey.
Fireflies create light with luciferin and luciferase, two rare chemicals used in the treatment of cancer, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, heart disease and more.
The ladybird beetle can smell fear. When hunting aphids, its favorite food, it finds them by sensing a chemical that the aphids release to warn each other of predators.
Highly adaptable, the ladybird beetle has been introduced to many areas outside its native region to help reduce aphid numbers.
The male stag beetle’s huge mandibles are used in violent battles against other males, with the winner getting the girl. They are also good for intimidating potential predators.
Stag beetles are awesome recyclers. By eating and excreting decaying wood and leaves, they play an important role in maintaining the soil quality and overall health of their habitats.
Bugs and Humans Teaming Up for Conservation
Bugs are superheroes of the natural world. Every superhero needs a sidekick, and since insects alone make up about 80 percent of all animal species, we need a lot of sidekicks. This is where YOU come in!
We’re placing a call to help bugs through our everyday actions. Just like Batman and Robin, bugs and humans together make a stronger team. We’ll provide the tools — you provide the ACTION!
How do I become a Superhero Sidekick?
- Watch for our monthly tips on how you can help bugs. Snap a photo of yourself in action and tag the Phoenix Zoo for a chance featured on our social media channels.
- Participate in bug learning activities at the Zoo and at SMEEC.
- Celebrate your actions at “Party for the Planet,” the Zoo’s Earth Day celebration on April 13.
- Check out these websites for more great information on bug conservation:
- Visit the other “Bug Zones” at the Zoo, snap a photo and tag us!
Have you heard the buzz? A swarm of larger-than-life insects has invaded the Phoenix Zoo!
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. 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 | November 10
$4 Member, $5 General*
(*admission to the Zoo required)