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,
and tons of activities for the entire family. 

  • 😃Exhibit Info
  • 🐞The Real Bugs
  • 💥Bug Infographics
  • 🌐Resources
  • 🏅Unsung Heroes
  • 📍Bugs Pass
  • 🎊Bug-tastic Activities!
  • 📸Exhibit Photos

Now – April 28
Opens at 9 a.m. (8:30 a.m. for Members)
Last Entry at 4:30 p.m. 

Pricing: $4 Member, $5 General (admission to the Zoo required)

 

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.

AUSTRALIAN BOMBARDIER BEETLE
Pheropsophus verticalis 

The Australian bombardier beetle is just one of several hundred bombardier beetle species found worldwide. They are found on every continent except Antarctica, with over 40 species in the United States alone.

Diet: insects

Habitat: woodlands, grasslands, riparian areas

Length: .5 – .7 in

BLACK GARDEN ANT
Lasius niger

Black garden ants have unique relationships with aphids. The ants will herd and protect the tiny insects, and in return they feed on honeydew — a sugary substance the aphids excrete.

Diet: nectar, fruits, small insects, honeydew  

Habitat: forests, meadows, rocky areas, yards

Length: .19 – .35 in

BLUE-EYED DARNER
Aeshna multicolor 

Dragonflies have eyes that make up almost their entire heads, so it’s no surprise that they can see in all directions at the same time. Their incredible vision also allows them to see things that humans can’t, like ultraviolet light.  

Diet: flying insects, water bugs, larvae, tadpoles, small fish 

Habitat: lakes, ponds, streams, marshes 

Length: 2.5 – 2.75 in 

DEVIL’S FLOWER MANTIS
Idolomantis diabolica

The devil’s flower mantis uses its antennae to detect chemical cues, movement and odors. The male’s antennae are more developed in order to help him find females from a distance.

Diet: flying insects

Habitat: forests, grasslands

Length: 4 – 5 in

EMPEROR SCORPION
Pandinus imperator

Emperor scorpions are a social species that performs an elaborate courtship dance. If the dance goes well, about nine months later the female gives live birth to 9 – 32 scorplings that she will feed and protect as they mature.

Diet: mice, lizards, insects (especially termites)

Habitat: tropical forests

Length: 6 – 8 in

MADAGASCAN SUNSET MOTH
Chrysiridia

rhipheus

Madagascan sunset moths lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves of toxic Omphalea plants. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the plant, storing the toxins as a chemical defense for the rest of their lives.

Diet: leaves, nectar

Habitat: forests

Wingspan: 2.8 – 4.3 in

MEADOW GRASSHOPPER
Chorthippus parallelus

Meadow grasshoppers can be green, brown, pinkish-purple and even striped. These variations can be due to differences in genetics, habitat, altitude, age and sex.

Diet: plants

Habitat: grasslands

Length: .4 – .9 in

MEXICAN RED-KNEED TARANTULA
Brachypelma smithi

Like most tarantulas, this species has a long lifespan. While males typically live about five years, females can live up to 30!

Diet: invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, birds

Habitat: forests, deserts, scrublands

Weight: .5 – .6 oz

ORB WEAVER SPIDER 
Araneidae sp.

The Araneidae, also known as orb weaver spiders, is a family that includes over 4,000 known species. Effective insect predators, some of the larger species have also been observed consuming frogs and hummingbirds that became ensnared in their webs.  

Diet: insects, small animals 

Habitat: forests, deserts, grasslands, wetlands 

Length: .12 – 1.18 in

RED-TAILED BUMBLEBEE
Bombus lapidaries

A bumblebee gathers nectar by shooting its stretchy tongue in and out of its favorite flowers. When flying, it keeps its tongue folded under its head and protected by a hard sheath.

Habitat: open woodlands, farmlands, grasslands, coastal areas

Diet: nectar, pollen, honey

Size: .43 – .86 in

SAY’S FIREFLY
Pyractomena angulata

In 2018, the Say’s firefly became the state insect of Indiana. There are about 175 firefly species in the United States, and over 2,000 found worldwide.

Diet: snails, slugs

Habitat: forests, marshes, streams, grasslands

Length: .27 – .6 in

SEVEN-SPOTTED LADYBIRD
Coccinella septempunctata

The seven-spotted ladybug, also called a ladybird, is actually a species of beetle native to Europe. Starting in the 1950s, it was introduced to the United States to control aphids and eventually established permanent populations.

Diet: small insects

Habitat: grasslands, marshes, gardens, forests

Length: .2 – .3 in

SPICEBUSH SWALLOWTAIL CATTERPILLAR
Papilio Troilus

This species commonly lays its eggs on the underside of spicebush leaves. Other host plants include sassafras, sweetbay and camphor trees.

Diet: leaves

Habitat: woodlands, grasslands, swamps

Length: 1 – 2.17 in

STAG BEETLE
Lucanus cervus

Stag beetles spend up to seven years as larvae, living and feeding on rotting wood. Once they emerge as adults their diet switches to fruit and sap, and they only live for a few more months.   

Diet: decaying wood, fruits, sap

Habitat: forests

Length: 1.2 – 3.5 in

Photos

Check out the incredible “Super Powers” of bugs below!

Bugs are the 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!

Take action: Be Water Wise

Bugs play a critical role in wetland ecosystems. Many water bugs eat dead organic matter and other bugs. In turn, those bugs make up a significant proportion of the diet for other species. Insect larvae are a primary food source for many fish. Adult insects are a critical food source for many wetland species, such as frogs, songbirds, and shorebirds. Bugs like mayflies hatch from their larvae stage at the same time. This results in large swarms that serve as a food source for multiple creatures that share their habitat. Without bugs, the food web would collapse.

In addition to their role as a food source, bugs are a good indicator of water quality. Macroinvertebrates, such as insect larvae and small crustaceans, require clean water sources in order to grow and thrive. Water with a lot of chemicals and/or eroded soil have less macroinvertebrates and a lower level of diversity of macroinvertebrate species. Because of macroinvertebrate’s sensitivity to water that has declined in quality, they make great test subjects for sciences testing water quality.

Bugs keep other bug populations in check. Insects like dragon and damselflies, water striders, backswimmers, and predacious diving beetles eat mosquito larvae and adults. These insects prevent mosquito populations from growing out of control and reduce the risk of disease transmission. Now that’s what I call a hero!

Bugs are found in every aquatic habitat. Three to five percent of insect life lives in lakes and rivers. There are over 300 species of sea spiders and mites.

Turn Up to Turn Off – Save Water at the Tap

Running the water when you are brushing your teeth, shaving, or washing a dish may seem innocuous, but over time it can lead to a lot of water wasted. When you turn off water, we all win. Other actions to save water in the home include waiting to run the dishwasher or washing machine when they have a full load, and finding and fixing leaks.

Turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth will save four gallons of water per minute. That can be 200 gallons a week for a family of four. Leaky faucets can account for up to 5% of your household’s total water usage. Fixing them can save up to 140 gallons per week. -Source: SRP (This references indoor faucets. Still need to look into leaks in waterlines for lawns).

Microplastics are Macro-harmful – Reduce Plastics in Our Waterways

Plastic pollution is a massive problem for all animals, including bugs. Microplastics, or plastic particles smaller than 5 millimeters, are a major source of pollution in waterways that affects insects. Microplastics in the water can be picked up by mosquitos and carried to other habitats and throughout the food chain. While bans have reduced the amount of microplastics in cosmetics, you can still find them in some products. Check the labels for “polyethylene” or “polypropylene.” Microplastics are also created by washing clothing. Washing your clothing in laundry bags can reduce the amount of microplastics released into waterways.

Need another reason to cut down on plastic use? An article published by University of Reading discussed how mosquitos can ingest microplastics in the water and the possibility of it being transported throughout the food chain and a habitat.

Between 600,000 and 17,700,000 microfibers can be released in every 5-kilo (Approx 11 pound) wash; that is the equivalent of 0.43 to 1.27 grams in weight. To put that in perspective, a grasshopper weighs about half a gram! Wastewater rinses these fibers during washing and most end up in the surface water, because water purification installations are not equipped to stop them.

Take Shorter Showers

Showers are relaxing, but they use a lot of water. An average showerhead releases 2.5 gallons of water a minute. The average showerhead releases 2.5 gallons of water per minute and the average shower length is eight minutes and 12 seconds. Taking a shorter shower reduces the amount of water being used. Since the average shower length is eight minutes and 12 seconds, reducing to a five-minute shower saves almost eight gallons per wash!  If you want to go the extra mile you can use a low flow showerhead that reduces the amount of water coming out at one time.

Give Your Landscape Shorter Showers

Maricopa county is part of one of the world’s largest deserts, the Sonoran. It makes sense to model your landscape off the region to avoid wasting precious water resources. In Maricopa County, roughly 70% of our residential water use goes to landscaping and other outside uses. Here are some ways to cut back:

  • Use native plants in your landscape instead of grass
  • Use artificial grass
  • Adjust irrigation for the season and don’t overwater
  • Ditch the turf all together
  • Find and fix leaks outdoors

Even before the Bugs. BIG BUGS! exhibit, aquatic bugs have been a conservation focus for ACNC. ACNC has worked to preserve the Paige and Three Forks springsnails since 2008. Paige Springsnails is an Arizona Game and Fish Department “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” found in a few creeks near Page Springs, Arizona. Three Forks springsnails are found in the Three Forks Springs and Bog in the White Mountains of Arizona and were listed as endangered on the Federal Endangered Species Act in 2012. Both species are threatened by overgrazing of livestock, ground water depletion, predation by nonnative crayfish, and declines in water quality caused by soil erosion.

Working alongside the Arizona Game and Fish, the Phoenix Zoo has engaged in both in-situ and ex-situ conservation efforts to recover Three Forks and Paige springsnail populations. Fencing has been placed around springsnail habitats to prevent cattle from entering. Invasive fish and crayfish have been removed from springsnail habitat. At the Phoenix Zoo’s Arthur L. and Elaine V. Johnson Foundation Conservation Center scientists work with Paige and Three Forks springsnails to provide a reserve population, increase reproduction, and eventually reestablish springsnail populations in possible former habitats.

Aquatic bugs also play a role in our conservation work with Gila topminnow and desert pupfish. Both fishes will feed on insect larvae and insects. According to California Fish and Wildlife, the desert pupfish helps control mosquito populations in its habitat. ACNC works to increase populations of both species at the Arthur L. and Elaine V. Johnson Foundation Conservation Center.

Learn more about our work with springsnails. Gila topminnow, and desert pupfish at https://www.phoenixzoo.org/conservation/local-conservation/.

Bugs.

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 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.

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.

Become a Member Today!

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 Superhero Sidekick

Programs

Live Bugs on Exhibit

  • Be sure to check out these locations for live bug viewing
    • Arizona Trail
    • Forest of Uco
    • Small Wonders Exhibit (Children’s Trail)

Events

  • Roars & Pours | March 7, April 4 
  • Wild Arizona | February 10
  • Bug Love | February 14
  • Buggie Nights | February 21, March 1 & 22, April 5 & 25
  • Earth Day | April 13
  • Dia del Nino | April 28

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