‘Bugs’ go to the extreme at Brookfield Zoo
By JENNIFER BURKLOW Kid Zone May 17, 2012 8:12PM
The orchid mantis is one of more than 20 animatronic bugs featured in Brookfield Zoo’s summerlong exhibit "Xtreme Bugs" | PHOTO BY JIM SCHULZ
♦ May 19-Sept. 7
♦ Brookfield Zoo, 31st Street and First Avenue, Brookfield
♦ Admission: $5 for adults, $3 for children 3 to 11 in addition to general admission of $15 for adults and $10.50 for kids; parking, $10
♦ (708) 688-8000; czs.org
Updated: June 29, 2012 8:40AM
Small but mighty. That’s the way Brookfield Zoo’s new “Xtreme Bugs” exhibit looks at insects. Through larger-than-life animatronic animals and live insects, “Bugs” spotlights the critical roles these diminutive creatures play in the environment, culture and the global economy.
The temporary exhibit showcasing 22 animatronic arthropods runs May 19 through Sept. 7 in the western suburb.
“The main reason we’re doing this animatronic bug exhibit and bringing bugs to guests in larger-than-life form is really to exemplify and show the major impact these animals have on our daily lives, our history, culture as well as their environment,” said Andre Copeland, interpretive programs manager for the zoo. “When we really take a look at it, if it weren’t for the arthropods of the world, and those are those shelled creatures with jointed appendages such as spiders, insects such as flies, mosquitoes, beetles — even your crustaceans such as shrimp, lobster, crabs — our large vertebrates, our big mega faunas, would not be able to exist without these animals. And we would have extremely different lives if you would even have just one of these small creatures out of the environment.”
Visitors to “Bugs” will follow a winding path that takes them past the gigantic insects — from army ants to a monarch to a ladybug to a cockroach. Many of them will be displayed in replicas of real-life scenarios featuring other stationary insects and flora to provide a sense of their lives and their purpose.
“The bugs that we chose to feature are some of the largest of their kind or have had huge effects on our society as far as economics and medicine or even pop culture,” Copeland said.
The path leads to “Harry’s Big Adventure: My Bug World!,” a 5,000-square-foot tent featuring live bugs in interactive habitats depicting several ecosystems. Here visitors will be able to see real water beetles, cockroaches, ants, scorpions, a praying mantis and more, and learn how they affect their surroundings, even our homes.
Too squeamish to enter the tent? No worries, Copeland said. Just tell a zoo staffer that you want to bypass “Harry’s Big Adventure,” and you’ll be diverted around it. But Copeland encourages everyone to explore the tent.
“Remember, the animals are not just roaming free,” he said. “They will all be in their habitats, and anything that’s out of its habitat will be held by trained staff members.”
Kids will find plenty to do, from climbing and sliding down an inflatable 10-by-20-foot “spider web climber” to unearthing replica bugs in a dig box to being a bug detective and conducting a pest inspection.
Also on tap: a bug petting zoo (daily), cockroach races and bug cooking demonstrations (weekends only), and an 8-foot-wide by 4-foot-high ant farm in which 5,000 harvester ants live.
♦ Cirque Shanghai Year of the Dragon opens May 24 at the Skyline Stage on Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand, and runs through Sept. 3. The all-ages spectacle showcases the tumbling, juggling and balancing skills of elite Chinese performers. Tickets are $15.50 to $29.50. Call (800) 745-3000; ticketmaster.com/shanghai.
♦ Naper Settlement hosts Civil War Days from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 19-20 at 523 S. Webster in Naperville. More than 300 re-enactors will bring the Civil War era to life through authentic clothing, props and more. A battle between the North and South will be staged at 2:30 p.m. both days. Admission is $10-$15. Call (630) 420-6010; napersettlement.org.
♦ To celebrate International Museum Day all four Elmhurst museums will offer free admission, activities, crafts and more from 1 to 5 p.m. May 20. Park at one museum and take a free trolley to the other locations. Participating museums are Elmhurst Art Museum (150 Cottage Hill Ave., elmhurstartmuseum.org), Elmhurst Historical Museum (120 E. Park, elmhursthistory.org), Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art (220 Cottage Hill Ave., lizzadromuseum.org) and the Theatre Historical Society of America (152 N. York, historictheatres.org). Call (630) 833-1457.
Jennifer Burklow is a local free-lance writer.