Giant bugs buzz into Halifax museum

The Canadian Press
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It’s a way to get to know your backyard invaders without the “ew” factor.

Brooklyn Jimmo from New Glasgow, N.S., and her aunt Melissa Jimmo view the larger-than-life bug exhibit at the Museum of Natural History in Halifax in February. — File photo by The Canadian Press

A larger-than-life exhibit at Halifax’s Museum of Natural History is hoping to get people acquainted with bugs in a new way — by enlarging them more than 15 times their normal size.

“Bugs are, for many people, a challenge, and creepy,” museum spokesman Jeff Gray said while standing next to a giant sculpture of a Hercules beetle.

“When you magnify them, they kind of lose parts of that. That representation allows you to disconnect with any phobias and allows you to really appreciate it.”

Halifax is the first Canadian stop for “Bugs: Outside The Box,” which includes about a dozen realistic sculptures of such creepy crawlers as the long-armed beetle, the dragonfly and the leaf grasshopper.

Created by Italian sculptor Lorenzo Possenti, the travelling exhibit aims to show the intricate anatomy of insects without the use of a microscope.

“The sculptures have been done in a way that are very true to the bugs themselves. They’re extremely accurate, even at this size,” said Gray.

“For a lot of people coming to the exhibit, they appreciate the bugs and they also appreciate the artistic nature of it.”

One section of the exhibit features three vibrantly-coloured butterflies with bulbous black eyes and wings that span nearly two metres.

Below the models is a touchable yellow and black wing, exposing the butterflies rough scales that are normally extremely delicate to human hands.

“If you ever handle a butterfly or moth, they have a dust that comes off, and that’s their scales. That hurts their wings,” said Heather McKinnon Ramshaw, assistant co-ordinator of interpretation for the museum.

“These ones you can actually touch and kind of feel what it’s like.”

Nearby is one of the world’s masters of disguise: the stick insect. This long, slender bright green bug stands out at the museum, but in the wild it uses its camouflage to blend in with plant life and avoid becoming dinner.

Other, more ominous-looking insects include various beetle species that reveal the extent of their protective exoskeletons and massive jaws capable of grabbing opponents.

Gray said it’s museum-goers of the tiny sort that are enjoying the exhibit most.

“Kids love bugs, and this is a fun way to see them,” he said. “It’s a very children-friendly experience. There’s lots of touchables that are down low, but the main pieces aren’t too far out of reach.”

The museum also plans on supplementing the exhibit with some of its own components over the coming months, including displaying live stick bugs and cockroaches and even hosting bug eating.

Follow @AlyThomson on Twitter.

Organizations: Halifax, Halifax museum, Museum of Natural History Outside The Box

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