Xtreme BUGS All Abuzz at the Lawrence Hall of Science

January 24, 2014


January 7, 2014 – Berkeley, CA: What if the ants crawling on your counter, the spider in your doorway, or the butterfly in your garden were the size of your car? What would they look like at that giant size? What bizarre physical characteristics would you notice? And what mind-boggling behaviors would you observe? You can find out, beginning February 1, 2014, at the Lawrence Hall of Science.

The Hall’s Xtreme BUGS exhibit features over 100 giant bugs, including many that are animatronic, in vibrant, naturalistic habitats. There is a 15-foot-long Japanese hornet, a fluttering monarch butterfly, a ladybug, a line of marching ants, an orchid mantis, stinkbugs, spiders, honeybees, and more.

“There are many interesting parts of insects that are small and hard to see,” says Erin Jarvis, a Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley’s Department of Integrative Biology. “Xtreme BUGS is a chance for people to see what bugs really look like. And they look amazing! You can see the different types of appendages that are used for feeding, chewing, grabbing, crawling, flying, and swimming.” Jarvis studies arthropods, a phylum that includes insects, crustaceans, arachnids, and centipedes. “The different limbs that develop in an insect are determined by a set of genes called the homeotic (Hox) genes,” adds Jarvis. “These genes are very similar to the ones humans have — so similar, in fact, that scientists were able to find out and understand much of what we know about genetics by using the fruit fly, Drosophila Melanogaster, as a research model.”

“Insects perform critical services to our ecosystem,” says Dr. Peter Oboyski, Collections Manager & Senior Museum Scientist at UC Berkeley’s Essig Museum of Entomology. “If they disappeared, our ecosystems would begin to collapse within weeks.” Oboyski adds, “Insects outnumber all other living things on Earth, and only a handful are harmful to humans. They function as pollinators, which is necessary for successful crop production, and they are important in decomposition — they break down and process organic matter.”

Enveloped in the larger-than-life landscape of Xtreme BUGS, visitors will be transported into a vivid, dynamic, and awe-inspiring environment where insects gather together in extreme populations to survive — either by functioning as one superorganism, hibernating in winter, migrating long distances, or by coming together at random for food, water, weather, or procreation. The exhibit also highlights the solitary nature of most arachnids, as well as the intriguing exceptions to that rule.

Visitors can compare the giant robotic bugs to their real-life counterparts in the Backyard Zoo that houses a Madagascar hissing cockroach, a scorpion, and a tarantula. They can observe an actual Argentine ant colony at work foraging for food, cleaning its members, and caring for larvae as it attempts to grow from a population of several hundred ants to a colony of thousands over the course of the exhibit.

The Xtreme BUGS exhibit at the Hall will also provide visitors with the opportunity to learn about some of the amazing “bug”-related research that is happening at UC Berkeley right now. Students and scientists from that university, such as Peter Oboyski and Erin Jarvis, are collaborating with the Hall to create special displays and activities. Joining them is the Urban Bee Lab, a research group that studies native California bees. These bees are the number one pollinator of most wildland habitats. There are roughly 1,600 species of native bees in California, making the state home to the largest diversity of bees of any state. As European honeybees increasingly experience colony collapse, native bees are being researched to see if they can take up the pollination needs of humans.

On the exhibit’s opening day, February 1, an extreme celebration will take place that includes cockroach races between live and robotic bugs through mazes visitors build themselves; opportunities to try on a robotic scorpion tail created by UC Berkeley’s Pioneers in Engineering (PiE); a chance to meet and talk with UC Berkeley researchers Peter Oboyski, Erin Jarvis, and staff of the Urban Bee Lab; plus, for the younger entomologists, a chance to build a ladybug, make antennas, dress up like an insect, and even take a photo in an insect habitat.

Xtreme BUGS was produced by Dinosaurs Unearthed, the Vancouver-based company that also provided the last, and very popular, dinosaur exhibit at the Hall (summer/fall 2011).

Admission to the Lawrence Hall of Science during Xtreme BUGS: Adults – $17.00; Youth (7–18) and Seniors (62+) – $14.00; Children (3–6) – $11.00. Lawrence Hall of Science members, UC Berkeley students and staff, and children age 3 and younger are always admitted free of charge.

The Lawrence Hall of Science is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For more information, please visit view our Hours & Admission page or call 510-642-5132.

About the Lawrence Hall of Science
The Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley, investigates, creates, and evaluates educational materials and methods, professional development programs, and hands-on learning experiences for science centers, schools, community organizations, and homes. Every year programs from the Hall serve millions of students, over 165,000 visitors, and more than 20,000 teachers nationally and internationally. The Hall is committed to providing every person access to high-quality, effective science and mathematics learning opportunities to enrich lives, inform communities, and advance society.

About the Essig Museum of Entomology
The Essig Museum of Entomology is a world-class terrestrial arthropod collection with a historical focus on surveying the insect fauna of California. Today that focus has broadened to include the eastern Pacific Rim and the islands of the Pacific Basin. The Essig Museum is part of a consortium of museums on the UC Berkeley campus, collectively called the Berkeley Natural History Museums. For more information visit essig.berkeley.edu.

Xtreme BUGS Arrive

A ladybug and an orb weaving spider were the first to arrive this week.

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