7 Creepy-Crawly Museums for Insect Lovers

See live and preserved specimens at these United States insectariums.

The Hercules Beetle

The Hercules Beetle

The Hercules Beetle is one of many live specimens on display at the Insectarium in the Audubon Nature Center in New Orleans.

Photo by: Audubon Nature Institute

Audubon Nature Institute

Looking for a different kind of museum or zoo experience for your family? How about a visit to an insectarium? Bugs may be creepy or repulsive to some but they are also fascinating and play an essential and beneficial role in our world.

Insects are generally described as small living creatures with a well-defined head, thorax and abdomen, three pairs of legs and one or two pairs of wings. Of course, the classification of insect breaks down into subclasses such as wingless (Apterous) or winged (Pterygota) and within those categories you get into specific divisions such as cockroaches (Order: Blattodea), ants (Order: Hymenoptera) and butterflies (Order: Lepidoptera).

The Orb Weaver Spider at the Harrell House Bug Museum

The Orb Weaver Spider at the Harrell House Bug Museum

The Orb Weaver spider is a type of insect that builds spiral wheel-shaped webs to trap its prey

Photo by: Harrell House Bug Museum

Harrell House Bug Museum

Spiders, ticks, mites, scorpions and other invertebrate animals are often included in bug collections and displays but are not insects. They are classified as arachnids because they have eight legs and two main body parts (a fused head and thorax and an abdomen).

The Female Jumping Stick

The Female Jumping Stick

The Female Jumping Stick insect at the Saint Louis Zoo insectarium might look like a cartoon creation but it is real.

Photo by: Michael Jacob, Saint Louis Zoo

Michael Jacob, Saint Louis Zoo

The best way to learn the major differences between say, a praying mantis and a daddy longlegs, is to visit an insect zoo or collection where you can observe these wonders of nature up close and get a crash course in entomology from the resident experts. Here are some of the best places in the U.S. to get to know our fellow residents on planet Earth.

Child of the Earth also known as the Jerusalem Cricket

Child of the Earth also known as the Jerusalem Cricket

This cricket, which is known as Child of the Earth or the Jerusalem Cricket, is one of the insects on display at The Harrell House Bug Museum in Santa Fe.

Photo by: Harrell House Bug Museum

Harrell House Bug Museum

The Harrell House Bug Museum

Located in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Harrell House first started as a mall kiosk in 2012 where Wade Harrell sold nature and science toys. Since then, the operation has expanded to include the Crawlywood Collection, Oliver Greer’s display of 2,400 mounted insects from around the world, as well as over 150 live specimens such as spiders, scorpions, millipedes and other critters. If you’re nice, the museum staff may even let you hold or pet one of the friendlier bugs.

Leaf Cutter Ants

Leaf Cutter Ants

Leaf cutter ants can carry 20 times their body weight and can be seen at work in the Houston Zoo insect museum.

Photo by: Stephanie Adams/Houston Zoo

Stephanie Adams/Houston Zoo

The Houston Museum of Natural Science

If you are planning a family trip to Houston, you should definitely add this amazing museum in Hermann Park to your sightseeing list. It includes an insect zoo and museum and the Cockerel Butterfly Center which is designed as a walk-through butterfly habitat. The insect collection in the Brown Hall of Entomology is presented on three different levels. Insects and Us! on the lower level is an interactive learning center featuring interviews with entomology experts and close-up views of specimens, The Land of Beeyond on the main level is a child-friendly immersive insect environment and The Amazing World of Anthropods on the upper level is where you can view some amazing live insects. Among these are leaf cutter ants (pictured above), the angle winged katydid, the Peruvian Jumping Stick, the whipscorpion and giant cockroaches.

The American Burying Beetle

The American Burying Beetle

This is an endangered American burying beetle that lives behind the scenes at the Monsanto Insectarium at the Saint Louis Zoo.

Photo by: Ray Meibaum, Saint Louis Zoo

Ray Meibaum, Saint Louis Zoo

Monsanto Insectarium at Saint Louis Zoo

Hosting more than 20 exhibition areas, the Monsanto Insectarium features more than 100 species of live insects in an educational environment where you can learn all about their unique qualities. Take a glimpse inside a working beehive, pose for a selfie in front of the eight foot sculpture of a Centaurus beetle, and marvel at the dragonflies, moths and other winged invertebrates in the domed Mary Ann Lee Butterfly Wing. Whether it is the endangered American burying beetle (pictured above) or an exotic Peruvian fire stick, you’re bound to discover some amazing lifeforms you never knew existed.

The Tarantula spider at The Bug Museum, Bremerton, WA.

The Tarantula spider at The Bug Museum, Bremerton, WA.

The Tarantula is a type of large, hairy arachnid which has become a popular exotic pet for some people.

Photo by: The Bug Museum, www.bugmuseum.com

The Bug Museum, www.bugmuseum.com

The Bug Museum

This unique operation in Bremington, Washington is a combination bug and reptile museum with a nature gift store. The Bug Museum displays include an eight foot long ant farm, familiar favorites like the praying mantis and tarantula (pictured above) and less well known critters like the milkweed bug, the blue death-feigning beetle or fiery searchers (aka caterpillar hunters). During your visit you can also watch bug videos, study insects under the microscope and opt to start your own collection with a live butterfly or ladybug kit from the gift shop. 

The Butterfly Pavilion

The Butterfly Pavilion

A visit to the Butterfly Pavilion at the Philadelphia Insectarium is a fun and educational experience for families traveling to this city.

Photo by: Wise Owl Multimedia

Wise Owl Multimedia

Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion

Since it first opened in 1992, the Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion has become a popular family attraction due to a multifaceted exhibition space which includes a butterfly pavilion (thousands of butterflies in a 7,000 foot tropical ecosphere), a chrysalis chamber, a tropical plant area, a honey bee center and a showcase for insects and arachnids where you can observe tarantulas, praying mantis, scorpions and other arthropods at play. 

A Close Up of the Lubber Grasshopper

A Close Up of the Lubber Grasshopper

Romalea guttat, the Lubber grasshopper, is on display at The O. Orkin Insect Zoo at the National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.

Photo by: The O. Orkin Insect Zoo at the National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C. Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution.

The O. Orkin Insect Zoo at the National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C. Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution.

Smithsonian National Museum of History

In the O. Orkin Insect Zoo, located on the second floor of the Smithsonian NMNH, visitors can observe more than 300 live insects and even touch or hold a few under the supervision of the exhibition staff. You can learn about their lives and behavior by exploring several on-site habitats such as their recreated Sonoran Desert, Mangrove Swamp and Tropical Rain Forest. There is also a towering African Termite Mound and if you time your visit accordingly you can witness tarantula feeding demonstrations. Don’t forget to visit their amazing Butterfly Pavilion while you’re there.

The Giant Burrowing Cockroach

The Giant Burrowing Cockroach

This giant Burrowing Cockroach is one of several fascinating insects on display at the Audubon Nature Institute Insectarium in New Orleans.

Photo by: Audubon Nature Institute

Audubon Nature Institute

Insectarium at Audubon Nature Institute

Located inside a 170 year old U.S. Custom House in downtown New Orleans, the Insectarium is one of the most popular attractions at the Audubon Nature Institute. Within the spacious complex, there are a multitude of attractions including a termite gallery, a recreated wetlands habitat with aquatic insects and reptiles, an underground installation where you can experience what it is like to be the size of an ant and a room dedicated to the insects of New Orleans. There is even a Bug Appetit exhibit where chefs extol the nutritional qualites of insects and serve them up in exotic dishes for tasting.

The Man Faced Bug at the Insectarium in New Orleans' Audubon Nature Institute

The Man Faced Bug at the Insectarium in New Orleans' Audubon Nature Institute

This unusual insect with an exterior that resembles a man's face is a type of stink bug that feeds on plants and nectar.

Photo by: Audubon Nature Institute

Audubon Nature Institute

Keep Reading

Next Up

Crime Museums

Does the punishment always fit the crime? Delve into notions of truth and justice at these crime museums worldwide.

Literary Museums

A number of tiny museums provide literature fans with the opportunity to pay tribute to literary icons.

The Brooklyn Museum

The Brooklyn Museum houses over a million and a half pieces of art, making it one of the country's largest museums.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Travel Channel narrows down the best of the Met to give you our favorite picks.

The Norton Simon Museum

Here are 5 must-see pieces at the museum named for a man and his money -- The Norton Simon Museum.

The Walters Art Museum

Here are 5 must-see pieces at The Walters Art Museum.

Sydney's Top 5 Museums

We've sussed out the top 5 museums in the Land Down Under.

Top Philadelphia Museums

Culture hounds, rejoice: these are Philadelphia's top museums.