Welcome to Bug Lab, a science exhibition like no other. Auckland Zoo is the third venue to host this collaboration between Te Papa and the world famous special effects company Weta Workshop.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first, and that is what do we mean by ‘bug’? The entomologists among you will know that bug is a name applied to just one insect order (Hemiptera). However, we’re using the word in the colloquial sense and that covers animals like insects, spiders, centipedes and other multi-legged creepy crawlies.

So what is the exhibition about? It’s a celebration of the genius of bugs. That doesn’t mean bugs are going to win Nobel prizes in literature or physics any time soon, but they’ve been around for hundreds of millions of years and have developed some extraordinary capabilities in that time.  There is a lot we humans can learn from the bugs for our own benefit and in Bug Lab the bugs are allowing us a glimpse into that world. 

With the combination of artistry, science and technology on display, it doesn’t matter if you like bugs or not, there’s something for just about everyone in Bug Lab.

Dr Phil Sirvid

One huge challenge we faced in building this exhibition is that we couldn’t cover everything in the bug world. There are just too many kinds of bug for that. Ultimately we settled on several themes - display, flight, venom, the exoskeleton, swarms/social insects and silk – because they demonstrate some of the truly remarkable things bugs are capable of.

Every theme features a ‘star’ bug built by the incredibly talented team at Weta Workshop. These are based on real specimens and the advice of scientists who know these bugs best. So who are our stars? In Display we have the drop-dead gorgeous orchid mantis that outshines flowers. Flight features our very own amazing aeronaut, the ranger dragonfly. Our Venom star is the beautiful but creepy jewel wasp. The Exoskeleton is represented by the bombardier beetle, an animal with an in-built chemical blaster. Our Swarm area looks at the life and death duel between the Japanese giant hornet and Japanese honey bees. When it comes to silk, spiders are the real masters and we chose the katipo as our Silk ambassador. All these star bugs will get their own blogs over the course of the exhibition, so keep checking back.

But it’s not just about our star bugs. Each theme features specimens of real bugs and also covers bug-inspired technology. Do you want to know how a butterfly wing has inspired anti-counterfeiting systems, or how bug venoms may help heal rather than harm? Come to Bug Lab and find out! While the show looks weird and wonderful, everything you’ll see is grounded in real-science. We even give you the chance to hear from some of the experts behind the science and technology on show.

This exhibition is very hands-on with activities catering for all sorts of age groups. If you want to know more about what you’re seeing, there’s a lot more to explore in the digital labels. With the combination of artistry, science and technology on display, it doesn’t matter if you like bugs or not, there’s something for just about everyone in Bug Lab. Chances are you’ll never look at bugs the same way again.

Dr Phil Sirvid looks after the entomology collection at Te Papa and has an inordinate fondness for spiders. He is one of the swarm of people that helped develop the Bug Lab exhibition.

Bug Lab

EXHIBITION

Coming to Auckland Zoo from the 20th of December, Bug Lab is a blockbuster science exhibition developed by New Zealand’s world-famous museum, Te Papa, with the Academy Award© winning Weta Workshop. Tickets on sale now.

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Video

See the world the bugs built at Auckland Zoo