Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, located at 423 Canal Street in the heart of New Orleans, features 23,000 square feet of insect-related fun, including a chance to see thousands of everybody’s favorite bug, the butterfly. Housed in the historic old Customs House, the attraction has been voted “a top museum for you and your kids” by CNN.com. Visitors should note that since the Customs House is a federal building, anyone entering must pass through Security. Yes, like the airport.
Once inside, visitors can get up close and personal with a bug at the Field Camp exhibit, wander through a Louisiana swamp, or experience being shrunk to insect size in a walk-through exhibit depicting bug life underground, complete with an extremely large spider. A raucous 4-DAwards Show by bugs, for bugs, takes place in the Terminix Immersion Theater (and here you might want to beware of the Bombardier Beetle). For something a little more tranquil, watch butterflies float serenely through an Asian-inspired garden.
The Main Hall houses exhibits featuring unusual insects from around the world. A recently-opened exhibit houses honeypot ants, an insect with a unique approach to food storage. Honeypot ants live in hot, dry locations. When times are good, they stuff some adult worker ants with sweet liquid from plants and insects. These worker ants, called “repletes,” cling to the top of the ants’ underground nest and function as food storage units to be tapped when times get tough. The big round repletes are considered a delicacy in parts of Australia.
Speaking of eating bugs, visitors are invited to challenge their palates with insect-related delicacies from the resident Bug Chefs at the museum’s popular insect kitchen. Although like many of us I usually shy away from food with bugs in it, I can vouch for the Chocolate Chirp Cookies, which provide your minimum daily requirement of crickets. Some of the treats are seasonal: in honor of Carnival, the chefs are currently offering a special cricket-topped King Cake.
For more information on Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, visit the website at https://audubonatureinstitute.org/insectarium
Photos courtesy Audubon Nature Institute