Xtreme BUGS takes over Brookfield Zoo

Brookfield, IL

Xtreme BUGS, a new exhibit that opens Saturday at the Brookfield Zoo, features “Xtra-large” animatronic bugs, including a 6-foot-high by 33-foot-long Japanese hornet displayed in the zoo’s Roosevelt Fountain, to “Xtra-small” live insects as part of Harry’s Big Adventure: My Bug World.

Why bugs?

“Bugs are a major influence in our history because of their extreme effect on the environment, economics, food, medicine and pop culture,” said Andre Copeland, interpretive programs manager for the Chicago Zoological Society.

Robotic bugs

The exhibit takes zoogoers along a winding trail where they will be able to view more than 20 oversized animatronic bugs, from a fluttering Monarch butterfly and ladybug to a praying mantis and a giant Madagascar hissing cockroach. Along the trail, interactive signs and graphics illustrate little-known facts about some of the smallest creatures.

Dig up your own bugs!

Junior entomologists can unearth a variety of replica bugs in JULIE, Inc.’s interactive dig box. Kids also have fun exploring, crawling, climbing and sliding down the 10-by-20-foot spider web climber.

A side of bugs, please

Pan-fried cricket, anyone? Bugs will be served to zoogoers on weekends, and those brave enough to try some will be surprised to find the tiny critters are crunchy and tasty. Look for Chocolate Chirp Cookies, Mealworm Minestrone and Six-Legged Salsa. “It’s a nice way to let people know that the bug tastes good,” said Zack Lemann, entomologist at the Audubon Insectarium in New Orleans and renowned bug chef.

Live insects

The exhibit, located in a 5,000-square-foot tent along the Xtreme BUGS pathway, will immerse guests in the world of bugs, taking them on a journey through the habitats of some of the smallest — yet most important — critters. Guests will be able to view live bugs such as water beetles, cockroaches, millipedes, crawfish, ants, emperor scorpions and a praying mantis.

Want to go?

Xtreme BUGS costs $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 3 to 11 and seniors older than 65 (half-price for Brookfield Zoo members) in addition to regular zoo admission of $15 for adults and $10.50 for children ages 3 to 11 and seniors. Children 2 and under are free. A 20-percent discounted combo ticket of general zoo admission and Xtreme BUGS admission may be purchased at participating Dominicks stores for $16 for adults and $10.80 for children ages 3 to 11 and seniors.