The Houston Zoo this weekend opens its first insectarium in the park's 92-year history, featuring some exotic and venomous species in more than two dozen custom habitats that make up what's being dubbed "The Bug House." (May 23)
2. SOUNDBITE (English) Kevin Hodge, curator of the Children's Zoo:
"So this weekend is our big opening of The Bug House and giant insects. And the Bug House is something full of insects. We have about 30 species, 25 different exhibits, and it's something that we've never done here at the Houston Zoo. So we're excited to open it up and bring a lot of people in and show them the fascinating world of insects."
3. SOUNDBITE (English) Kevin Hodge, curator of the Children's Zoo:
"But there's not many bug houses out there, and I think that it's something that kids are fascinated with. The bugs are not very easy to see out in the wild, so you really have to go out at night to see them. So we're taking something that people rarely see and bringing them into a place where they can appreciate nature."
4. SOUNDBITE (English) Kevin Hodge, curator of the Children's Zoo:
"There are some of them that you have to have a little bit of fear from. We have some that are venomous animals, so obviously I don't want them to crawl across me or get them out on my hands but really, insects just do their job, leave us alone, as long as you're not trying to pick them up or step on them. They do what they need to do."
The Houston Zoo this weekend opens its first insectarium in the park's 92-year history, featuring some exotic and venomous species in more than two dozen custom habitats that make up what's being dubbed "The Bug House."
A specialized insect display seems appropriate in Houston, a city that's grown up on what was a swamp and where disease-carrying mosquitoes and 2-inch-long flying cockroaches are accepted facts of life.
The homegrown roaches, though, are dwarfed by the giant cave cockroaches from Panama and northern South America that are housed in one of the 25 aquarium-like exhibits.
Other impressive insects on display are black Asian forest scorpions from Malaysia , white-eyed assassin bugs from South Africa and blue death feigning beetles, which flop over on their blue backs and appropriately play dead when confronted with desert predators that prefer live victims.
The bug house also is home for a red-spotted longhorn beetle, which despite the Texas name connection hails from Southeast Asia, and a Gooty sapphire tarantula, named for the town in southern India where it was discovered.
Insects and spiders _ there are more than a million species of them _ are vital as recyclers, aiding in decomposition and cleanup of organic matter. They also help in food production, silk production and are a food source for other animals. Pollinating insects are important for plant reproduction and crop production. Spiders, for example, are crucial for controlling pest insects that otherwise would devour food crops.