Chicago’s Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum has adopted a “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” approach to insects. In the 1989 Disney Pictures film, an inventor shrinks his own and neighboring youngsters to a quarter of an inch before they end-up in the backyard.
Visitors to “Backyard Monsters,” a new Nature Museum exhibit will at first feel tiny when looking up at a giant robotic butterfly, praying mantis, scorpion and two carpenter ants.
But after seeing a “city” of tiny leaf-cutter ants go about their busy lives and coming close and almost personal with small spiders and other little, creepy-crawly things, the exhibit’s visitors will arguably have a different perspective.
“You realize you are the “monster” in the backyard,” said Curator Karen Kramer Wilson, the museum’s living invertebrate specialist.
Because the exhibit is up only this fall and winter through Jan 22, 2013 when Chicago’s insects have disappeared underground, some of the exhibit’s creatures are native to other countries but are from the same families as their United States’ relatives. “Many of our species are already digging in for the winter,” said Wilson.
Museum officials hope the exhibit will help adults and children understand that all insects have a part to play in nature. Interactive stations are fun but also educational.
There is a “Rub a Bug” table where families can see what some insects look like by rubbing crayons across paper placed on top of slightly raised bug pictures. In “Bug’s Eye View” visitors step into a giant bug head and peer out.
“Insects play an indispensable and often under-appreciated role in our lives,” said Nature Museum President and CEO Deborah Lahey.
“Insects play a vital role in the flowers that we grow, the fruits that we eat and the clothes we wear,” she said. “Without insects, our world would be unrecognizable and perhaps completely uninhabitable for humans.”
Indeed, fun, informational facts in the exhibit say: “More than 200 species of plants in the US are pollinated chiefly by insects. Without insects, we would not eat onions, pickles, carrots, watermelon, and, of course, honey.”
Details: Backyard Monsters runs now through Jan. 22, 2013. Exhibit admission is part of general admission: $9 adult/ $6 children 3-12/ $7 seniors and students with ID. Hours: Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.to 5 p.m., Sat.-Sun 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information visit Nature Museum or 773-755-5100. Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is in Lincoln Park at 2430 N Cannon Dr, Chicago, IL.