Saturday, October 26, 2013

Leaf Bugs, and Spiders, and Bees, Oh My!

You know me, I LOVE zoo's and museums of any kind. Being a K-State student, I had walk and driven by the K-State Gardens ,on Denison Avenue, a thousand times. But I never took the time to stop and  have a look around the area. Thursday, I finally decided to take a couple of hours and have a little adventure.

I was beyond thrilled with what I found!

The view from the entrance. There were small fish and aquatic bugs near the base of the tree.
The K-State Gardens not only housed beautiful flowers and a butterfly area, but a small Insect Zoo as well! Walk-in visitors are charged $2 per person, seniors and military are $1.50. For $3, I could have had a guided tour by an entomologist, but since I didn't call ahead for that, it didn't happen. I paid my $4 (my boyfriend came with me), and started looking around. 

This little guy was my welcoming committee. He was very friendly! I believe he's a wolf spider.
Despite the small size of the zoo (it was housed in the old Dairy Barn), it was packed full of interesting insects and displays! There was a wall covered in pinned specimens, displaying all of the native species of Kansas. It had everything from scorpions to butterflies, pinned and protected by a glass barrier. There was a small "petting zoo" area, which I was far too scared to try. You could hold spiders, Praying Mantis, lady bugs, and more. There was a small kids area,where children could sit and watch informational movies about insects, and plush toys to play with as well.

This is a Walking Leaf,. They live from South Asia through Southeast Asia, to Australia. Leaf insects use camouflage to take on the appearance of a leaf. They do this so accurately that predators often aren't able to distinguish them from real leaves. In some species the edge of the leaf insect's body even has the appearance of bite marks. To further confuse predators, when the leaf insect walks, it rocks back and forth, to mimic a real leaf being blown by the wind. {1}
 Beyond the children's area, was a small kitchenette. It was one of the cooler things in the museum in my opinion, if not the one that freaked me out most. You could open the cabinets, drawers, fridge,etc. Inside of everything, were the little bugs that lived in your house! There were cockroaches in the sink, spiders in the drawers, fruit flies on the counter, and more. I didn't know that some of the bugs in the area were supposed to be loose, and had a massive panic attack when I saw a spider in a corner of the cabinet, munching on his lunch. Someone thought it was hilarious...I had to go look at ladybugs to catch my breath again.

This is a Dead Leaf Mantis. They mimic the look of a dead leaf, in order to blend into their surroundings and attack prey. All the mantis' were hanging from the tops of their enclosures, and seemed to enjoy being looked at. They made quite a show of spreading their limbs and wings.
There were also multiple tanks housing my least favorite insect of all time: cockroaches. There were giant hissing one's, tiny domestic ones, and the massive cave roaches I never new existed. It was nightmare inducing, haha. But once I got over the initial shock, it was really interesting to see the different types and sizes of the roaches. Once I left that area, there was a dark hallway, where cave creatures were housed. There were tunneling spiders, bird catching spiders, and even a mother scorpion and her babies that glowed blue under ultraviolet light!

Can you spot the  insect in this photograph? 
Here's a  close up of its face!  This is kind of Walking Stick Insect, which mimic the look of a branch or twig. Some look like new shoots, others look like knurled pieces of fallen limbs. They can be found in warmer climates, and even here in the US, in the Southwest States.
 Then we moved on to the aquatic and mimicry insects. This was where I had the most fun! I would spend a few minutes at each new tank, trying to find the insect hiding in its habitat. Some were easier than others, but it was a great challenge on a few! I had to ask the Entomologist on hand where to find a couple. There were Giant Katydids, bigger than my hands, as well as an assortment of mimic mantis' and a fish tank with crawdads and little aquatic insects that swam through the water almost beautifully.Not to mention the Plexiglas beehive!

The entire Zoo took 45 minutes at the most, but once we left there, it was time to walk through the massive gardens!


The Gardens were free to the public, and had wide paths all throughout. There were gardening sections, that showed off plants like cabbage, potatoes, corn, etc. There was a lovely butterfly garden, and a section for tropical and native plants as well. There was a massive fountain the center, which had benches and plenty of space to sit and enjoy the sights. Not only that, but bronze statues of wildlife dotted the entire area, allowing for a fun little game of "spot the statue".

I'm not 100% sure what this is, but it smelled divine.
Overall, I would say the Gardens and Insect Zoo at K-State were well worth the $4! If it had been a bit warmer, I could have spent hours just wandering through the Gardens and enjoying the scents. If you have kids, or just enjoy seeing something different, I couldn't recommend the Zoo more! 

You can find more information HERE, and Directions HERE

Love and Lightning Bugs,
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