The Toronto Zoo’s Education Auditorium was swarming with creepy-crawlers over the Valentine’s Day/Family Day Weekend.
If eight inch invertebrates give you the heebie-jeebies then this wasn’t the place for you. For the third consecutive year, the zoo has invited its bug friends to share some of the love with enthusiastic families.
Interactive stations were set up to teach and engage visitors on the different species. Kids crafted their own bug out of pipe cleaners, Popsicle sticks and other items while others shooed over to the Shutter-Bug station for a photo with a vibrant Stick Insect—a palm sized, flightless bug that resembles a leaf.
Numerous Stick insects, one of the most notable bugs at the event were strategically placed in a large plant which visitors could pluck from the branches and pet if brave enough. Guests had to keep an eye out, because there was a good chance someone was leaving with a friendly critter latched onto their back!
Ann White, a retired volunteer at the zoo stood nearby ready to answer questions. “[The volunteers] love animals and we love to tell people about nature and animals,” she said with a large stick insect on her forearm. While most of the bugs present at the event are not endangered, White lamented that many animals and some bugs, including the stick insect, are endangered. “Loss of habitat is the main reason why many animals are endangered,” said White.
Volunteers manned tables lined with glass jars that housed spine-chilling arthropods. Among the guest list was a kissing bug, black widow, hissing roach, Eastern Lubber grasshopper, emperor scorpion and a plethora of beetles all dressed in their best camouflage gear.
The zoo was especially family friendly during the weekend event. As usual, parking is free during the off-season from October to March and children under 12 received free admission if they brought a Valentine for their favourite bug.