'Ginormous animatronic bugs' coming to Winnipeg zoo to creep out and educate

The Assiniboine Park Zoo plans to bug its visitors this summer.

Exhibit will give up-close look at physical characteristics of bugs and the science behind their behaviours

A giant wasp stands inside the Brookfield Zoo, just outside of Chicago, as part of the Xtreme Bugs exhibit. (Xtreme Bugs/Facebook)

The Assiniboine Park Zoo plans to bug its visitors this summer.

A limited-time exhibit called Xtreme Bugs will feature animatronic bugs, including a six metre Japanese hornet and a four metre praying mantis, in an up-close look at the physical characteristics of bugs and the science behind the behaviours of typically tiny creatures.

"Usually when people see bugs, they're looking down at them. In this exhibit, the bugs are going to be looking down at you," said Shane Pratt, animal care supervisor at the zoo.

"I know probably what some of you are thinking is 'That's disgusting' or 'Ew' or something of that sort. I think they're amazing creatures."

Grant Furniss stands next to a small-scale model of one of the bugs that will be on display this summer. The insects in the actual exhibit will be 20 times larger, he said. (CBC)

In all, there will be 19 "ginormous animatronic bugs" set up along a forested trail inside the zoo grounds this summer, said Grant Furniss, senior director of animal care and conservation.

"This is going to be a very exciting, immersive attraction," he said.

The exhibit won't just be a fun experience but hopefully an educational one that provides "a story of just how important bugs are in our environment," Furniss said.

Interpretive components will help visitors understand the science behind insect appearance, behaviour and survival and the important role that bugs play in our everyday environment, a news release about the exhibit says.

A tarantula greets visitors at the extreme bugs exhibit at the Houston Zoo. (Houston Zoo/YouTube)

Most people, particularly in the city, don't consider the benefits of these creepy crawlies that help with decomposition, pollinate plants and fertilize the soil.

"We'd have severe food problems all over the world" without them, Pratt said.

"Ecosystems would collapse and the world would be a very inhospitable, different place."

​The dates for the exhibit — which is included with regular zoo admission — have yet to be finalized. They will be announced later this spring.

The zoo will offer bug-themed programs and workshops for preschool-aged children and school groups for an additional cost.

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