By Danielle Haynes
The Tonawanda News
BUFFALO — If you’re afraid of creatures with six, eight or even hundreds of legs, you might want to stay away from the Buffalo Museum of Science’s latest permanent science studio, Bug Works.
The studio, which launched Oct. 14, is all about the invertebrate world, from live tarantulas and pinned specimens of beautiful, iridescent butterflies to buzzing bee habitats.
“It’s dedicated to a conversation about the invertebrates in our world ... organisms that don’t have a spine,” said museum CEO Mark Mortenson.
Bug Works is the museum’s fourth in a series of eight planned revamped science studios. The facility has opened one studio every six months since spring 2012 and the project should be completed in the fall of 2015.
Mortenson said the newest addition to the studio overhaul is a credit to the museum’s extensive invertebrate collection, which was previously housed on the fourth floor.
“It’s one of our large collection areas,” he said, explaining why the museum chose to highlight bugs. Also, “bugs are a very popular topic, though with some people, they’re not popular at all,” he added, with a laugh.
Upon entering the Bug Works studio, guests are greeted with what Mortenson describes as the most “artful” element of the exhibit, a “Bug Works” sign made up of about 1,500 of preserved butterflies of all colors and other assorted bugs. The museum staff painstakingly took each individually bagged bug, allowed its body to relax into its natural shape and pinned it into the shape of the letters to make up the sign.
And while there are thousands of dead bug specimens on view in the studio, a few live ones are on display for those who really like the creepy crawlies. From feigning beetles and millipedes to hissing cockroaches and tarantulas, visitors can see how a variety of bugs move and even blend in with their natural environment. From time to time, museum staff will even walk the floor of the studio, bug in hand, so that visitors can get an up-close view.
“We’ve always had live specimens here and I think it was really important when we brought the new exhibit online to continue to have live specimens,” Mortenson said. “It helps our visitors get close to them.”
Like the other three science studios, Bug Works is interactive. Visitors can test their strength against a variety of bugs, including ants and beetles, through a machine a little reminiscent of a strong-man test at a carnival. Spoiler alert: For their size, bugs are strong ... really strong.
Guests an also build their own bugs using plastic interlocking pieces and bug body parts printed on pieces of plastic. Or they can have your photo taken alongside a cartoonish praying mantis in a large photobooth and send the image to their personal email.
Explore how bugs have played an important part in the cultural history of humans — beetles were used to make jewelry in some cultures — and learn about the differences between moths, butterflies and a variety of bees.
The exhibits are meant to be updated and changed as time goes on, allowing visitors to get a unique experience each time they visit, Mortenson said.
“Where we can, we physically and visibly change elements so we can have a conversation with the community,” he said, pointing out that the Explore You health studio has already undergone several changes and updates since it opened in the spring of 2012.
“We’ve changed most of the questions content” in Explore You, as well as the game board for the interactive laproscopic surgery element, he said.
Amy Biber, the director of public relations at the museum, said the next permanent science studio to open will be Artifacts, which is all about culture, in March 2014. After that, the remaining three studios — on biodiversity, extinction and space — will open every six months. The Explore You health studio, Our Marvelous Earth earth sciences studio and In Motion physics studio are already up and operating.
Contact Sunday Lifestyle editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116 or follow her on Twitter at @DanielleHaynes1.
IF YOU GO • WHAT: Bug Works science studio • WHERE: Buffalo Museum of Science, 1020 Humboldt Parkway, Buffalo • HOURS: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week • MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.sciencebuff.org or call 896-5200.