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Dr. Entomo’s Palace Of Exotic Wonders Now Open

TheNAT’s New Bug Exhibit Mixes Circus Sideshow With Education

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando takes us up close and personal with the bugs of Dr. Entomo's Palace of Exotic Wonders at TheNAT.

TheNAT just opened a new bug exhibit called Dr. Entomo's Palace of Exotic Wonders and it may not be what you expect to find in a museum setting. I'll take you up close and personal with some creepy crawlers. Watch the video.

TheNAT just opened a new bug exhibit called Dr. Entomo's Palace of Exotic Wonders and it may not be what you expect to find in a museum setting. I'll take you up close and personal with some creepy crawlers. Watch the video.

Ladies and gentlemen, step right up! Hold a hissing cockroach in your hand… behold the beast with a 1000 legs… look in terror at the Goliath Bird-Eating tarantula! All this and more can be found at Dr. Entomo’s Palace of Exotic Wonders so enter if you dare.

"It’s got a circus sideshow feel to it ," says Dr. Michael Wall, Curator of Entomology, "And it’s really emphasizing the wonders, the extremes of the entomological world of insects and spiders. Lots of exclamation points and superlatives are used."

"We are standing right here at the opening of the Dr. Entomo’s Palace of Exotic Wonders," says DeWaine Tollefsrud, head designer with Outhouse Exhibit Services, the company that developed the exhibit.

"In Dr. Entomo there’s also section on A Rogue’s Gallery and there’s a lot of insects that have been accused of a crime and it’s up to you to figure out based on the evidence whether or not they are guilty," explains Wall.

"I have one of the inmates in our Rogue’s Gallery," says Tollefsrud as he holds up a rose haired tarantula. "This inmate here awaiting trial is accused of injecting venom and murder."

Wall adds that he wouldn't describe any of the creatures in the exhibit as deadly but it would hurt if you got bit or stung by some of them.

Tollefsrud says of the rose haired spider, "Their fangs are kind of like the size of sewing machine needles and they do inject a little bit of venom but it’s potency is not really enough to harm us."

Rose haired tarantulas can actually make good pets. Tollefsrud had one named Rosie for more than two decades. The exhibit also has a whip scorpion or vinegaroon that brings back memories of a San Diego Zoo encounter for Tollefsrud.

"At first I was terrified I was like maybe 5-years-old or so and I thought that’s awful but as I started getting to know it the person said here, get to know it, handle it a little bit and all of a sudden I fell in love. They don’t sting, however, their big defense is -- and I love this -- they can spray acidic acid out their butts."

Now that’s something no kid can resist, and Tollefsrud was no exception.

"So I was holding this thing that just moments before I had a horror of and now it was like one of the most amazing things I’d ever seen in my life. And that’s kind of like what we would like to have people experience with this exhibit."

At the opening of the exhibit last week, kids like Colin Farrar – who came dressed as a cockroach – were riveted.

"I’m seeing this one cockroach moving.It's very cool."

"What we do here is that we try to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions that people have about insects and their kin but in a way that’s fun and colorful and very, very family friendly," Tollefsrud says.

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Katie Euphrat

The hissing cockroach I got to hold.

I took delight in holding a millipede whose bristly legs tickled as it walked on my arm.

"This is a type of tropical millipede, not a centipede," explains Tollefsrud, "These are little recyclers, their job on the planet is to eat detritus and other organic material that falls onto the forest floor and basically recycle it. They have little pores on the side of their body that will leak out hydrogen cyanide well some of them do, some of them are other noxious compounds that they get through ingesting their diet. But it’s really smelly and it tastes terrible and here’s one piece of advice never, ever, ever lick a millipede."

Got it. I would also avoid picking up a scorpion when it’s angry.

Wall place a scorpion in a bowl and when it curls up it tail he laughs and says, "Oh he's mad.That’s a threat posture."

Safely behind glass, the Emperor Scorpions show off their skill at fluorescing under UV light.

"The compound inside of the exoskeleton that cause them to fluoresce does break down over time so if you find a very old scorpion it’s not going to fluoresce," states Tollefsrud.

"For me," Wall explains, "it’s that sense of wonder. Because that’s what makes my brain turn everyday. That life is amazing. And I think this exhibit shows you that bug life in particular is really amazing and it’s really cool and really is filled with lots of exclamation points."

And that’s the kind of punctuation you’ll find a lot of at Dr. Entomo’s Palace of Exotic Wonders as adults and children alike take in all that's weird and wonderful at TheNAT's new exhibit.

Dr. Entomo’s Palace of Exotic Wonders runs at TheNAT in Balboa Park through June 2.

Photo caption:

Science goes wrong in "Tarantula" and a giant arachnid results.

And here are some fun creepy crawler films to watch to prepare for a visit to Dr. Entomo:



"The Black Scorpion"

"Empire of the Ants"

"The Fly" (original 1958 version and David Cronenberg's remake)

"Starship Troopers"




"A Bug's Life"


"The Deadly Mantis"

"The Swarm"

"Hellstrom's Chronicle"

"Eight Legged Freaks"


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