After featuring animatronic dinosaurs for the last two years, the N.C. Zoo made a switch to giant versions of some of the smallest creatures among us - bugs.
Bugs: An Epic Advenutre opened this spring and runs through October. The display features 13 giant animatronic bugs and is created by Billings Productions, the same group behind the hugely popular dinosaurs exhibit at the zoo in 2012 and 2013. The Asheboro destination is the first zoo in the country to host the bugs exhibit.
Kids will enjoy ogling the creatures. The Mexican redknee tarantula, for instance, towers over people at 33 feet wide by 25 feet long by 8 feet tall. Most of the bugs move on their own, but visitors can control the actions of the stag beetle. And watch out for the last bug, a bombardier beetle, which sprays water at you on your way out (just like the final dinosaur in those dinosaur exhibits, if you remember).
But there also are opportunities to learn something about the 10 insects and three arachnids on display. Each bug comes with its own name (Tank the stag beetle, for instance) and cartoon-like storyboards with more information about the lives of these creatures. That education comes in a fun and accessible way.
"It gives you a little bit of factual information," said Alex Gibbons, a visitor educator. "It's very basic, but it makes it fun."
Zoo staffers like Gibbons man the exhibit if you have more questions. And once you get to the end of the wooded pathway dotted with those giant bugs, you get to a bug bio-dome where you can see the real thing.
Educators have on display nearly 20 different species from around the world, including the Chinese mantis, patent leather beetle, Texas giant millepede and giant vinegroom. The goal here is to teach visitors about the roles bugs play in nature, including helping them pollinate plants that provide food and controlling other insects, according to a press release.
This is a fun exhibit, which my four-year-old enjoyed once she realized the big bugs weren't real. Bugs is located near the zoo's R.J. Reynolds Forest Aviary in the spot formerly home to the dinosaur exhibits. It runs through October.
Tickets are $5 per person (in addition to regular zoo admission) or part of the zoo's Fun Package, which includes zoo admission and three tickets to bugs, the zoo's 4D theater featuring "Rio" and the carousel. Those Fun Package tickets cost $14 for kids ages 2 to 12 and $18 for adults. Kid Zone at the N.C. Zoo
If you go, also check out the zoo's new Kid Zone nature playground, which you might have trouble pulling your kids out of to see the actual animals. The N.C. Zoo is about 90 minutes from the Triangle.