Visiting an insectarium isn't a typical travel activity.
“Look out for the lions!” my students cheerfully screamed the day I left for Africa. I was a proctor in a university dorm and my students seemed awfully optimistic about my chances of encountering a man-eating beast.
But as anyone who’s lived in Sub-Sahara Africa will tell you, there are some days when you’d happily take on a lion or two just to gain a respite from the bugs and this was especially true for me. The pinnacle of my bug battle came during my second week in Malawi. I stepped into the concrete shower and pulled the folded plastic curtain over to cover the opening. Nestled into the moist folds was the largest cockroach I’d ever seen and the rapid motion of snapping the shower curtain back had enough momentum to launch him onto my chest!!!
Screaming like the traumatized girl that I was, I did a lively, shrieking dance and flung the beastly cockroach across the room, where it angrily hissed at me from the corner. Gathering up a towel and some dignity, I summoned my roommate and ordered him to carry-out his male duties and slay this unwelcomed intruder. Cockroaches are not so easily killed, however, and in the end we settled for using a metal spatula as a guillotine. He was executed on the spot!
Since then, I’ve adapted a wary and standoff-ish attitude towards the insect community. I am guilty of bigotry towards all insects and I’ve judged them harshly based on the loutish behavior of their cockroach brethren. On a theoretical level I’m sure I’ve appreciated the valuable role insects play in our eco-system, but that hypothetical esteem has never translated into real life respect.
Looking to become a better person – or at the very least a more confident traveler – I visited the Insectarium at the Montreal Botanical Garden. It was a fascinating experience! I was amazed at the incredible array of beetles, moths, and butterflies on display. Their beautiful colors and markings were truly stunning. So far, so good – but it’s easy to be generous and forgiving when the bugs are so pretty.
It was more difficult to see the wonder or majesty in the less attractive insects. Those jaws! Those pinchers! But the Insectarium did a great job of sharing absorbing facts about the different insects and making the information panels fun, interesting, and easy to read.
Most fascinating of all were the LIVE residents of the insectarium – yes, there were creepy-crawlies a plenty! Fortunately, they were sturdily secured in their respected habitats with no threat of escape. My favourite were the insects with excellent camouflage abilities. We had a great time distinguishing bug from branch and it was neat to see them melt into their surroundings (and a little disturbing too – what other camouflaging skills might conceal them nearby?)
Visiting the Insectarium taught me two valuable lessons. First, you can really enjoy travel experiences outside your regular repertoire of activities. I never would have expected to find the Insectarium so interesting and enjoyable. I’m glad I stepped outside of my comfort zone. Secondly, I learned not to worry about the everyday insects I encounter. There are much scarier ones hiding out there in the wild!
Practical tips: Adult admission rates are $29.75, which is combined ticket for the Insectarium and the Botanical Gardens. The price drops to $16 in the winter, when there is considerably less on display in the gardens. Combination tickets are also available for other nearby attractions. This attraction is – understandably - very popular with children, so those with a passion for nature should plan to visit during the week when the crowds thin out considerably.
As always, I welcome and encourage your comments. Have you ever done something to step outside of your comfort zone when you've traveled?
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My tour was free as part of a visit with Montreal Tourism. This did not affect my review and all opinions remain my own.