Creepy crawlies on full display at San Francisco's Insect Zoo Anniversary

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KGO) -- San Francisco Zoo and Gardens celebrated the Insect Zoo's 40th "Bug-iversary" by offering a hands-on opportunity for guests to meet the tiny residents.

Zoo guests got up close and personal, getting to watch and hold different kinds of bugs at the zoo between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Crafts and presentations were also held to dispel several widely held myths about the not-so-creepy crawlies.

One of the fan favorites at the Insect Zoo is the cockroach exhibit, according to invertebrates' curator Patrick Schlemmer.

"The American cockroach exhibit is quite popular," Schlemmer said. "It resembles a kitchen, so you can see them scurrying around on a refrigerator and a table and what not."

The Insect Zoo boasts 35 displays that can showcase up to 40 different types of bugs, or arthropods, which include insects, arachnids, millipedes, centipedes and even crustaceans. In addition to the indoor habitat, the Insect Zoo now features a plant butterfly garden featuring only species native to California.

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The Insect Zoo opened in 1979 as a temporary exhibit put together by a renowned local entomologist, Leslie Saul-Gershenz, according to the San Francisco Zoo. The first-of-its-kind zoo was so popular, however, that zoo officials decided to give the exhibit a permanent home. The Insect Zoo is now home to centipedes, spiders, ants, and other tiny bugs.

Kids have always been the Insect Zoo's biggest fans. Schlemmer said even people who don't like bugs cannot seem to look away.

"People love bugs, especially kids," Schlemmer said. "And even people who don't love bugs. I think they're fascinated. They like to come out to the Insect Zoo and see them so long as they're safely behind glass."

Partners that helped put on the event include the Bay Area Carnivorous Plant Society, Insect Science Museum of California, San Francisco Forktail Damselfly Project, and the San Francisco Beekeepers Association.
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