Bug-Eyed in New Orleans

We’re sorry to bug you, but contributing Editor Andrew Nelson recently ventured to the new insect museum in New Orleans and we thought you’d be interesting in hearing the buzz.*

The Crescent City’s Audubon Institute (the folks who run the zoo and the aquarium) opened a new museum on June 13 on the edge of the French Quarter that is all about the creepy crawlies (the six-legged varieties; the two-legged ones remain on Bourbon Street). The family-friendly Audubon Insectarium, housed on Canal Street in the pre-Civil War U.S. Custom House, features an array of whiz-bang exhibits that bring the world of insects to life.

Mosquitoes, stag beetles, leaf-cutter ants and a butterfly room featuring a humid Japanese garden and koi pond are some of the highlighted displays. The entire exhibit is designed to be great for kids, though with a slightly naughty sense of humor that adults will enjoy as well (the dung beetle display is right by the bathrooms, for example).

After the jump:  Roach immersion therapy

They even have a pantry of swarming cockroaches, where a special display allows you to poke your head up inside an acrylic bubble to view, should you desire, the scrabbling household pests at eye level.

(If you don’t hasten to wash your dishes now, you will forever thereafter.)

“We call it roach immersion therapy,” says Insectarium spokeswoman Melissa Lee.

The museum has several roving staff members, like Zack Lemann and Jayme Necaise, resident entomologists, who educate visitors on what they’re seeing.

That green stuff in the ant colony? “Fungus,” says Zack. “They raise it for food.”

Humans can eat here, too. The highpoint of the exhibit is Bug Appetite – a demonstration kitchen run by the resident entomologists. Visitors can nosh on fried dragonflies, salted meal worms and “Critter Fritters.”

All of them are actually tasty. The nibbles are received enthusiastically by most people. Others grimace.

Crickets and dip?

“Dawlin’,” said one woman with a trademark New Orleans accent, “feed it to my husband. He’ll eat anything.”

Try it Yourself: The Insectarium chefs were kind enough to send over one of their recipes. Enjoy!

Mealworm Fried Rice

INGREDIENTS:

•    1 egg
•    2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
•    2 tablespoons corn oil
•    3 cups leftover cooked rice (200 g, 7 ounces dry weight before cooking)
•    100 grams/4 ounces frozen peas (defrosted)
•    4 spring onions (green onions), finely chopped
•    1 cup apple-fed medium mealworms, preferably live
•    100 grams/4 ounces bean sprouts
•    1 to 2 teaspoons soy sauce
•    Ground white pepper, to taste

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PREPARATION:

1.    Beat the egg and sesame oil in a small bowl.
2.    Heat the corn oil in a large frying pan. When the oil is simmering and almost smoking, add the mealworms and stir fry for several minutes.  Add rice to stir-fry for 3 to 4 minutes, until completely heated through.
3.    Add the peas, spring onion and bean sprouts.

Photos: courtesy of the Insectarium

*Please pardon our awful bug puns.

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