A few years ago my eldest daughter’s teacher mentioned the Bug Lab to me as a school holiday idea. She knew my daughter well, and understood that nature and insects are a huge passion for her. This was back when the Bug Lab was at Te Papa in Wellington. At the time, the trip seemed too daunting due to the distance from home and the money needed to make it happen. With the Bug Lab now in residence at Auckland Zoo for a period of time, I knew it was time to get brave and go along.
Planning our visit
I booked my tickets to the Bug Lab online. There are sessions all through the day, at one hour intervals. I contacted Auckland Zoo directly to get some booking advice because I wasn’t sure what time would be ideal. They suggested that the 9am session had been especially busy and that if I aimed for slightly later we’d have a clearer run at all the activities in the exhibit. They also confirmed that we could stay as long as we liked and we weren’t limited to the one hour time frame. I got a family ticket which saved us a little money and the great thing about forward booking for me was that I could budget for the trip better, knowing the Bug Lab experience was already paid for.
Welcome to the Bug Lab
When we arrived, the staff at the gate were very helpful and confirmed where we needed to enter the Bug Lab. We walked into a darkened passage and pushed one of the doors open at the other end. Inside, it was still darkened and a little spooky. There were lots of sounds playing, creepy music and crunching insect-like sounds. My kids were immediately caught up with the lights, sounds, buttons and things to do. In the first five minutes they were introduced to a Bombardier Beetle that happened to be a slide as well. They climbed up inside of the beetle and as you slide down inside of its body, the squeamish sounds and light made my kids giggle so much. It took quite a while before I could show them that there was more to see and do further into the labyrinth of bug learning available.
At each section we got to learn about a specific type of bug or insect. Each bug being showcased, had a large and artfully made display with interactive games and information. These giant, monstrous bugs were made at Weta Workshop and they are just amazing. My youngest, who is five, was entranced by the Orchid Mantis. The games that are included at each display are a mixture. At one display you might be trying to move as fast as an insect – this was a great energy burner! At another you might be playing hide and seek or answering quiz questions. Our favourite was doing cockroach brain surgery.
The Bug Lab has something for everyone. For my 10 year old, she could read and learn as much as she wanted at each display. Plus there were “video phones” set up for virtual learning. Press the question you want to ask the expert and their answer plays. I lost Miss 10 to these videos multiple times, especially learning about how we can take what we learn about insects and apply them to robotics. My five year old was learning with her whole body, whether it was the slide, or playing the games. She loved the activities that allowed her to create her own bug or fold her own butterfly. The hosts inside were really good at helping with the butterfly folding too.
We were in the exhibit for at least two hours that day. It would depend on your child’s interest in insects as to whether you’d get more than an hour out of the Bug Lab. Both of my kids are really into insects so this ticked all their boxes. Younger children or children who are a bit frightened of insects, may find it a bit scary. You know your child best, and whether they’d be able to handle giant bugs. After you are finished in the exhibit, there is a shop inside as well. There you can buy a plushie of your favourite insect, or a selection of items at different price points. My main tip about the shop is that most of the plushies are available in the zoo store as well, so if you choose to make the purchase at Bug Lab keep a hold of your receipt somewhere you can easily find it, or hold off with purchasing the soft toys until you are in the main gift shop.
Bug Lab is on now for a limited time at Auckland Zoo. Click here to find out more.
Watch our Bug Lab vlog on the FlamingWater YouTube channel!
This article was written by Kym Moore. Kym is a working mum of two, and occasional blogger. Fancies herself a writer, when she isn’t editing her kids’ vlogs or running their social media at Baby Likes Cake. Follow them on Facebook and YouTube.
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