The Audubon Insectarium in New Orleans
May 25, 2009
We drove down to New Orleans to visit the Audubon Insectarium which is on Canal Street near the Mississippi River.
Opening in June of 2008 as the first major new post-Katrina attraction in New Orleans, the Insectarium got an extensive favorable review from the New York Times in August. It put the cost of the project at $25 million, and it certainly looked like it cost that much - everything was extremely well done.
In the first section was a live collection of large insects like the huge cockroach, or whatever it is. It was maybe 4cm long. They also had a large scorpion (6cm) , a tarantula (8-10cm) and a giant centipede (probably 12cm long).
In a display called the "Underground Gallery", visitors shrink to the size of an insect.
You wouldn't want to encounter this centipede down there if it were 3 meters long!
Ashleigh and Elyse in a cavity in the large underground habitat where even the earthworms are 20 feet long. Ashleigh and Jordan are riding one below.
There were a number of examples of insects, like this fly, captured in amber.
This spotted beetle, about 3cm long, had fluorescent spots.
Some insects, like this large cicada (4 cm) were surprisingly ugly.
And some, like this 3cm brilliant red beetle were surprisingly beautiful. Like superman of the boll weevil world.
Brenda and Rod were fascinated by the live leaf-cutter ant exhibit because of all the examples we saw in the Carara Biological Reserve in Costa Rica. They had put red flowering plants like hibiscus in with the ants so that with the red cuttings they looked like a flag corps.
There were many elaborate and kid-friendly exhibits. This one was the love-bug exhibit with the Volkswagen love-bug for the kids. Jordan and Elyse enjoy it along with several other children. I said afterward that the most beautiful thing I saw at the Insectarium was all the young families enjoying it with their children.
"Quick, Henry, the Flit!"
This piece of equipment brought back the slogan of an insect sprayer advertiser from the 1950's when we had to pump the insect sprayer like a bicycle pump. "Flit" was a popular competitor of Hudson. At the mosquito exhibit, Brenda explains to Ashleigh the kind of metal pump sprays we used when we were kids. We would pour in the liquid insecticide and pump the handle to spray an aerosol. This was before the days of pressurized aerosol cans.
Eat a bug?!! Yuk!
I can't believe I'm watching Jeff feed a bug to our youngest granddaughter! Darla does seem to have some reservations, even though Grandma seems to be buying it. But they have a whole kitchen devoted to cooking bugs!
Whoa! This bug-eating is catching on. Elyse is taking another one, and Ashleigh is considering it. Now Darla, Jordan and Elyse are in line to get some more cooked bugs!
I've got a strange feeling about this! Darla and the girls are all excited about getting more bugs to eat.
With Elyse chowing down with various bugs, Ashleigh now contemplates eating a worm!
Amazingly, a lot of people were in line to get items from the bug-cooking kitchen!
Now Grandma Brenda gets into the act, eating a chip with a waxworm dip . Darla ate some salsa with mealworms. Brenda also had waxworms with cinnamon and sugar. Ashleigh had mealworm macaroni.
Also on the menu were chocolate chirp cookies, crispy cajun crickets, grasshopper gumbo, and mealworm macadamia munch.
We entered the Louisiana Swamp Gallery which featured aquatic insects. Elyse liked the little boat in the area.In the Louisiana swamp you've got to expect alligators. This baby one, about 40cm long, was in a tank with lots of water bugs.
Ashleigh and Jordan also liked the boat. One of the strange insects was this walking stick with a smaller one on its back.
We went to the theater for the bug awards for special achievement, like the dung beetle and the bombadier beetle. One of the winners was Dorothy the Wasp for stinging a tarantula into dormancy and then laying her eggs inside it.
In the beetle exhibit, Ashleigh poses with a suit of armor. It made the comparison with the suits of armor or exoskeletons that the beetles wear.
Beetles with exquisite design were exhibited in a number of display cases.
There was also the most outstanding display of mounted butterflies I have ever seen.
We enjoyed the live butterfly exhibit, and made this group photo on the way out of this final display.
Canal Street looks great again with no easily visible evidence of the horrors of Katrina. The red trolleys were moving smoothly up and down its middle.
After our tour of the Insectarium we walked to Mothers Restaurant nearby for dinner. Everything was great, but we were most impressed with the red beans and rice and their bread pudding.
There was shopping area in the lower part of the building where the car was parked. Darla and the girls did a bit of shopping and then we went up to the parking levels to look out on the city streets of New Orleans.
To the southeast we could see the Mississippi River below New Orleans with a paddle-wheeled riverboat tied up at the dock.
Down the street to the east we could see the triple spires of St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest in North America.
To the southwest we could see the Aquarium, the Riverwalk, the River and the bridge. This was our first time to the Riverwalk area since Katrina, and it was a particularly pleasant sight since it suffered so much damage in the storm. It looks great now.
Red trollies and wrought iron balconies are indelible in my memories of New Orleans from the first time I visited the city in 1959. It was good to see both along Canal Street and in the French Quarter.
We could reminisce as Jeff drove us through the French Quarter and past the familiar sights of the carriages, the Cafe du Monde, and more wrought iron balconies. It is part of the spirit of New Orleans to take otherwise plain houses and decorate them colorfully and creatively.
Driving back across the old twinspan gave us some perspective on the new bridge that is being built alongside it. The highrise part is of similar height, but the remainder of the roadway will be much higher than the old bridge to protect against storm surge damage like that done by Katrina.
This was a great afternoon's excursion and it was delightful to see New Orleans looking so good. I had kind of dreaded going into the Canal Street area after all the stories we heard from Katrina and its aftermath, but everything looked great and we had a great time.