Bug Lab: Little Bugs, Super Powers swarm into Melbourne Museum

Melbourne Museum is hosting the Australian premiere of Bug Lab: Little Bugs, Super Powers – an immersive exhibition experience as told by a collection of insects from 23 June – 15 October 2017.

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A creative collaboration between Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington, New Zealand, and Weta Workshop, Bug Lab will allow visitors to marvel at ultra-detailed large-scale models of bugs, discover cutting-edge science and explore the world as bugs do, through immersive sensory experiences.

A five time Academy Award-winning creative studio, Weta Workshop are best known as the creative wizards behind the vision, costumes and practical effects as featured in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, King Kong, Avatar and District 9.

Orchid Mantis Exhibit Image 7 - credit Joel Checkley

Featuring six large scale bugs – Orchid Mantis, Bombardier Beetle, Jewel Wasp, Dragonfly, Japanese Honeybees and Katipō (New Zealand’s most dangerous native spider) –  adaptive genius of bugs, which over millions of years have evolved to have superpower abilities, including camouflage, mind control, super speed, swarm intelligence and deadly venom.

Jewel Wasp Exhibit Image 5 - credit Joel Checkley

Bug Lab also highlights how bugs are the leading inspiration for cutting-edge technologies such as fly-like collision-tolerant drones, nanotechnology based on butterfly wings and 3D printed objects created from silk.

Orchid Mantis Exhibit Image 8 - credit Joel Checkley

Capturing a vivid glimpse into the genius of bugs, museum visitors will be guided through Bug Lab by four immersive chambers and six extraordinary bugs, including the Orchid Mantis, an insect which hunts prey disguised as a beautiful flower; the Bombardier Beetle with its incredible ability to defend by firing a near-boiling spray at aggressors; and the Jewel Wasp which can use its venom to paralyse and control its prey.

Honeybee Exhibit Image 4 - credit Joel Checkley

Bug Lab will also feature dozens of interactive experiences that offer museum visitors the chance to test their reflexes and practise bug brain surgery. Plus real specimens accompanied by a wealth of layered secrets.

Visitors at Bug Lab Exhibition Image 10 - credit Joel Checkley

Smaller visitors will be provided for with pre-school friendly activity tables and a beetle slide with coloured lights and sound effects.

Visitors at Bug Lab Exhibition Image 12 - credit Joel Checkley

Visitors to Bug Lab will be able to make the most of a full-day out experience at Melbourne Museum. In partnership with Bug Lab: Little Bugs, Super Powers, Melbourne Museum’s IMAX theatre is screening Bugs: Mighty Micro Monsters 3D. This 45 minute documentary takes viewers on an unbelievable tour of the world beneath our feet, from the Kenya savannah to the tropical rainforests of North East Australia and further reveals the superpowers of bugs. Tickets are $10 for all Bug Lab visitors.

Visitors at Bug Lab Exhibition Image 11 - credit Joel Checkley

Afterwards visitors can head to Melbourne Museum’s permanent exhibition Bugs Alive! to get up close and personal with the real thing – live insects, spiders, snails and other bugs and learn more about their habitats, life cycles, social lives and how much humans depend on them.

Ten large-scale bug puppets including a mantis, wasp, spider and honeybees have been specially commissioned by Melbourne Museum.

When: 23 June – 15 October 2017

Where: Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson Street Carlton

Ticket cost: 13 – $28

For more information, kindly visit: https://museumvictoria.com.au/melbournemuseum/whats-on/bug-lab/

Bug Lab in numbers
• It took 200 Weta Workshop technicians 40,000 hours over six months to create the large-scale bug models featured in four immersive chambers.
• More than 2,000 individual pieces were created for the exhibition.
• 220 hours were spent punching each individual hog hair into the bees.
• The exhibition travelled in 126 crates from Wellington to Melbourne.
• The bug chambers represent some of the largest scale 3D prints that Weta Workshop has designed to date. Over 260 individual components were created for the large-scale insects alone, including more than 180 3D printed resin parts and more than 50 moulded/cast parts.
• The eye balls of real bees were shaved in order to get the accurate texture of the eye underneath.
• The dragonfly zoetrope weights 1,000 kilograms and features 449 reeds and 378 lily pads.

Katipo spider Exhibit Image 6 - credit Joel Checkley

Fun Bug Lab facts

Superpower: Display

• As its name suggests the Orchid Mantis has an uncanny ability to disguise itself amongst petals by impersonating an orchid. But that’s not its only superpower. It uses aggressive mimicry as a deadly lure to attract its prey.

Superpower: Flight

• The Dragonfly is amongst the best flyers in the world! They can fly forwards and backwards, up and down and can spin 360 degrees in a split second. This incredible agility is due to being able to move their wings out on synch.


Superpower: Venom

• The Jewel Wasp has a multi-step process in which with more precision than a brain surgeon it can inject venom into a cockroach’s brain, turning it into a ‘zombie’ incubator to feed its offspring.

Superpower: Swarm

• Japanese Honeybees have evolved an incredible heat-balling defence tactic that allows them to trap predators by engulfing them in a quivering swarm which cooks them by heat convection.

• One in every three mouthfuls of food that we eat is a direct result of pollination by bees. If we didn’t have bees we’d have no fruits or vegetables to eat.

Superpower: Exoskeleton

• The Bombardier Beetle can mix chemicals in a gland in their rear end at up to 100 degree to produce a defensive ‘explosion’. Their exoskeleton is what protects them from blowing up themselves.

• Beetles are the most dominant species in the world, with 1 in every 4 species being a beetle.

Superpower: Silk

• The Katipō Spider is an expert silk spinner – where the silk in its web is 5 times stronger than steel and ten times more flexible that nylon.
• The Katipō Spider is New Zealand’s most dangerous spider, while the Redback and Sydney Funnel Web are Australia’s most dangerous spiders.
• Humans eat 400 million tonnes of food each year, while spiders eat an enormous 800 million tonnes of insects a year. Without spiders we’d be totally overrun by insects.

For more information, visit www.visitmelbourne.com

12 thoughts on “Bug Lab: Little Bugs, Super Powers swarm into Melbourne Museum

  1. OMG! didnt know that Melbourne has this awesome museum… didn’t manage to visit the museum when I went there.. Will def want to go Melbourne again~~


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