Bugs Alive!

Now Showing

Harlequin bug
Harlequin bug
Source: Museum Victoria
Photographer: Alan Henderson

Explore the amazing world of insects and spiders!

Bugs Alive! includes over 100 species of live insects and spiders, thousands of specimens from the museum's collection, giant models and exciting interactive exhibits.


Event Type: Permanent Exhibition

Daily, Now Showing
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Science and Life Gallery

Included with museum entry.
MV Members receive FREE museum entry.

Comments (82)

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Matthew Nicolici 11 September, 2010 11:40
You should get a Camponotus sp colony in the bugs alive Exhibition. Just thinking out loud.
Enis Besirevic 8 December, 2010 09:48
I have a chistmas beetle!!! What do I feed it? Whats is it's habitat? Dose it bite hard?
Discovery Centre 8 December, 2010 16:53

Hi Enis, Christmas Beetles feed on gum leaves and their chewing causes a characteristic zig-zag hole in the leaves. Young Christmas Beetles, called Curl Grubs, live in the soil and feed on plant roots and organic matter. You can feed adult beetles with small branches of gum leaves placed in a jar of water to keep them fresh. Spray the beetles with clean water once a day and change the gum when it no longer looks fresh.

Because of their different food needs, adult beetles and grubs are found in different habitats – gum trees for the adults and pasture for the grubs. They are therefore most common in suburban parklands or the edges of farmland.

Adult beetles have stout mouthparts but don’t bite, but their strong claws can get a firm grip on your hand if you let them.

Elizabeth Walsh 30 November, 2011 11:02
As a member of the local Friends of Native Wildlife in Bayside, our bushland crew have seen on two occasions at the beach recently a wasp spider. Suggested it is an import. What would be the best place to investigate this for our local knowledge please.
Discovery Centre 30 November, 2011 11:11
Hi Elizabeth, the Museum does have a free identification service. Please feel free to have a look at the guidelines here.
tahlia 21 December, 2011 23:05
hi im the bug freak of my school same with animals but im more focussed at bugs right now the flowers were out a while ago matis nyphs everywhere! i got the name bug girl for a obvious reason . i've read every bug book in my library . my fave bugs are matids and rino beetles. my fav thing to do is catch centipedes at my uncles farm even though i've been bitten 2wice
Alex Ferguson 6 January, 2012 22:01
One thing I noticed may be lacking in the exhibit are some live centipedes. I could donate an Ethmostigmus rubripes some time, nice large specimen that would look good on display.
Discovery Centre 29 January, 2012 16:49

Hi Alex, thank you for your offer of centipedes. A centipede display currently exists in Bugs Alive, in the section that deals with venoms (opposite the screen playing bug horror movies). We also have Ethmostigmus rubripes in our collection but, as we have only one place to display centipedes, this species rotates on display with species of desert centipedes.

Carol 14 January, 2012 13:52
I have searched the Internet to find a beetle that is in plague proportions in our Eycalypts. Millions of them. They have: six legs; grass green bodies; a small band of orange at the tail; a small band of orange below the head and they are orange underneath? Can anyone tell me what they are and should I be worried? If they are a problem, what should I do? Thanks
Discovery Centre 15 January, 2012 11:35

Hello Carol,

The Discovery Centre has received many enquiries over the last few weeks about swarms of beetles in suburban gardens in and around Melbourne; they are Plague Soldier Beetles, Chauliognathus lugubris.

Take a look at our recent 'Question of the week blog' on these beetles to see if yours are the same please note that for homeowners who may be hosting huge numbers of this colourful species, don't be too concerned, following the mating swarm the beetles tend to disperse.

If these are not the same as the beetles at your house the Discovery Centre does offer an identification service

Before submitting your identification request, please read our guidelines for using our identification service.

Follow this link to our on-line form and scroll to the end to submit identification requests photographs are compulsory.

finn robinsen 21 April, 2012 08:42
hi if im right you have a green headed ant/Rhytidoponera metallica colony and was wondering how to get a queen or when their nuptial fly t is
Discovery Centre 22 April, 2012 11:12
Hi Finn, We don't have a Green Headed Ant colony at Melbourne Museum - we have Green Tree Ants, Meat Ants, Jumping Jacks and Bullants. We can't find any records for the precise timing of nuptial flights for this species, but it is most likely early spring. If you know the location of current nests, the best bet for obtaining a queen is to search for queens returning from their flights on warm spring afternoons.
robert 25 May, 2012 22:03
What do you guys feed your giant burrowing roaches and are they handable for educational purposes?
Discovery Centre 27 May, 2012 15:02

Hi Robert,

We forwarded your enquiry to Museum Victoria’s Live Exhibits team, the Museum’s animal keepers, who responded with the following information:

Giant Burrowing Cockroaches feed on dead gum leaves in the wild, collecting them from the forest floor and dragging them into their burrows as stored food. In captivity, they will also readily feed on finely chopped apple, as well as carrot and cucumber.

They are definitely handleable but can be easily overhandled. Opinions differ on this subject, but there is anecdotal evidence that too much handling can shorten their lives. If they are taken out of their enclosure and handled more than once a day, we suspect it will have a detrimental effect.


kade 14 June, 2012 08:39
what dose the australian wood scorpion eat?thank you
Discovery Centre 15 June, 2012 14:24
Hi Kade, the wood scorpion, Cercophonius squama feeds on small invertebrates generally less than 10 mm in body length. You can find out more at this link.
kade 14 June, 2012 17:05
its me again i also want to know how to look after antlion and antlion facts and for the museum i have some baby spiny leaf insect
Discovery Centre 29 June, 2012 10:16

Hi Kade, antlions are relatively easy to look after but are not particularly exciting pets as they are invisible most of the time. You need fairly loose, dry sand and a good supply of ants. The antlions will set up their own pits if the sand is right, and they’ll require a spray of water every day or so.

Small ants are preferable, and it’s best to keep adding ants at regular intervals so there is a steady supply. When fully fed, the antlions will pupate at the base of the pit and emerge some time later, the time taken depending on the species.

If you’re willing to drop some spiny stick insects to the Museum, we’re always happy to add them to our collection.

Liam 8 August, 2012 18:46
Do you have a Fire Ant Colony?
Discovery Centre 10 August, 2012 13:04

Hi Liam, No, Museum Victoria does not have a colony of Fire Ants. We only have native ants in our live collection.

Wai-Hong 28 November, 2012 22:29
We have a stick insect population boom. May I please drop some by the Museum?
Discovery Centre 9 December, 2012 12:21
Hi Wai-Hong, apologies for the delay in replying to your message. Can you tell us what species of stick insects you have surplus?
Katrina 30 December, 2012 17:21
Hi, I have an unusual spider on my front porch that I've never seen before and can't identify on any of the websites I've looked at. I have photos. How can I go about identifying it? Thanks.
Discovery Centre 31 December, 2012 09:14
Hi Katrina! Send us a photo and message through our Ask the Experts page, or if you have several photos, email us at discoverycentre@museum.vic.gov.au - we look forward to helping you out!
Olivia Hill 10 April, 2013 15:10
Why are Sipyloidea larryi also known as the Hurricane Larry Stick Insect?
Discovery Centre 14 April, 2013 11:48

Hi Olivia,

This species was named by Jack Hasenpusch whose home at Innisfail was devastated by Cyclone Larry in 2006. Much of the surrounding rainforest was also devastated, and many stick insects were collected (including new species) as they escaped from trees that were destroyed.

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duke bermingham 2 September, 2013 19:43
hi what do devil spiders eat and do you have any at melbourne museum?
Discovery Centre 10 September, 2013 13:10
Hi Duke, the term devil spider seems to apply to a number of spiders that people consider frightening. Did you have a particular species of spider you were interested in?  
Paul Seymour 11 December, 2013 15:38
I'm currently trying to find some Harlequin Bugs that I can use in my short film. Not to be harmed of course, purely to capture shots of them on film. Where should I start looking to find or buy some? Thoughts?
Callum 11 January, 2014 17:31
Do you know when the nuptial flights for any species are in Ringwood, Victoria?
Grace Martinez 12 February, 2014 20:11
We are wondering how to keep soldier beetles alive in our bug viewer long enough to observe them at close quarters (before releasing)? Our children are fascinated by them. What do soldier beetles eat? Do they have temp requirements? Thank you :-)
Discovery Centre 21 February, 2014 13:00
Hi Grace! Adult Soldier Beetles are attracted to many flowering plants. They love sunflowers and milkweeds. They eat nectar, pollen, secretions from damaged trees and also smaller insects such as aphids and other small pests. Temperature ranges found in our local gardens are fine. A suitable habitat should include an area with moist mulch.
Kathy stubberfield 16 March, 2014 18:25
I would like to set up some permanent public insect displays. Can you help me? Or point me in the right direction.
Natina Brennan 24 March, 2014 16:55
Hi, how long is the Bugs Alive! exhibit showing for?
Discovery Centre 29 March, 2014 13:31
Hi Natina - Bugs Alive! is a permanent exhibition, so you can expect to see it buzzing around for some time yet.
Kusdi Putro 5 June, 2014 21:01
Is this possible take photo of the insects?? Because I love Macro photography specialy with insects. Thnk's
Discovery Centre 8 June, 2014 10:16

Hi Kusdi,

Yes photography is allowed in Bugs Alive!

Rebecca 6 June, 2014 20:41
Hi, I am a kinder teacher and really enjoy helping the children enjoy studying bugs of all sorts. Recently we were lucky enough to find a case moth larvae. We have it in a tank with sticks and native foliage including correas. We spray some water in for moisture and he moves about a lot lugging his case. Is there anything in particular we should know about looking after it properly? I know they can live for 2 years in this state but of course we don't know how old it is. Are there any plants in particular we should provide it with? Also, how long will it stay in the case as it becomes a moth? Kind regards, Rebecca...
Discovery Centre 9 June, 2014 09:24

Hi Rebecca,

Saunder's Case Moth (Metura enlongatus) caterpillars grow within their case until finished feeding, then seal the bag and transform into a pupa (chrysalis). They feed on a range of Eucalyptus, Acacia, cypress and Cotoneaster, as well as other native and ornamental plants. The best strategy is to collect small branches of the plants where the caterpillar was found, put them in its enclosure and observe what it eats.

The timing of the life cycle depends a lot on the temperature it's kept at and, as you mentioned, how old it was when found. After pupating, an adult male or female will emerge. The male is orange and black and furry, and leaves the case to fly off in search of a mate. The female is wingless and remains in the case until she dies, waiting for a male to arrive. You'll know when it pupates as it will stop moving around and feeding, and will seal up the case.

Lilllie 25 June, 2014 17:17
What is the most poison butterfly called at the museum
Discovery Centre 30 June, 2014 13:42
Hi Lillie, one of the interesting butterflies at the Museum that is toxic is the Wanderer or Monarch Butterfly. This species only arrived in Australia around 1871 but is well known for its amazing migratory flights in North America that involve millions of individuals. This beautiful butterfly also feeds on particular plants from which it stores substances that make all stages of the butterfly from caterpillar to adult unpalatable to predators such as birds, lizards and frogs. Interestingly according to the Australian Musuem a number of bird species in Australian have been seen feeding on the butterfly.
sarah 27 June, 2014 17:23
i have found a cyclone larry stick insect, how do i care for it? is it like other stick insects? i am in a rush. i am keeping it with my katydid, i have a lot of insects at home.
Discovery Centre 28 June, 2014 14:12

Hi Sarah - our Live Exhibits experts say:

If you've found a Cyclone Larry Stick Insect (Sipyloidea larryi), it means you found it in North Queensland. If you bought it, were given it or found it elsewhere, it is probably a different species. Cyclone Larry Stick Insects are easy to look after and feed on a range of plant species, including gum trees, Acacias, Callistemon and even rose bushes and blackberry bushes. They should be kept in an enclosure about three times the body length, and sprayed daily with clean water.

sarah 30 June, 2014 12:59
Do they eat guava tree leaves?
Discovery Centre 30 June, 2014 17:05
Hi Sarah, the Cyclone Larry Stick Insect (Sipyloidea larryi), does eat guava tree leaves.
sarah 1 July, 2014 09:39
sarah 12 July, 2014 20:43
Okay, my stick insect lost an antennae, because someone knocked the box over and it's in shock. Will anything happen to it? Will it die?
Discovery Centre 14 July, 2014 10:52

Hi Sarah, Stick insect legs and antennae are segmented and designed to break off between segments under pressure. The remaining segment quickly heals over with no further damage or stress to the insect. Young insects will regrow segments in the next moult, but adults just live without the missing part.

Samuel 21 July, 2014 09:52
My names Samuel and I like snails, I am doing a project on bugs and I want to know what colours snails can be? Any help will be greatly appreciated Yours truly Samuel
H 24 July, 2014 09:44
I also like snails
Alex mason 28 July, 2014 09:43
Is it ok to eat snails? Iv seen people farm them in Japan for this reason and I was wanting to farm them my self. What would I have to do to go about this?
sarah 23 December, 2014 12:06
There are red and black snails but I don't know where you can get them from.
Callum Hopkins 30 August, 2014 11:45
Hi, I was wandering when the nuptial flights are in ringwood or Melbourne?
Discovery Centre 5 September, 2014 11:03

Hi Callum, we checked with one of our experts from the Live Exhibits crew, and he says that assuming you're referring to nuptial flights of bullants or similar, they fly in late summer and are particularly prominent on top of Mount Dandenong where enormous balls of writhing bullants fall from the sky when the female can no longer carry the weight of the courting males.

Sarah 29 September, 2014 16:52
The dreaded harlequin bug - Is there any advice on natural methods of controlling Dindymus versicolour plagues? Companion plants, stinging nettle spray, vinegar, anything at all?
Discovery Centre 2 October, 2014 11:34

Hi Sarah, there are quite a few sites online suggesting various remedies. It can sometimes be confusing as what we call the Harlequin Bug, Dindymus versicolor is a different species to what the Americans call the Harlequin Bug. The information below is on the ABC show Gardening Australia website from 2006 on how to get rid of Dindymus versicolor.  

The answer is to get the cheapest possible detergent and make a strong solution with water. Spray it on the clusters in the morning when they're out in the sun. It gets into their breathing tubes at the sides of their body, blocks them up, and they are so brilliantly dead.

Beth Pert 8 December, 2014 22:18
Hi, I'm doing my Grade 4 project at school about Invertebrates. I've chosen the Desert Millipede and wondered if there are any on display in the museum? Thanks Beth
Discovery Centre 17 December, 2014 13:17

Hi Beth,

We have checked the museum displays and report that only the Giant Millipedes from Queensland is currently on display. You will find these live specimens in “Bugs Alive” within the section “Bugs live almost everywhere”.

We hope you find this information useful, and should you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact the Discovery Centre.

sarah 21 December, 2014 15:46
What do spiny leaf stick insects eat?
NL 23 December, 2014 11:50
eucalyptus leaves (gum leaves) or Acacia leaves
Discovery Centre 30 December, 2014 13:37

Hi Sarah,

The Spiny Leaf insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) will grow to 150mm long feeding on plant foliage. It prefers fresh (changed twice a week)  greenery from wattle, eucalypt, rose and blackberry plants and will feed mostly at night.  Interestingly if they are feed Native Mulberry they may change their colour from brown to green.

NL 23 December, 2014 11:46
I have found a praying mantid which i can't identify, can you help: - It is pale brown with a dark brown line down the abdomen its eyes are a turquoise - green colour. It is very slender. Do you know what species it is? Thanks
Discovery Centre 24 December, 2014 11:40
Hi NL - Our entomologist will need a photo to make the identification. We have tried emailing you, but the address bounced. Feel free to contact us with photos at discoverycentre@museum.vic.gov.au
sarah 23 December, 2014 12:00
my spiny leaf stick insect molted today, what will I do with it now? I have left it alone and haven't touched it in case it dies or something but I don't know what to do with it.
NL 5 January, 2015 13:56
Don't worry i found out it is a purple-winged mantis and i'll try to fix up the email.
sarah 3 February, 2015 14:31
how many eggs does the average spiny leaf stick insect lay? mine's layed 9 so far.
Discovery Centre 9 February, 2015 13:36
Hi Sarah, we checked with our Live Exhibits team, and they have said that over its lifetime, a female Spiny Stick Insect Extatosoma tiaratum can produce more than 1000 eggs, so yours has a long way to go!
Jan Tarlinton 26 February, 2015 09:55
Do you have any live butterflies?
Discovery Centre 26 February, 2015 14:43
Hi Jan, unfortunately we don't have any live butterflies at present in Bugs Alive! You may already know but the Melbourne Zoo has a butterfly house. 
Greer 3 March, 2015 16:11
Hi, I found a female children's stick insect which was crushed in the recent storms. It has died. I'd really like to see a male and a female pair who are alive. Do you have then in the Bugs Alive display?
Discovery Centre 9 March, 2015 11:27
Hello Greer - Children's Stick Insects Tropidoderus childreni can be seen almost all the time in the stick insect display in Bugs Alive. There are usually quite a few other species in there as well, so finding the ones you're interested in may require patience.
Michelle de Silva 9 June, 2015 22:17
We visited the Museum on Monday 8th June and spent a long time at the Bugs Alive exhibit - our favourite! We were fascinated to watch the female mantis. She was hanging upside down from with the male hanging on to her and there was movement in her abdomen. Were they mating? Was the female laying eggs? Something had been happening over hours but we couldn't stay to see the conclusion.
Discovery Centre 17 June, 2015 11:22

Hi Michelle,

The Rainforest Mantid (Hierodula majuscula) you saw was mating with a male. He approaches her very cautiously because, if she's hungry and not in the mood for mating, she will often consider him prey. Mating can take 24 hours or more (so luckily you didn't wait until the end). If the male stays attached for too long, she may turn around and eat his head, and he also takes a while to plan his escape as she may grab him as soon as he lets go. Studies have shown that males often perform better after she has eaten his head, because the removal of his brain also removes an inhibitor that reduces his performance. Consuming the male also provides extra protein for egg production. The female will lay an ootheca (egg sac) a couple of weeks after mating.

Kiana Genovese 29 June, 2015 20:04
Why are they called Christmas beetles?
Discovery Centre 15 July, 2015 14:00

Hi Kiana,

Thanks for the question! The time of year that we Australians see these insects along the East coast of Australian is the reason for their common name. In summer they are commonly are found eating eucalyptus leaves. You may be interested to read more at the following CSIRO websites here and here.

Sarah 25 September, 2015 10:22
How many spiders do you have in this exhibit and do you have any live ones?
Discovery Centre 25 September, 2015 15:19
Hi Sarah - yes, there are many live spiders on display in Bugs Alive, including the quarantined Tarantulas. The spiders are monitored by our Live Exhibits keepers, and the types and numbers of spiders can vary depending on the animal's health and requirements, but generally there are between 15-20 live spiders on display at any given time.
Nathan 5 October, 2015 21:49
Hi I have some spiny leaf insect at home. I want to know what causes the green and lichen forms. At the moment I only have brown/yellow. Is there a genetic component or the food they eat. If it's a genetic component do you have any eggs/insect I can buy that will tuturn out this way. I have bred this species a few times before. Thanks.
Discovery Centre 27 October, 2015 15:50

Hi Nathan,

The most recent theory suggests the lichen form of Spiny Stick Insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) is a developmental response to plant defoliation rather than being genetic. When nymphs find themselves on a plant that’s becoming defoliated from overcrowding, they moult into the ‘lichen form’ with patchwork colouring and larger gaps between the flanges on the legs and abdomen, making them harder to spot amongst the remaining twigs and leaf remnants. The nymphs also rest with their legs held more tightly around a branch and with the abdomen in the air, increasing the effect of the camouflage. Trials in North Queensland suggest the nymphs do this in response to increasing light levels as the trees lose leaves. They generally revert to the normal colouration upon reaching adulthood, although a few adults retain the lichen form. Under these conditions females also seem to produce pale-coloured eggs and revert to the darker variety when plant growth returns the light levels to normal.

Alex 3 January, 2016 15:27
Dear Bugs Alive I was recently at the exhibit at the museum. the aquatic section was fantastic. what do I need to do to set up something similar?
Alice 10 January, 2016 00:18
Hi, I visited your bug section today and was upset by one of your live bug displays, a glass box containing some bright orange/red and black bettles. A few were upside down and dead and in the time I stood watching them all, a further two fell on their backs and struggled to turn over because there was no traction in the loose soil beneath their backs and no twigs or leaves above for them to try grasp onto to right themselves. It was sad to see them struggle for so long. I eventually walked away. Please put more twigs or something in there?
Discovery Centre 17 January, 2016 16:01

Hi Alice,

Thank you for your feedback. The beetles are Flower Beetles (Dilochrosis balteata) and come from North Queensland rainforest. Despite being the most successful group of animals on earth, beetles spend a great deal of time on their back in the wild and, other than the time being spent this way rather than feeding or mating, it doesn’t seem to bother them to much. The dead beetles you saw are likely to be live beetles resting with their legs held against the body, waiting for a passing beetle to grab onto. The display currently holds almost 300 beetles, so it doesn’t take long for this to happen. Museum staff check regularly through the day for dead specimens and in general the upside-down beetles quickly right themselves.