Bugs Alive! is the largest exhibition of live bugs in Australia. Behind
the scenes, a small group of specialised zoologists care for the animals and
undertake further research into them.
Selecting the Exhibits
Since 1999, Museum Victoria’s zoologists have been working on the husbandry of
insects and other bugs for display. Over 150 species have been tested for
suitability, and 131 species have been deemed to be appropriate for display.
The selection of species in Bugs Alive! is made with several criteria in
mind. The bugs that are chosen have to support the themes of the exhibition,
they have to be able to be kept all year round, and they have to be able to be
displayed well. Interesting, but shy bugs that spend their time hiding under
rocks are obviously unsuitable!
The livestock is obtained from a variety of sources. Some are donated, some are
bought from suppliers in various parts of Australia, others are obtained
through links that the museum has with other institutions, and some are
obtained on museum field trips.
Many of the animals on display in Bugs Alive! have never been bred in
captivity before. The museum’s animal keepers have had to carry out some
fundamental research into the food, habitat and climatic preferences of the
In the back-of-house area of the museum, where the animals are kept, a dry
climate room, a humid room and a quarantine
room have all been established. These conditions have been replicated in the
enclosures in Bugs Alive!
Bug diets are incredibly varied. Once the animal keepers have established the
food requirements of their ‘guests’, on-going supplies of live food, various
fruits and vegetables, and a range of customised meals need to be sourced.
The live bugs displayed in Bugs Alive! include stick insects, leaf
insects, rainforest snails, green tree ants, jumping jack ants, native
cockroaches, native crickets, blow flies, mosquitoes, native bees, dermestid
beetles, tarantulas, funnel-web spiders, redback spiders, orb-weaving spiders,
scorpions, centipedes and a variety of aquatic insects.
The tarantulas kept in quarantine within Bugs Alive! were illegally
imported by spider smugglers and destined for private collections. However,
they were intercepted in the post or during raids by Australian Customs Service
officers and officers of the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service
(AQIS). They, together with any mites and other unwanted passengers they host,
are a potential threat to Australian spiders and other wildlife.
Australia has been surrounded by the sea for more than 55 million years. It was
effectively quarantined from the rest of the world, protecting the unique
animals and plants here. Now Australia receives approximately nine million
international passengers, 160 million international mail articles and 1.3
million containers arrive by ship each year. All these people, parcels and
containers pass through quarantine checks. The tough quarantine laws are to
protect our unique flora and fauna, and to keep Australia free of many pests
and diseases that plague other countries.
Detailed information about import and export conditions for animals, plants and
related products is provided by The
Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS).