How I Met the Thorny Devil (and Escaped Unscathed)

That’s right. I encountered something called a Thorny Devil. It was large, and leggy. I interrupted it when it was trying to boff its unwilling mate, and I lived to tell the tale. All of which is to say that I went to the Newfoundland Insectarium with my mother and kids, and it was amazing. Care to join us for a tour? Good.

Confession: I wasn’t planning a blog post while we were there, I was just having fun. So if the photos are somewhat lacking, you know why. If you’d like to see more and better photos with less of me in them, click here for the official photo gallery.

The insectarium is in Deer Lake, NL, otherwise known as Too Dang Far From My House. This was only my second chance to visit, but I’m hoping for another trip next summer.

Because did I mention AMAZING?

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You walk in, and there are a couple of displays in glass cubes– one of beautiful beetles (beetiful beautles?) and one of butterflies. Then it’s OMGHOLYCRAPGIFTSHOP! But that’s not why we’re here. No, get your face off of the glass, you’re leaving nose-prints. You can stop on the way out.

Some of you (heck, most of you) might not like many bugs, but you probably don’t mind butterflies so much, so here’s hoping they’re what shows up in your WordPress Reader previews. The butterfly house is our first stop. It’s warm, it’s so humid that your camera lens fogs up, and it’s downright magical.

This little guy was totally flirting with me.

This little guy was totally flirting with me.

Photo courtesy of Wendy Lowden, because this guy wouldn't sit still for me.

Photo courtesy of Wendy Lowden, because this little beauty wouldn’t sit still for me.

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There were TONS of butterflies, because they’d got a late (accidental) shipment. Yay!

So then, up the stairs. Alllll the way up to the second level, where we find the main display level. Most of the insects up there are dead and mounted, but there’s a fascinating glassed-in bee colony, where you can watch the little buzzers doing their dances.

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The mounted displays are incredible… I wish I’d thought to get more pictures. Next time! There are butterflies and moths, beetles with massive “horns” and jaws, stick bugs and jewellery made from insects…

(Sorry- my computer refuses to turn this picture the right way around and save it. Curse you, Picasa!)

(Sorry- my computer refuses to turn this picture the right way around and save it. Curse you, Picasa!)

Oh, and some live insects, too.

We were fortunate to be the only people visiting, so we had a chance to speak to a few of the people who work there, and one of them offered to let us hold the stick bugs.

There, you can see some of the butterfly displays behind me.

There, you can see some of the mounted displays behind me.

That little guy was so light, I could hardly feel him on my hand, and he just kind of laid there like… well, like a stick. Good job, little bug!

The next ones he (the guy, not the stick bug) took out were called “Thorny Devils,” which apparently are also known as Marijuana bugs for the scent they produce when they’re agitated. They’re a lot scarier-looking than the skinny little stick insects, but the guy got one out, so I asked if I could hold it.

BIG bug. Heavy bug. Kinda creepy, very interesting. I’m not going to lie and say I was completely comfortable with this girl’s scratchy little claws digging into my skin and her boyfriend waving his feelers at me (yes, I held both) but I’m glad I did it.

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That’s right, I can hold one of those, but a little house centipede makes me freeze and squeal like an injured puppy. THAT, apparently, is where I draw the line.

Side note: this one (the big female) was missing a leg, which led to a discussion of how insect matings aren’t generally gentle or consensual. I said, “Like ducks?” This was the first time I ever surprised and impressed someone with that bit of knowledge (he was just going to say, “like ducks.”) I don’t expect this to ever happen again, but hey, it was special. IT WAS A MOMENT, YOU GUYS.

This level also houses the leaf-cutter ant colony, which I find fascinating. See those green dots on the log in the middle? Those are ants carrying cut-up leaves back to their colony, where they feed it to the fungus they then harvest and eat.

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Guys, THE ANTS ARE FARMERS.

Wow.

You know, I kind of don’t want to post pictures of the tarantulas, since we’re having so much fun here, and I know some of you don’t like spiders. Hmm… I’ll tell you what: no hard feelings if you want to leave now and go back down to that lovely gift shop to wait for the rest of us. I’m heading upstairs to see the Very Large and Hairy Arachnids, which are kept on the third floor for the benefit of those who don’t want to see them. For those of you leaving us now, thanks for coming along!

Stop by the comments (um… just scroll down REALLYREALLYFAST) and tell me about the scariest thing you did this week, whether it actually frightened you, or just stretched you outside of your comfort zone. Heck, even if it’s just looking at the pictures down there, tell me about it!

For those of you brave enough to take a peek, scroll down…

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“Hellooooooo, ladies!”

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They have eight live tarantulas in all… if you’re into that.

Thanks for coming along! Hope you had fun. If you’re ever in Western Newfoundland, I highly recommend a live visit. For more information, including seasonal closures and hours, click here!

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About Kate Sparkes

Kate Sparkes was born in Hamilton, Ontario, but now resides in Newfoundland, where she tries not to talk too much about the dragons she sees in the fog. She lives with a Mountie, two kids who take turns playing Jeckyll and Hyde, two cats, an intentional boxer and an accidental chihuahua. She's the author of the bestselling Bound Trilogy (mature YA Fantasy). www.katesparkes.com View all posts by Kate Sparkes

8 responses to “How I Met the Thorny Devil (and Escaped Unscathed)

  • sknicholls

    Creepy…me and insects are not best friends. I don’t go running and scream eeek everytime that I see one, but they grow huge in Florida, and I am not beyond smushing them with anything I can find.

  • wendyalowden

    OK…it was me who went to the gift shop instead of seeing the eight legged monsters…it’s the way they move…and the hairyness…and the big bodies….Although….I can’t wait to go back with you and try to be much braver. I DO however highly recommend the whole place, and the butterfly room is just lovely…if you wear a tank top because it’s hot in there. I loved it!!! Maybe next time I’ll hold a Thorny Devil as well as the stick dude (or dudette…who can tell with stick bugs?) And oh yes…the OMGHOLYCRAPGIFTSHOP is amazing…great place to buy braclets and neclaces for ones grandson with dead scorpions imbedded in them! πŸ™‚ Thanks for the fun time and can’t wait to do it again!!!!

  • Nagzilla

    Gotta say, the scarab beetle is kinda freaky looking. And I was brave enough to pause over the tarantula pics, but they’re still freaky and gross. I probably would have skipped that floor. But the bees and ants are cool. Glad you had a fun time!

  • L. Marie

    Great photos!!! You are totally brave. I would have FREAKED OUT.
    So far, I haven’t done anything scary (other than return to working on my WIP).

    Lately, I’ve seen multiple grasshoppers in the parking lot near my car. That’s as “buggy” as I’ve gotten this week.

  • nerdinthebrain

    Gorgeous tarantula pictures! I’m so jealous of your trip to the insectarium!

    The scariest thing I’ve done this week is interact with strangers. In person. :/

  • Dave

    For the record, I don’t do bugs. This post was very disturbing πŸ™‚

  • Hey, You Found Me! | disregard the prologue

    […] storage of fungus harvests – I assume you saw this post. Sorry it wasn’t more helpful. Do check out the insectarium if you’re ever in Deer […]

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