Recommended: Bugs, Whales, Dinosaurs and Mummies

'Bugs' at DMNS features some big ones like an Orchid Mantis (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

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Tim Van Schmidt | New SCENE


I’m so glad bugs are small.

If they were really as big as they are at the brand-new exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, then we would all be in trouble.

The exhibit is simply titled “Bugs”, and besides a generous array of interactive stations and info displays, there are some rooms with the biggest bugs I have ever seen.

There’s an orchid mantis that changes color. There’s a jewel wasp performing “brain surgery” on a cockroach. There’s an army of Japanese honeybees protecting their nest from an invader hornet. 

Ancient seafloor in ‘Prehistoric Journey’ at DMNS (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

There is also a huge, colorful bombardier beetle that doubles as a kids’ slide — if you are brave enough to climb up inside the beetle. And there’s a huge spider up in the corner by the exhibit exit. Eeeek!

The bugs are not so big in one room. That would be the one where dragonflies are spinning around a centerpiece of reeds in a shiny, busy ballet of flight, while frogs jump and fish swim. But the room has the same effect — you are drawn into the fascinating world of bugs.

2,400 year old mummy at DMNS (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

There are also real bugs on display — and some of them are plenty big enough, like large-sized scorpions and tarantulas. But they are not nearly as big as the ones in these special environments.

Here’s info from the museum’s site: “‘Bugs’, an exhibition created by Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand and Weta Workshop (the creative studio behind the Lord of the Rings films’ fantastical sets), reveals the secrets of insects and arthropods in delightful, dazzling ways.” The exhibit continues through August 27.

Real big bugs (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

I learned a lot at the “Bugs” exhibit — like about exoskeletons, bug venom, and more — but that was only the start of my visit to the Museum.

In the “Unseen Oceans” exhibit, for instance, visitors are first greeted by waves spreading out across the floor of the entrance. Inside, the inhabitants of the deep sea — from zooplankton to whales — swim across the walls while interactive displays explain deep sea exploration and what scientists have learned.

I was fascinated, for example, with the display that graphically displayed how the intense pressure in the lower depths of the ocean changes a normal-sized Styrofoam cup into a doll cup. “Unseen Oceans” closes on April 9.

Honeybees vs Hornet in ‘Bugs’ (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

The “Egyptian Mummies” exhibit afforded the opportunity to come face to face with a 2,400-year-old woman and to learn about the social and religious practices of the ancient Egyptians. There were brightly painted sarcophagus lids and a scale model of an ancient temple.

Finally, the one area everybody must visit if they are going to the DMNS is the “Prehistoric Journey”. In a diverse collection of fossils and displays, the stunning variety of life in the era of dinosaurs takes the spotlight. There’s even a glimpse into a scientific laboratory where fossil work is being carried out in real-time.

We had already been impressed by the ferocious majesty of the T. Rex skeleton that greets every patron at the front door of the DMNS, but each twist and turn of “Prehistoric Journey” reveals more and more about that distant time in the Earth’s history.

My favorite part was the full-scale reproduction of a 20 million-year-old Nebraska woodland, “gazelle camels” hightailing it away from a mammoth carnivorous pig.

Huge welcome at Denver Museum of Nature & Science (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is located at 2001 Colorado Blvd. in Denver. For more info, see their site at

Explore “Time Capsules by Tim Van Schmidt” on YouTube.