Southern Agenda

Bug Appétit

Illustration: Tim Bower

A visit to the newly reopened Audubon Insectarium in New Orleans starts and ends with butterflies: At the entrance, motion sensors trigger digital monarchs to swarm against a backdrop of Michoacán, Mexico—the real-life insects’ destination during the annual fall migration. The last exhibit is a glass-windowed garden where hundreds of newly transformed butterflies flutter among tropical flowers and over the meandering footpath. In between, some fifty other displays celebrate insects in a dazzling variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. “We’ve got huge scarab beetles, one of which is called a Hercules beetle,” says Zack Lemann, the insectarium’s curator. “We’ve got the largest katydid species in the world, which is bigger than your hand and yet so well camouflaged you don’t realize you’re looking at it.” There’s also a section devoted to native Louisiana bugs, and a station serving crispy Cajun crickets and a mango and apple chutney with boiled wax worms on a cracker. “Insects are highly nutritious, and a third of the planet relies on them as a protein source,” Lemann says. “Plus, if it’s coming from a kitchen in New Orleans, you know it’s going to be good.”