There is a strange collection on the Michigan State University campus: the MSU Bug House. Connected with the Department of Entomology, the Bug House has extended the educational mission of the department to a more popular level of understanding the insect world. As is widely known, not all insects are alike, and some may be regarded as friends to humans, while others are to be considered pests at best and outright enemies at worst. Some contribute to natural pest control, while others torment humans and beasts alike, spreading disease and damaging crops, costing untold numbers of dollars a year. The Bug House is a good place to get acquainted with insects of all kinds in order to get to know their habits and habitat, and to distinguish if they are friends or foes.
A diverse collection
One of the first things that strike the visitor is the "hands-on" approach to the collection. It is possible to handle a good sampling of insects here, although not all visitors will care to make the attempt. One is surprised to learn, for example, that a cricket's ears are on its knees, or that a common fly has its taste buds on its feet! These and other contrarian factoids and tidbits of entomological insight await the curious. Spiders are also represented here, but arthropods are not strictly speaking insects. As with so many other museums examined in these pages in the past, part of the pleasure of the experience is the element of surprise.
A diverse schedule
The Bug House offers several programs throughout the year. Open houses are one way in which the museum permits the guest flexibility in visitation. These are featured several times across the calendar, so it best to check ahead prior to a trip. The only flaw with the Bug House is its schedule: it is only open by appointment. Group tours are also available, but again advanced planning is required.
The Butterfly House and Horticultural Gardens
Not too far from the Bug House in the Natural Sciences building are the MSU Butterfly House and Horticultural Gardens. The Butterfly House is obviously more specific than the Bug House, and features some of nature's most beautiful creatures. Who has not admired these creatures on a nice spring or summer day? The Butterfly House is unfortunately open only seasonally as well, and is currently closed until March and April 2014. The gardens nearby are open throughout the year. They offer a dazzling display featuring statues, arbors, flower beds and colors that appeal to child and adult alike. Bridges and mazes are also included with favorite floral displays such as sweet peas, lionfish and snapdragons. The arrangement is similar to the Cooley Gardens in Lansing (see the article at www.examiner.com). The Gardens are available for organized events such as weddings with notice, but planning ahead is essential. If coordinated appropriately with respect to time and season, one may have an enchanting experience immersed in all this flora and fauna.