Insects go largely unnoticed in our daily lives — unless one finds its way into the house or decides to take a bite. But what the tiny creatures we share this planet with lack in size (not that we’re complaining), they make up for in numbers and purpose. Personal preferences aside, Earth simply wouldn’t function without them.
At the Portland Insectarium, visitors will find, if not a love of the critters, at least a healthy respect for their individual roles in the web of life. Billed as the city’s “first zoo and museum dedicated entirely to insects and arachnids,” the center invites the public to learn about bugs by getting up close and personal with them. Literally.
Located inside Millieu Collective in the Sellwood-Moreland neighborhood, the Portland Insectarium displays numerous terrariums housing a variety of live critters along with pinned specimens and educational materials. Visitors pay an admission fee ($9 for adults) to explore the single large room, chat with volunteer staff, and handle some of the multi-legged residents.
What you’ll see
We met a Venezuelan suntiger tarantula named Apricot and a rose hair tarantula named Ursula — and even held one of the hairy creatures. Guests can also interact with the isopods (aka pill bugs), cockroaches, and beetles.
More exotic members of the bug zoo include vinegaroons — alienesque desert predators reminiscent of scorpions but without the stinging tail — horrid king assassin bugs, velvet ants, and water bugs that ambush prey.
Museum with a mission
Jessica Szabo and Molly Radany founded the insectarium, launching the concept first as a pop-up, mobile zoo in 2018, hosting tea parties (Miss Spider, anyone?) and visiting classrooms. It opened in its current location in 2022, providing space for insect and arachnid enthusiasts — and the less-than-enthusiastic — to connect and learn.