Parenting  |  Things to Do

6 Things to Do Around DC If Your Kid Is Obsessed With Bugs

Beetles and butterflies and grasshoppers, oh my.
Photo by Chip Clark/Smithsonian Institution

Some kids see an insect and run away screaming, others move in closer to get a better look. These little bugheads are fascinated by squiggly wigglies, creepy crawlies and buzzy bees–and they want to know more about them then you can probably answer (even with Siri’s help). Here are six ways to amuse and educate these future entomologists.

Orkin Insect Zoo

Get up close and personal with bugs of all kinds at this unique zoo on the second floor of the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History. Yes, kids are allowed to touch a lot of them, as long as they’re gentle. Itsy bitsy spider fans will especially love the tarantula feedings (Tuesday through Friday 10:30 AM, 11:30 AM, and 1:30 PM; Saturdays and Sundays 11:30 AM, 12:30 AM, and 1:30 PM). While you’re at the museum, stop in at the “Objects of Wonder” exhibit, which includes an astonishingly colorful collection of beetles (on display through 2019). Free. Open 10 AM-5:30 PM daily; closed Christmas.

10th St. & Constitution Ave., NW; 202-633-1000.

Wings of Fancy Live Butterfly & Caterpillar Exhibit

Every year in Brookside Gardens South Conservatory, thousands of magnificent metamorphoses take place. Ultimately, the air is full of swooping and soaring butterflies from North America, Costa Rica, Africa, and Asia. Learn all about the transformation process and how to create a butterfly-friendly habitat in your own backyard. Free ages 0-2, $5 ages 3-12, $8 ages 13 and up. Open through September 17, 10 AM-4 PM daily.

1500 Glenallan Ave.; Wheaton; 301-962-1400.

Rock Creek Park Nature Center and Planetarium

Embedded in a wall overlooking the park, an observation hive buzzes away. Kids can peer through the plexiglass to hunt for the queen and watch the worker bees bringing in pollen. Other displays focus on beetles and butterflies. Free. Open 9 AM-5 PM Wednesday through Sunday; closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Years Day.

5200 Glover Rd., NW; 202-0895-6070.

United States Botanic Garden

At least once a year, the garden hosts a Pollinator Party featuring live insect releases, a cutaway beehive display, and lectures about butterflies and bees (The next one is June 23, 11-11:45 AM; free). During the spring through early fall, visit the Butterfly Garden, which is packed with yellow coneflowers, balloon plants, and other varietals that attract the winged wonders. Free. Open 10 AM-5 PM daily.

100 Maryland Ave., SW; 202-225-8333.

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Young Entomologist Group

Overseen by the Entomological Society of Washington, these little bug fans, ages 5 and up, meet monthly to undertake fun scientific projects–like mapping spider webs by dusting them with cornstarch – go on field trips and show off their insect collections. To find out the details of the next meet up, contact the group’s organizer, David Adamski, at adamskid@si.edu.

Oyamel

If your pint-sized bughead loves Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern as much as they love insects, consider this their ideal meal. At chef José Andrés’ Mexican outpost in Penn Quarter, chapulines–better known as grasshoppers north of the border–take a starring turn in a taco. Show your kid the meaning of bravery by eating one first. $5.

401 7th St., NW; 202-628-1005.

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Parenting writer

Nevin Martell is a parenting, food, and travel writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Times, Saveur, Men’s Journal, Fortune, Travel + Leisure, Runner’s World, and many other publications. He is author of seven books, including It’s So Good: 100 Real Food Recipes for Kids, the travelogue-memoir Freak Show Without a Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations, and the small-press smash Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip. When he isn’t working, he loves spending time with his wife and their four-year-old son, who already runs faster than he does.