Working in what’s called backstage at the Insectarium is truly fascinating. Obviously you have to be fairly comfortable with the critters you find there – or for that matter, with “bugs” generally.
Chronology of an ordinary day
The team of entomology technicians is made up of five people who see to the wellbeing and survival of the museum’s stars, meaning the arthropods (insects, spiders, millipedes, and so on).
To guarantee visitors an enjoyable experience, the first of us arrive at 6:30 a.m. to make the rounds of the vivariums on exhibit and provide daily care. By 9 a.m. – opening time for the Insectarium – we have to change the fruit, water and replace plants as required, supply new plants and flowers to the Atta ants, and feed the predators (once or twice a week, depending on the species).
When that morning routine is over, each technician takes care of the species he or she is responsible for. Certain species are reared and kept here at the Insectarium, so that among other things they can be presented to visitors. However, the species present in the quarters called “laboratories” are very few compared to those found in the rearing area at the heart of the Jardin botanique greenhouses.
A very special greenhouse at the Jardin botanique
As you’re no doubt aware, the Jardin Botanique has a number of greenhouses for plant production. Two of them are devoted to the production of plants intended for the insects at the Insectarium. It’s in one of those two greenhouses that we find the essence of the Insectarium’s living collection. Some of its residents are true living jewels!
Walking sticks, Phylliidae (leaf insects), colored beetles, praying mantises, millipedes and others take up most of my time at this spot. Some of these arthropods need water daily, others need fruit, while certain predatory insects, as noted, need to be fed only once or twice a week.
Most of the species have been reared for a long time and require only the maintenance of a respectable and necessary stock to ensure a year-round presence in the museum, where they’re transferred as needed. Others are the subject of testing, the goal being to introduce them to the new Insectarium, which will be undergoing a complete transformation in the years ahead. Certain species are pretty much unseen, and are found very rarely in breeding areas of this type around the world… But that’s another story!
This secret greenhouse, inaccessible to visitors, our “breeding ground,” is a true source of wonder for anyone who loves insects. Coming into contact and tending carefully to the needs of these creatures on a daily basis is highly stimulating work that allows me to improve my understanding of insect groups I thought I already knew quite well… Seeing them is believing in them!