natureNaturenaturecreepy crawlies

$40,000-Worth Of Insects And Lizards Were Just Stolen During An Utterly Bizarre Heist


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

Most of the institute's exhibits are now gone. pitaksin/Shutterstock

Here’s a story you don’t come across every day: $40,000-worth of insects have been stolen from the Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion. Not only is the thief or thieves still on the run, but the police suspect it could be an inside job.

Per The New York Times, the theft was recorded on CCTV, and showed several unidentified people sneaking around like cartoon characters, shoving a variety of insects, lizards, and arachnids, some venomous, into plastic containers. In total, around 7,000 critters – about 80 to 90 percent of the insectarium’s entire cache – were nabbed, most probably for resale elsewhere.


The culprits even stole the logs used to note what insects are where, so it can’t be definitively said which insects have in fact been removed. Several staff uniforms were also found pinned to the wall with knives. So far, based on evidence like this, it’s suspected that several current or ex-employees are to blame, and several houses have been searched.

The insectarium’s website proudly notes that they “showcase one of the most diverse living arthropod collections in the United States.” At present, this is sadly no longer the case, even if a few random specimens, like their Mexican Fire Leg Tarantula, have been recovered and returned by the authorities.

Although the institute’s Twitter account hasn’t been updated since August 31, their Instagram feed has been – and now features the hashtag #BringTheBugsBack. They also ask in one post if they can “coin the term ‘bug-lary’.”


The theft has meant that large sections of the building have been, quite understandably, closed to the public for the time being. They have also started a GoFundMe page that aims to raise enough money to recuperate the losses they’ve experienced.


“It is incredibly important to teach about ecology and natural diversity in today's world,” the page’s description says. “We hope to continue to do this work far into the future but could really use your help to get through this hard time!”

Although unusually severe, this is hardly the first time bug thieves have made malicious moves in the US. Back in April of this year, a self-proclaimed artist stole a rare butterfly from the Krohn Conservatory in Cincinnati. She was arrested at her home, which police note contained multiple butterflies.


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