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A bug's life: Giant insects take over the Houston Zoo, creating quite a scene

Nicole Hickl Extreme Bugs Houston Zoo
Nicole Hickl next to the emperor scorpion animatronic giant at Houston Zoo's "Extreme Bugs!" exhibit, on view through Sept. 1. Photo by Joel Luks

It may feel like it, but rest assured that what you're about to experience is not friendly mayhem from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

Upon entering the Houston Zoo's "Extreme Bugs!" exhibit, on display through Labor Day weekend, you'll notice that the tables have turned, with humans being a guest in the world of the most prolific species on the planet.

With insects being blown up to measure 200 times the size of their real life counterparts, the idea is to allow animal lovers to appreciate what's too small to observe with the naked eye. The collection of 13 animatronic beasts — which includes an emperor scorpion, praying mantis, dragonfly, red-tailed bumblebee and a Mexican red-knee tarantula — is set within a magnified backyard, complete with common household objects to better illustrate the size comparison.

 The newly opened Bug House offers an opportunity to view actual centipedes, millipedes, stick insects, giant katydids, tarantulas, domino roaches, leaf cutter ants scorpions.

Visitors are able manipulate the stag beetle from a station outfitted with buttons that control its movements. The bombardier beetle spits out water as a fun educational feature that illustrates how the animal reacts in the wild when disturbed — by spraying a harmful chemical.

To enhance this adventure, the newly opened Bug House offers an opportunity to view actual beetles, centipedes, millipedes, stick insects, giant katydids, tarantulas, domino roaches, grasshoppers, leaf cutter ants scorpions that dwell at the Houston Zoo.

Follow along "Up To Speed" host Nicole Hickl as she strolls through the shaded paths to become friendly with a handful of the creatures.

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"Extreme Bugs!" is open through Sept. 1. Tickets are $3.95 in addition of regular zoo admission; children ages 2 and under are admitted free.

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