Orlando Science Center: Exhibit teaches that bugs aren't creepy
In my very first job, as a door-to-door salesboy for Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal subscriptions, the boss continually used this phrase to his young charges: "Go eat a bug!"

Now, umpteen years later, we all have that dining opportunity, thanks to the "Harry's Big Adventure: My Bug World!" exhibit that opens at the Orlando Science Center on Saturday. Edible insects will be served on the weekends during the run of the exhibit, says Jayme Necaise, director of animal and visitor programs at the Animal Nature Institute, which developed "Harry's Big Adventure." During set-up, he offered me "Crispy Cajun Crickets," said to be high in protein and low in fat.

"Most people in the world eat them as part of their regular diet," Necaise says. It's no different than eating lobster or crab, he says, but I passed anyway. Kids are going to eat this exhibit up.

There are thousands of insects involved, some of which guests can touch. (At least 500 ants, 500 American roaches, 500 hissing cockroaches, and so forth). The exhibit is broken down into the habitats where bugs live, such as a cornfield, a meadow, a forest and water. Among the varieties alive and on display are mealworms, harvester ants, painted lady butterflies, ladybugs, diving beetles, water scorpions, termites and more.

The exhibit salutes the role of insects (think of a dung beetle as the ecosystem's recycler) and their habitats. It's co-sponsored by Terminix, which, at first blush seems like an unusual partnership. While the exhibit tries to educate about bugs and their environment, it draws the line when they come to moving into your house. Then a bug becomes a pest.

"Harry's Big Adventure" includes a house setting where kids fill out an inspection sheet after looking for fleas, bed bugs and the ilk. (Check under the sink, if you dare).

On weekends the exhibit holds special activities "Under the Bug Top," including the bug chef, cockroach races and cricket-spitting contest (The record is about 29 feet, set in Tampa.) There's also a petting zoo of sorts, with limits.

"We're not going to throw a tarantula on you," Necaise says.

"Harry's Big Adventure: My Bug World!" is included in regular science center admission. It will be in Orlando through Jan. 1, 2012. For more information, go to www.osc.org.