Insectarium hosts free day at the museum


A butterfly rests on a plant inside the butterfly garden at the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium on Sept. 21. The Insectarium held a free admissions day. Photo credit: Sam Lucio

Sam Lucio

On a rainy Saturday morning, New Orleanians lined up not to watch football, eat the city’s world-famous food or even to listen to a traditional jazz performance, but instead to look at cockroaches and butterflies.

The Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, in partnership with Smithsonian Magazine, participated in Smithsonian Museum Day on Sept. 21, an event where guests could enter any participating museum free of charge.

According to Jayme Necaise, director of Animal and Visitor programs at the Insectarium, participating in the Smithsonian Museum Day is a way to “drive attendance at the facility and give people a taste of what the museum is about.”

“They love to go see the tigers at the zoo, or they love to go see the giant sharks at the aquarium but they’re like ‘bugs, no way’,” said Necaise. “…so by having this free day we’re hoping more people will come in and use word of mouth to spread how cool bugs really are.”

Jonas Zymmerman, an international student from Austria, said he walks past the Insectarium often and has wanted to experience what the museum has to offer and to also overcome his fear of cockroaches.

“I’m also on a very tight budget as an international student, so I thought, ‘hey, it’s free, I’m gonna check it out,’” said Zymmerman.

Others, like Lakisha Cargill, loves butterflies and regularly visits the butterfly garden in Georgia, but has never seen the Butterfly Garden at the Insectarium.

“The opportunity to come to the museum and experience that was something I thought would be fun and seeing that it was a free day I thought ‘perfect timing,’” said Cargill.

The Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium usually averages around 200,000 guests every year, and during last year’s Smithsonian Museum Day, the Insectarium set their single-day attendance record for 2018 by welcoming in over 2,000 guests. According to Necaise, the Insectarium might even break that record during this year’s Smithsonian Museum Day.

“I was out on the street a little while ago and there’s a line around the building and it’s just looking great and it’s looking great in [the Insectarium],” said Necaise.