7,000 Insects, Spiders and Lizards Stolen from Philadelphia Museum

The same week that a fire swept through the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, destroying millions of priceless artifacts, the news broke that about 4,900 miles away in Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion had also lost about 90 percent of its collection.

But it wasn’t because of a fire, and it wasn’t historical treasures that are gone from this museum. Thieves stole 7,000 live arachnids, insects and lizards. It could be the largest live insect heist in history, according to the museum’s CEO, Dr. John Cambridge. He, as well as police, believe it was an inside job by current or former employees.

Footage from security cameras shows three people leaving the museum on Aug. 22 with containers that were presumably filled with the arthropods, which are estimated to be worth about $40,000. The thieves also stole the logs used to keep track of the insects. Staff uniforms had been “stabbed into the wall with knives,” the Associated Press reports. (And yet some people think it’s bugs that are creepy.)


Although the creatures were probably stolen to be resold, police warned that they could be crawling around the Philadelphia area. A tweet by the Mother Nature Network about the missing six-eyed sand spider — one of the most venomous in the world — horrified people who don’t even live anywhere near Philadelphia, including late-night TV show hosts.


Sure, these reactions are amusing — but at the same time they’re a little disheartening, since the museum’s mission is to educate people that these “creepy crawlers” should be admired, not feared. “We specialize in the arthropods of the world and we use those to tell the story of biodiversity,” Cambridge told Fox 29.

The Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion has “one of the most diverse living arthropod collections in the United States” according to its website. Through community events, classes and free programs, it educates people about “the ecology of the most important group of animals in the world: insects!”

Fortunately, a Mexican fireleg tarantula and some of the other stolen animals have been returned to the museum. Police have searched the homes of three suspects, but they haven’t yet made any arrests. The stolen animals “are extremely easy to hide,” Cambridge told the New York Times. “We want to make sure that these creatures are treated with respect.”

The suspects could be facing serious charges and long prison sentences. Some of the critters they took had been confiscated at a port of entry before being taken to the museum. Cambridge said stealing them is tampering with federal evidence.

Cambridge told the New York Times the theft will serve as a learning experience for the museum and inspire it to create an even better insectarium.

Photo credit: Jason Scragz/Flickr

90 comments

Leanne K
Leanne K2 months ago

AAds ads ads

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Rita Delfing
Rita Delfing2 months ago

Jail time is most needed, another reason that beings do not belong on display.

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Arlene C
Arlene C2 months ago

Merci

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Nicole Heindryckx
Nicole Heindryckx2 months ago

@ Renata B
@Linda L
@ Peggy B and many other members wo think the same :

WE ARE ALL FED UP WITH THE POPPING UP ADS THAT CARE2 ALLOWS 3 OR 4 TIMES TO INTERRUPT OUR READING, LOOKING SOMETHING UP, ETC... YOU LOOSE YOUR CONCENTRATION, GET NERVOUS AND I ALREADY TWICE JUST STOPPED COMMENTING. IT IS JUST DISGUSTING !! I THINK THEY WILL LOOSE MEMBERS IF THEY CONTINUE THIS WAY !!!

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Nicole Heindryckx
Nicole Heindryckx2 months ago

MORE & MORE MEMBERS GIVE DAILY COMMENTS SUCH AS "THANK YOU" IN DIFFERENT VARIATIONS, SUCH AS TY, TKS, TH, TKS FOR SHARING, AND OTHER MOST INTERESTING COMMENTS.
IT IS UTTERLY UNFAIR THAT THESE MEMBERS DOING THIS 2 , 3 , 4 TIMES IN A ROW GET UP TO 4 X 20 = 80 butterflies.
IT IS NOT A CONTEST FOR THE NUMBER OF BUTTERFLIES, BUT FOR WHAT YOU CAN DO TO REDEEM THESE BUTTERFLIES....
CARE 2 SHOULD CHANGE THIS. WHEN THE COMMENT IS LIMITED TO JUST " TY " , OR SIMILAR NONSENS, NO BUTTERFLIES SHOULD BE GRANTED.... AND CERTAINLY NOT WHEN IT IS ABUSED 2, 3 or EVEN 4 TIMES !!!

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Nicole Heindryckx
Nicole Heindryckx2 months ago

I am terribly ANGRY :
First of all : was there any alarm system in this Philadelphia museum ? Could the glas boxes be opened so easily ? In what recipient did the thieves place these insects. Not all of them in 6/8 cardboard boxes or so. A lot of them are real fighters, a lot of them are venomous and can give deadly bites. What will happen if some of them escape and walk around in Philadelphia ?? According to info 70 to 90 % of were stolen. But they will continue with the remaining ones... Well it will be small tours when only abt. 1,000 are left. The collection was divided over 2 floors. You can I can understand the Police is not giving a lot of info as the investigation is still in process, but what they tell, is VERY LITTLE !! How comes that a certain number of insects were returned to the museum ? by whom ? Were they found by the Police ? and where ?
Something else that BOTHERS me a lot is the very strange humor the Americans have. Are these tweets real ? and the writer of this article, Laura, even finds these "amusing". So the reactions of the public in the late night show. GO AWAY !! There is nothing amazing/funny about all this. Negligence of the museum, stupid tweets, stupid audience, danger for the public. Nobody knows where these dangerous critters are. You don't need a big hangar to hide them... They can show up everywhere ! Or in 5 years you have a catastrophe....


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Janis K
Janis K2 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Leo Custer
Leo Custer2 months ago

Thank you for posting!

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Camilla V
Camilla Vaga2 months ago

thx

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Kathy G
Kathy G2 months ago

Thank you

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