The Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion is missing $50,000 worth of bugs; the loss wasn't immediately discovered because bugs are small and the Insectarium often moves its specimens around for exhibitions, lendouts, etc. -- but when 80-90% of your collection goes missing, you notice.
An examination of CCTV footage from the Insectarium showed employees working with outsiders to steal the bugs. What the thieves may not have understood is that some of the stolen bugs were actually evidence being held for federal law enforcement agencies who had seized them in smuggling cases, making the whole thing pretty fraught.
For some unknown reason, the thieves left two employee uniforms pinned to a store-room wall by two long, sharp knives.
According to Cambridge, at least five employees or people associated with the insectarium were caught on security footage taking the insects and some reptiles. Cambridge couldn’t say much more about who was involved and the Philadelphia Police Department did not return our request for comment. The CEO did say that he didn’t really want to get the police involved at all. His first thought was, “let’s contact the people that did it and just [tell them] to bring the creatures back.” But when he realized how many thieves were involved and the magnitude of the theft, he had no choice.
It all happened in the open, without any forcible entry to the facilities. Cambridge couldn’t say for sure exactly how many specimens were taken, but it was 80 to 90 percent of the institution’s collection, a figure representing thousands of creatures. “So the thing is with the insect colonies, an insectarium is going to be displaying a couple individuals of a particular species out on the floor,” Cambridge said. “But in order to use them in a stable exhibit, we need to have colonies of them in the back.” If one colony of roaches is stolen, that’s thousands of roaches. “We had lots and lots and lots of colonies of cockroaches taken,” he said.
Insectarium CEO Says $50,000 Bug Heist Was an Inside Job [Rhett Jones/Gizmodo]