When cruising down Highway 115, you may have noticed a gigantic beetle perched along the side of the road, lording his awesomeness over the cars passing by. He’s nearly impossible to miss! That big metal beetle, known as Herkimer, is the guardian/welcome bug for one of the coolest attractions in the Pikes Peak region, the May Natural History Museum. Well … that’s its “fancy” name, anyway. To everyone else in Colorado Springs and the surrounding area, it’s known as the “bug museum” — because it’s home to the world’s largest private insect collection. That fact alone is a pretty cool reason to visit, but just in case you needed more, check this out!
1. There Are More than 7,000 Species of Butterflies, Beetles and Spiders
Founder James May was not the kind of man who took his fascination with bugs lightly. For eight decades, he traveled all over the planet in search of interesting insects, rare specimens and anything else that creeped and crawled. In his travels, he collected thousands of specimens, carefully preserving them in the collection that you’ll discover when you visit. Entomologists travel from all over the world to check out May’s work, so you know he created something very special. Best of all, they’re safely encased in glass, so you can finally get up close and personal with critters that might normally cause you to scream and run.
2. The May Natural History Museum is Close to Home
Located less than 20 minutes from downtown Colorado Springs, or a mere jaunt on I-25 to pick up Highway 115, you won’t have far to travel to check out the museum’s many-legged tenants and the beautiful grounds that surround it. Less travel means more time for fun, learning and exploring, right?
3. The Museum is Family Operated
Most of the folks you’ll meet when you visit the museum are part of the May family. Running the attraction has been a labor of love that has carried on since Mr. May passed away in 2007, with his grandkids helping out in the museum and working at the campground. Speaking of the campground …
4. It’s Next to an Amazing Campground
The Golden Eagle Campground has been run by the May family since 1961. In fact, in its early days, the campground’s purpose was to help Mr. May support the museum. Today, it’s a stunning location that’s close to everything fun (including the bug museum, of course), but still the quintessential Colorado experience. Lakes for fishing, miles of hiking trails, hookups for campers … they’ve got it all. If you’re looking for a way to enjoy the great outdoors while still being close to great restaurants and other cool Pikes Peak area attractions like Garden of the Gods, Pikes Peak and more, the Golden Eagle Campground is simply an unbeatable location.
5. It’s Got a Gift Shop with Bug-Themed Items
If you’re the kind of person who is absolutely crazy about all things bugs, there’s really no better place to find books, novelties and other insect-themed items than a museum dedicated solely to showcasing them, right? Pick up a cool insect book while you’re there, or maybe a few bugs (pretend, of course) to play with on the ride home.
6. It’s a Truly Colorado Attraction
Way back in the day, the May Natural History Museum gave travel a whirl, setting up shop in Florida. Unfortunately for Florida (but super fortunate for Colorado), the humidity was terrible for maintaining the quality of the preserved specimens. The cases had to be sealed and dehumidifiers had to be built — and still many of the bugs were lost. The May family brought their collection of creepy-crawlies back to its original home in Colorado Springs, where the dry climate helps keep each of the bugs perfectly preserved.
7. There Are Some Pretty Giant Bugs There, Too
When we think bugs, we think small. But May’s collection features enormous (for insects) creatures you have likely never seen, unless you’ve been fortunate to visit the tropics or travel back in time. We’re talking butterflies bigger than your hand, giant walking sticks and spiders, and beetles that would definitely give you a headache if they happened to fly into you. Case after case of insects await, each labeled with their name and the date they were found. Some are over 100 years old, but look brand new.
Whether you are an insect aficionado or merely a fan of unique roadside attractions, the May Natural History Museum is a must-see destination for locals and Colorado visitors. Grab the camera, hop in the car and get ready to get buggy with it at the world’s coolest — and largest — private insect collection!
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