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Patron Of The Arthropods

Up Front


The cash-strapped Smithsonian Institution has leaned increasingly on corporate sponsors in recent years. But the latest example of private-sector largess makes you squirm.

The O. Orkin Insect Zoo, the first permanent Smithsonian exhibit to bear a corporate name and logo, got $500,000 of its $750,000 cost from Orkin Pest Control. The zoo, named for company founder Otto Orkin, who died in 1968, aims to show us bugs in environments where we know them and love them. Uh-huh.

The previous zoo, which opened in 1976 and closed last fall, was just your basic collection of bugs in boxes. The new version has "natural habitats," such as a Brazilian rain forest and, yes, an urban kitchen. "Humans create the perfect year-round habitat for them," says Smithsonian spokeswoman Pamela Baker. "There's food, water, the perfect temperature, and wonderful places to nest."

This display includes such Orkin favorites as German cock-roaches, silverfish, carpenter ants, and termites, represented by tiny lights because real bugs hide.

Volunteers bring out actual insects for visitors to, ahem, pet. LARRY LIGHT AND JULIE TILSNER Stephen H. Wildstrom

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