A Philadelphia museum is pleading with thieves to bring back its bugs.
In all, 7,000 insects, arachnids and lizards disappeared from the Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion last week. And they didn't creepy-crawl themselves out of the building on their own.
According to a New York Times report, police have zeroed in on three suspects, all current or former museum employees. The report cites security footage showing thieves slipping out of the building with large plastic containers. And inside those containers? An estimated $50,000 worth of giant African mantises, bumblebee millipedes, warty glowspot roaches, tarantulas, dwarf and tiger hissers, and leopard geckos.
But the price isn't the point.
"How do you characterize the value of a creature that you cannot get again?" museum chief executive John Cambridge asked Gizmodo.
Indeed, finding thousands more bugs — some hailing from the other side of the world — could take the kind of time a museum that just lost 90 percent of its collection doesn't have.
Besides, how do you replace the one-of-a-kind shine a male warty glowspot roach emits after a hearty meal of bioluminescent bacteria? Or the look on that six-eyed sand spider's face when you bring him breakfast?
"These animals are ours," staffer Trisha Nichols told Fox29 News. "They are like part of the family, you know? And they just get taken away and now we don't know who has them or if they're keeping them or if they're selling them or what they're doing with these animals."
Native to South America, the warty glowspot roach gets its name from the bioluminescent bacteria it eats, which in turn lights up a translucent spot on the make roach's back. (Photo: Grisha Bruev/Shutterstock)
It's hard to imagine what situation the creatures are in now, especially considering the rather morbid calling card the thieves left behind.
When staff members showed up at the insectarium the next day, they found a couple of staff uniforms pinned to the wall with knives.
"We know exactly who did this," Cambridge told CNN. "They snuck out the back with all these boxes. We caught them on camera," he said. "They took all the stuff and then they didn't show up for their shifts."
But the bugs may yet have their revenge. According to the Times, some of them were part of a federal investigation. When caught, the thieves will face not only theft charges but also tampering with a federal investigation.
For now, the museum has fallen into an uneasy silence. The rustling of tiny legs, twitching antennae and hissing of, well, hissers, is gone.
Today, there's just a warty glowspot roach-shaped hole where the museum's heart should be.
And a raft of extreme — and hilariously misguided — paranoia across the Twitterverse. Since this story broke, social media has lit up with calls from bug-ophiles to burn down the city. Or at least order it evacuated.
“Hello Philadelphia Insectarium, I’d like to report...”
*sand spider holds up picture of my child*
“...that uh I’m having a great day, ok thanks bye”
— Bill Murray (@thebillmurray) September 5, 2018
what’s your preferred method of counting the eyes on this highly venomous spider?
— 💀 𝙗𝙤𝙣𝙚 𝙙𝙖𝙙𝙙𝙮 👻 (@midwestnocoast) September 5, 2018
Planning my trip to London pic.twitter.com/GMcxB9NSYV
— Beard-Juice Jerry (@JaeRichards) September 6, 2018
Even William Shatner weighed in.
😳Avoid Philly for the immediate future! 🤔 7000...‽ 🙄 https://t.co/X5jcdFcjRk
— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) September 6, 2018