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Thieves take $40,000 worth of insects from Philadelphia museum

Tarantula (Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA — Missing: about $40,000 worth of nightmare fuel from the Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion.

According to a New York Times report, thieves made off with about 7,000 different insects — nearly 90 percent of the insectarium’s population — late last month.

Among the insects pilfered were desert hairy scorpions, domino cockroaches, African mantises, bumblebee millipedes, warty glowspot roaches, tarantulas, dwarf and tiger hissers, leopard geckos, and a six-eyed sand spider — one of the most venomous arachnids in the world.

Police suspect the theft was an inside job, the Times says.

John Cambridge, the chief executive of the insectarium, told the Times he believed that “someone recognized an opportunity to remove some creatures” and did it.

Three current or former employees of the insectarium are the suspects, the Philadelphia Police Department said in a statement to the Times.

No arrests have been made, but police have contacted the suspects and are searching their homes in hopes of finding surviving insects, the Times says.

It is difficult to know which creatures were stolen because the thieves also stole the logs used by the pavilion to keep track of the insects.

“They are extremely easy to hide,” Dr. Cambridge told the Times on Thursday. “We want to make sure that these creatures are treated with respect.”

“I really don’t think the perpetrators realize the severity of what they were doing,” he added. “We believe these were taken for the purpose of resale.”

The insectarium opened its doors to the public in February 2017. Because of the theft, it has closed the second and third floors of the pavilion until November.

The organization has started a GoFundMe campaign to help with renovations and to try to replace some of the missing insects, the Times reports.

The insectarium is aiming to have a replenished stock of creatures to participate in the Philadelphia Oddities Expo, on Nov. 3.