Live insects are invading Waikato Museum in a new family-friendly, hands-on exhibition opening on Friday in time for Labour Day weekend and running through the summer.

Bugs! Our Backyard Heroes is a free-entry exhibition exploring the secret world of bugs and the vital role they play in our lives.

It also brings visitors face-to-face with some real live mini-monsters, including a giant centipede, tree weta, stick insects, locusts, crickets, cockroaches and Avondale spiders.

Waikato Museum director Cherie Meecham says: "This exhibition provides visitors a unique opportunity to learn about the different native species of bugs in New Zealand and the precarious position they sometimes hold in the ecosystem."

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A macro-image of a spider from the new exhibition at Waikato Museum. Photo / Puke Ariki
A macro-image of a spider from the new exhibition at Waikato Museum. Photo / Puke Ariki

Plenty of hands-on activities will stimulate youngsters' minds with ideas, including how to become a citizen scientist and how bugs inspire those on the frontline of technology, she says.

"We invite schools to contact our education team to take advantage of a tailored programme for school visits," says Ms Meecham.

The exhibition has been developed and toured by Puke Ariki, a combined museum, library, and research centre in New Plymouth.