7,000 Insects Stolen, Worth Up to $50,000


Photo Credit: Washington Post

Brandon Barr, Reporter

In late August, over the course of four days, nearly 7,000 insects were stolen from the  Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion. Through security camera footage, it turns out to be an inside job. Five museum employees took the insects out of their cages, put them into plastic containers, and loaded them into their cars. All in all, the heist appears to be around $30,000-$50,000 dollars.

When discussing a potential motive, owner John Cambridge says, “…exotic pet industry is absolutely bursting with buyers right now… for insects too.”  A healthy adult Gooty sapphire tarantula can cost more than $350, while Mexican fireleg tarantulas go for $250. Rhinoceros cockroaches are worth $500 per mating pair.

The museum did not catch the heist earlier, because insects move in and out of enclosures quite often. “We’re always taking things for education programs, doing maintenance, cage exchanges, and so they just walked straight out the front door with them.” Insects and arachnids are easy to transport and care for. It can be very difficult to fully prevent these type of heists since the insects can be sent through the mail with ease.

Now the case is in the hands of the FBI. One of the suspected people who took part in the theft lives in New Jersey, which since the former employee crossed state lines which makes it a federal crime.