Former Manager of the O. Orkin Insect Zoo

Close-up of Dan Babbitt in yellow shirt and black glasses holding a black goliath birdeater tarantula in his left palm.
Dan Babbitt, triumphant moments after helping a goliath birdeater tarantula molt out of its exoskeleton. Image courtesy of Catherine Urban, Smithsonian.

Dan Babbitt, a self-processed bug geek, is the Associate Director of Hershey Garden in Pennslyvania, and former Manager of the Insect Zoo and Butterfly Pavilion at the National Museum of Natural History. Dan first got hooked on bugs during freshman year in college, when he waded into a Michigan pond with his aquatic ecology class, dipped a net into the water, and pulled up a mass of “alien-looking” insects. He earned a BA in Biology, with a focus in Entomology and Environmental Studies. As part of his undergraduate degree, Dan investigated insect diversity in a jungle preserve through the Universidad de San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador. After graduation, Dan worked for The Environmental School of Maine developing curriculum and teaching grades 5-8 in a field-based environmental education program.

Dan became an employee of the Insect Zoo in 1998, later becoming the Manager in 2012. He was responsible for the care and upkeep of the Museum’s largest live animal collection and display, ensuring that environment, diet, and conditions are suitable and rearing new insects. Dan is a regular contributor to the Encyclopedia of Life and has been featured in the media for notable events like the 2013 Cicada emergence and “spidernaut,” the space journey of a jumping spider. As an educator, Dan also aided in the creation and implementation of insect related materials and projects and conducted programs for Museum visitors, students, teachers and the media.