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Jen Marangelo smiles down at a Madagascar hissing cockroach from the Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium, a facility designed to educate about insects. Photo by ANIA CHANEY/Midway Dispatch

Upstairs in the fair's Commercial Building lies a wonderful hidden world.

Sandwiched between sparse political booths and wedding photography lies a purple nook with butterfly cut-outs on the walls and terrariums on tables. A sign reads: Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium.

The house president, smiling bug enthusiast Jen Marangelo, stands behind an information table, answering questions.

Haven't heard of Missoula Butterfly House yet? Few have. It's not even actually a house yet.

"We'd love to have a place downtown, close to where everyone and their families like to be," explains Marangelo.

For now, the Butterfly House consists of her personal collection, including hissing cockroaches and giant water bugs, all of which are on display at the fair. If you ask nicely, she might even pull one of the little monsters out of its tank. They're not all roaches and tarantulas, though.

"Of course, we'll have lots of butterflies when we get a place," Marangelo said.

She hopes that when established, the Butterfly House could be a downtown attraction, with lots of school and volunteer involvement. The Insectarium would house tropical insects, a zoo and educational facility.

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After all, as Marangelo says, "Insects are crucial to our life! Plus they're just cool."

Check them out at the fair or at www.missoulabutterflyhouse.org.

Midway Dispatch reporters Iris Olson and Marielle Gallagher are sophomores at Hellgate High School.

 

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