A new $3 million museum focusing on mosquitoes and other bugs that will include an insect-themed outdoor playground for children is being built in St. Johns County.
Called the Vector Disease Education Center and Science Museum, it's being funded and will be operated by the Anastasia Mosquito Control District of St. Johns County (AMCDSJC).
The education center will feature games, live insects, microscopes, models to climb on, along with interactive displays.
“We're hoping to have a helicopter in there and turn it into basically a flight simulator where the aircraft will do a mosquito spray mission," said Anastasia Mosquito Control District Business Manager Richard Weaver.
The museum is the brainchild of AMCDSJC Director Rui-de Xue, who Weaver said is a world-renowned scientist. “He's been here at our district for 18 years, but he’s been doing mosquito control and entomological work his whole life. And his passion is mosquitoes. And it's built our district into a world-renowned research facility.”
Visitors will learn about mosquito habitats, life cycles, diseases that are spread by other insects and arthropods, where diseases started and how to trap and kill mosquitoes in what the ADMCDSJC says will be a fun environment.
“We're gonna have an indoor beehive, a wall that’s like an ant wall, like the old ant farms you used to buy, but only a wall,” Weaver said. They'll also be teaching visitors about a wide variety of insects, including butterflies and beetles.
Site work for the new museum at 120 EOC Drive near St. Augustine is well underway with things like water, sewer and electrical in-ground work already done. Weaver expects vertical construction to begin as soon as the permitting process is completed, with an anticipated opening in the summer of 2022. It’s being built at AMCDSJC’s existing campus.
Details are still being ironed out, but right now the plan is to keep the museum free for school children and locals with a small admission fee for tourists.
Weaver said while its possible someone new may be hired, his agency is hoping to work with volunteers on the project. No bonds or additional taxes are being used to build the museum. Instead, it’s being funded by the ad valorem taxes that AMCDSJC already receives, Weaver said.
The building will be made of steel, with most of the budget going to the displays that will be set up inside.