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Herkimer Returns: the world's largest beetle returns home

Herkimer, the world's largest beetle
Posted at 6:44 PM, Jun 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-10 20:46:28-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — After more than a month of restoration and reassembly, the giant 16x10-foot beetle statue known as Herkimer has made a return to the side of State Highway 115.

The construct, originally crafted by John May in 1949, has been a feature on the side of the road since the 1960s.

It serves as both a memorable local landmark and the most effective form of advertisement for the May Natural History Museum, a unique museum boasting thousands of exotic insect specimens and operated by May's family, generation after generation, for more than 60 years.

Over the long decades, wind, hail, snow, and vandals have taken their toll on the giant, roadside feature; and while it's undergone some minor restoration in the past, it's been about 20 years since Herkimer has had any type of work done on it.

The process of deconstructing, revitalizing, reconstructing and then reinstalling the eye-catching insect involved the efforts of not just the May family but also the professional ministrations of artists from near and far.

The family flew in artist Mark Cline from Virginia who helped revitalize the larger pieces of Herkimer while recreating the smaller pieces based off the original metallic insect.

The insect also received a new layer of fiberglass and then a shiny new coat of paint from a friend of the family.

Through it all, the caretakers of Herkimer and the May Natural History Museum were hands on, "We all participated, [and] rolled up our sleeves," commented R.J. Steer, co-director of the May Natural History Museum, "we were grinding and lifting and re-fabricating and [applying resin] and just all kinds of work; everyone was in our pavilion at one point or another doing the work."

The absence of the giant metal bug from the side of State Highway 115 did not go unnoticed, with folks regularly calling in to express confusion and sometimes concern over the absence of what had long been considered a local landmark.

"Many people have called us in Herkimer's absence and asked, what in the heck happened to the giant beetle," commented Diana Fruh, co-director of the May Natural History Museum.

Now, however, Herkimer is home, already receiving regular accolades and applause by way of honking horns from those regulars to the road that missed the bug's comforting and expected presence.

"You know," added Diana, "people's enthusiasm for Herkimer is astounding and it's nice that we are noticed and it's nice that Herkimer was missed."

While the family that runs the museum now have the knowledge of how best to care for Herkimer moving forward, the solid and extreme renovations have them convinced that the Hercules beetle will be in good shape for decades to come.

"Oh, it's just a unique thing," finished Steer, "and when your own grandpa built it in the first place, that makes it a special item."

For more information on the May Natural History Museum, CLICK HERE.