Insect Zoo Creeps Into Topeka

Insect Zoo Creeps Into Topeka


By Tim Hrenchir
The Capital-Journal
April 18, 2013

Topeka Zoo officials two years ago put a bug in the ear of Schendel Pest Services president Brent Boles. They suggested his company partner with the city to offer an insect zoo.

Boles recalled Thursday, “It really wasn’t a question of, ‘Gee, can we sit down and make this work?’ It was ‘Yes, how can we help?’”

The Schendel Bug Zoo became a reality Thursday as it opened in a formerly vacant space just inside the north entrance to the Topeka Zoo’s Animals and Man building. The bug zoo will be open daily and included as part of the normal zoo admission fee.

Boles and city manager Jim Colson cut the ribbon for the bug zoo Thursday during a ceremony in which zoo director Brendan Wiley described them as being “Examples of people wanting to break out of cocoons in the community.”

Dennis Dinwiddie, the zoo’s education director, then offered those in attendance a tour of the one-room insect zoo, which he said attempts to create “an atmosphere for celebrating bugs.”

Artworks of insects adorned ceiling tiles both inside the bug zoo and outside its front door.

The zoo’s glassed-in exhibits feature 20 species of animals, including tarantulas, scorpions, beetles and bats, Dinwiddie said.

He said that while bats might not be insects, one bat will eat 1,000 mosquitoes or mosquito-sized bugs every 24 hours.

Nine-year-old Patrick Sandquist said his favorite things about the insect zoo were a feature that resembles a “walk-in tree stump,” and the fact it has “bugs everywhere.”

Patrick was accompanied by his 11-year-old brother, Peter Sandquist, and their father, Art Sandquist. Peter said his favorite parts were the bug zoo’s millipedes and its “Creepy Crawly Cafe.”

The distinctive diner was established to bring attention to the fact that 80 percent of the world’s population eats insects every day as a source of protein, Wiley said.

He encouraged visitors to take any of various suckers at the diner, each containing larvae of a cricket or other insect inside.

The cafe also offered free samples of “Larvets Original Worm Snax,” dry and crispy snacks prepared using worm larvae and being available with any of six different types of seasonings: Mexican spice, cheddar cheese, sour cream and onion, barbecue, bacon and cheese and salt and vinegar.

Peter said he particularly liked the cheddar cheese-flavored larvets.

Patrick and Peter, who are home-schooled, were among four children who attended Thursday’s ceremony. Wiley said more children had been scheduled to attend, but inclement weather prevented that.

Wiley stressed the educational aspect of the inspect zoo in comments made prior to Thursday’s ribbon-cutting.

Boles described the bug zoo as being “A great opportunity to incorporate fun, science and learning to strengthen educational opportunities in Topeka.”

Schendel Pest Services, founded in Topeka in 1947, offers pest control services in six states.

Schendel is contributing $25,000 over five years to cover costs of offering the bug zoo, said Suzie Gilbert, the city’s communications and marketing director. She said the city’s expenses so far for establishing the insect zoo have amounted to $18,000.

Tim Hrenchir can be reached at (785) 295-1184 or tim.hrenchir@cjonline.com.
Follow Tim on Twitter @timhrenchir.

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