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Something Ends, and Something New Begins

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Something Ends, and Something New Begins!

Hello everyone! I have been giving much personal reflection to the future of the Creepy Crawly Zoo.  It has been a privilege and honor to have been invited to perform and share the experience of the Creepy Crawly Zoo all over the country for the last 27 years. The Creepy Crawly Zoo has been unquestionably the most successful insect program of its kind; spanning nearly 3 decades and experienced by well over a million children across the country.

It has not been an easy road for me personally. I have given everything of myself to this mission – everything.  I survived major catastrophic events. 9/11 wiped the show out and it took 2 years to start it up again. The housing bubble pop happened right at the peak of that recovery. I had just produced an award-winning DVD, the Letterman show called me, NATGEO called me, Discovery Channel called me, and then everything just stopped. I lost everything and I spent my 40th birthday living in my parents’ basement.  Another 2 years to recover and start over.

Most of you reading this have been following since that recovery. As you know I took on the ambitious goal of building a permanent location for your kids.  An insect themed science park. I had given that venture everything as well, sacrificing my every spare moment to making that happen. Things were going well. I had just reached the point of getting sponsorship and published my first book – the week of the pandemic shutdown.

COVID brought a lot of dreams to a halt and there are many that had it worse than me, so I’m not going to cry about my misfortunes there. It has been a rough 2 years and counting for all of us. But this catastrophic event comes in my 50’s. The thought of starting it all back up again, the grueling travel, making new connections at the same places I’ve been to a dozen times, rebuilding a following after 2 years of being absent is just too much.

I’m not a young man anymore and I just don’t have it in me. So, after much soul searching, I have decided not to continue the live show. I am grateful for all the memories, and I hope you are too. I hang my hat up knowing that the show inspired so many young minds and in that I feel great satisfaction.

A side note for all of you.  I kept this show going LONG after most would have given up.  What kept me going and gave me the courage and drive to keep going was you.  In my darkest moments it was always a letter or an email from a student, parent, or teacher about how the show affected them or their kids that made me get up again. So, as life goes on and others follow, do take the time to tell them how much you appreciated their efforts to share their passions.

Am I Done Yet? Nope!

During the pandemic I was frustrated.  Many other shows did some sort of virtual presentation.  I did one. It was awful in my opinion.  The Creepy Crawly Zoo has always been an “experience.” The laughing, the screaming, the terror, and the thrill of holding live invertebrates was like nothing else. Finding a way to translate that in “virtual” was impossible.

I have always had a vivid imagination when it came to nature. I have become somewhat of an expert on how to share that imagination. I can envision something that isn’t but should be real. Many years ago, I ran into an old high school friend at a school presentation.  He was doing a presentation on Virtual Reality and that was my introduction to it. It was INTENSE to say the least and my very first thought was, “someone should put a macro 360 camera in a beehive! I mean it would be the coolest anyone has ever seen!”

One problem, 360 macro cameras do not exist… until now. I spent years waiting for the technology to immerge and it never happened. During the pandemic that thought came back again and I realized that THAT was the only way to create a virtual experience, virtual reality.

I spent the last year and a half hunting and searching for some sort of technology that could make this happen. It has been the kind of frustration that made me want to jump up and down, scream and pull my hair out. Piecing this tech with that tech, spending money I didn’t have, waiting weeks for parts to arrive, etc etc etc. I became obsessed with making this work and now, here it is.

 

Later this month, it will be going in that beehive.

I have created several versions of this: a 180-degree camera, and a 360-degree camera.  This is a temporary link, but you can see a sample here and spend 17 minutes with Hugo, my Green Femur tarantula. It is REALLY COOL!

 

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!

I said I was going to build a science park and I am going to build a science park!… in VIRTUAL REALITY!

As some of you know, I occasionally work with my old friend Dan Capps, owner of what was once the world’s largest private insect collection.  Dan has spent decades designing an exhibit that is strictly for public display.  As part of the science park, this display was always going to be a part of it… and now it is!

This is the first part of that project, and it is still being developed with upgrades every couple of weeks.  While it is in development, it will be free for all of you to experience. You are all welcome to use it as often as you like as we work on it.  Your feedback is also appreciated. (CLICK HERE)

Thank you all so much for the privilege it has been to keep the Creepy Crawly Zoo going all these years. It is hard to think I’ll never do it again… so I won’t say never.  This is a completely new phase in my life and I am scared and excited all a the same time.

See you all soon – in Virtual Reality.

Antonio Gustin -The Bug Whisperer™

Help Us Make Virtual Reality a Reality!

HELP US MAKE VIRTUAL REALITY A REALITY!

Hello Science Enthusiasts! The COVID pandemic has brought us to our creative knees in how to continue our mission. I mean how do you create a personally engaging experience, without being there to personally engage?

As many of you may know, we have begun a virtual reality project designed to give you that personal immersive experience. We are investing in 2 macro 360 cameras that will give you the perspective of being 2″ tall.  Not only are we going to take you into our terrariums with our animals, but also into the real world as well. It will be as terrifying as it is fascinating and possibly even dwarf Jurassic Park! I mean, who hasn’t fantasized about being 2″ tall and in a terrarium with a Goliath Bird Eater?!

We will be the first and only one’s in the world to bring you this experience – here – on our website!

Our project is so exciting that Merge Edu has decided to collaborate with us on the project to bring you the best experience ever! If you are not familiar with Merge Edu, we STRONGLY suggest you check them out.  They are the leader in VR and AR education technology and your kids will lose their minds over it.

In order to make this Virtual Reality a Reality, we need your help.  We have created a Gofundme campaign for this project and would greatly appreciate your sharing it on social media. To celebrate our new partnership with Merge Edu, the first 10 donations over $150 will receive a Merge VR headset and AR cube!

 

MY SCIENCE DIARY

Another way you can support our efforts is to purchase your copy of My Science Diary off of Amazon. It is even available on Kindle and all the proceeds go to keeping our mission going.

My Science Diary, the first activity book by, The Gateway Science Project, Inc My Science Diary is designed to hone the natural, often insane, curiosity all kids have. It is the elementary steps to a greater thought process, turning playtime into an opportunity to build critical thinking skills and scientific literacy. The world is in dire need of not just working scientists, but a population that is scientifically literate. Our story as humans is woven into the story of science; it is the story of how we left the cave to explore the stars. This endeavor was accomplished not by a handful of experts, but by thousands of curious individuals all contributing their observations and tested ideas. The story of science is full of examples of ordinary children who, because of a single moment of inspiration, went on to pursue science. These ordinary children grew up to make discoveries that had an impact on all of humanity. Simple questions like “why does electricity affect a compass?” and “What is this mold doing in my petri dish?” led to some of the greatest advances in human civilization. With every book sold, we understand the next Newton, Einstein, Faraday, or Curie may be holding it right now. By exciting, educating, and inspiring kids, we look to spread scientific literacy so that the next generation will be ready when the next “mold in my petri dish” opportunity rears its head.

YouTube Series

 

Make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to get all the latest updates about new videos!

 

 

OTHER EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENTS!

While our other project is in motion, we will continue our video series on YouTube and our monthly newsletters.  With the help of Ryan Kresse, a wonderful writer, we will be bringing you the “Bug of the Month” and other exciting articles including what you can find in the winter and keeping your own Creepy Crawly Zoo.

 

A FREE GIFT FROM MERGE EDU

The Merge Cube is an absolutely FANTASTIC product for your child’s education.  Want to try it out for free? Click on the image and you can download and print out your own to make at home. Courtesy of Merge Edu.

WE LOVE OUR MISSION PARTNERS

FAMILY BACKYARD SCIENCE – BLACKLIGHTING FOR INSECTS!

family backyard science

FAMILY BACKYARD SCIENCE ADVENTURE! BLACKLIGHTING FOR INSECTS!

NIGHT COLLECTING WITH A BLACKLIGHT 

Are you looking for something scientific to observe this summer as a family? Let me show you one of my favorite things to do AND you can do this in your own backyard!

BLACKLIGHTING FOR INSECTS

Insects are everywhere BUT we are only seeing half the picture during the day. The other half comes out at night. Animals that are active at night are referred to as “NOCTURNAL.” And many nocturnal insects are attracted to lights. The reason they are attracted to lights is that many insects use the moon to navigate at night and artificial lights confuse them. Specifically, they are attracted to Ultraviolet light also known as BLACK LIGHT.

I’m going to save you some time here and let you know that the best black lights to use are either fluorescent or LED. Incandescent blacklights don’t work very well. You can find black lights at most party supply stores or if you are in the Milwaukee/Chicago area a good place is American Science and Surplus stores.

I use this light that I got off of Amazon and it is a 50w LED. IF YOU’RE WATCHING THIS ON YOUTUBE, I’ll share the link down in the description for you. But a great science experiment would be to experiment with different lights and see what lights work best and try to figure out why – and you can record your observations in your MY SCIENCE DIARY (ALSO AVAILABLE ON AMAZON)

SETUP

The setup is simple. Besides a light, you will need a white sheet. One that has been washed in detergent works best because detergent helps to reflect the UV light and they “fluoresce.” The sheets serve two purposes: one is to act as a giant reflector for your black light and the other is contrast. Once the insects come in, you can see them when they land on the sheet. There are two ways to set up your sheets, one is to hang them like a wall and the other is to lay them flat on the ground. OR you can do both. There is no right or wrong, just a matter of preference. This is how I set things up.

Once you have your sheets set, you will need a power source for your light. If you are doing this at home, that’s easy. If you are not at home, I use a car or lawnmower battery with a power inverter. LEDs do not use a lot of power so they should last for quite a few hours.

So, what do you do next? Grab a chair and some snacks and wait for all the cool nocturnal insets to come to you.

THINGS TO NOTICE IN YOUR OBSERVATIONS

Different insects fly at different times of the night. Depending on the area you live in, from Mid-May to Mid-June all the cool giant silk moths like Luna, Polyphemus and Cecropia are out. Typically, they do not start flying until 11 pm. Another thing you will observe is that all summer long the insects that you will see will change. But hey! Don’t take my word for it. Go get your science diary and record your own observations! BlackLighting for insects is a great backyard family activity. Remember to record all your observations in your My Science Diary and compare your notes to the same dates next year! If you liked this video and would like to see more videos, be sure to like and subscribe and share this video.

I am entomologist and science evangelist Antonio Gustin, and this has been a My Science Diary Moment.

 

JULY NEWSLETTER / VIDEO PODCAST

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A CALL TO ACTION

Earlier this week we sent out an email asking for your help with our mission to build our permanent location. (SEE DETAILS HERE) If you didn’t get that email, well, you may wish to check your spam folder… or click here. 
This is a summary of what we are asking of you. Some of which take absolutely no effort on your part but truly help us.

SIGN UP TO BE A VOLUNTEER

We are in need of grant writers, graphic designers, photographers, video production assistants, bloggers, salespeople, web designers, etc etc.  Have a skill to share we haven’t mentioned? – that’s fine too.  Have spare time? We can help you with that.

DID I WIN A T-SHIRT?

Be the first to fill out and submit the form below and you win!

JUNE NEWSLETTER VLOG

A CALL TO ACTION

Earlier this week we sent out an email asking for your help with our mission to build our permanent location. (SEE DETAILS HERE) If you didn’t get that email, well, you may wish to check your spam folder… or click here. 
This is a summary of what we are asking of you. Some of which take absolutely no effort on your part but truly help us.

SIGN UP TO BE A VOLUNTEER

We are in need of grant writers, graphic designers, photographers, video production assistants, bloggers, salespeople, web designers, etc etc.  Have a skill to share we haven’t mentioned? – that’s fine too.  Have spare time? We can help you with that.

DID I WIN A T-SHIRT?

Be the first to fill out and submit the form below and you win!

WHIP IT! WHIP IT GOOD!

Whip it! Whip it good!

Acid spraying nightmares!  Well, no, not really. The whip scorpions and tailless whip scorpions are like something out of a sci-fi movie.  In fact, many sci-fi aliens have been modeled after them. Like most arachnids they are carnivorous.  What do they eat? Anything smaller than they are!

Whip scorpions and tailless whip scorpions are not scorpions and they have no venom.  Other common names are whip spiders and vinegaroons. They are arachnids; they have 8 legs and two main body parts. They are unusual among arachnids in that they only walk on 6 legs.  Arachnids do not have antennae. In both groups, the front pair of legs have evolved to long “whip” like appendages that they use just like antennae. Hence the name “whip.”

While whip scorpions and tailless whip scorpions look similar, they are related only by both being arachnids.  The whip scorpion (aka vinegaroon) belong to an order known as Uropygi (Greek for “tail rump”). The most common of the vinegaroons is the Thelyphonida (Greek for “murderous female” – I don’t make up the names).  Mostly a tropical arachnid, here in the United States, we have the giant vinegaroon, which is found in arid regions.

The vinegaroons get their name because of a gland on the end of their tail or Flagellum.  This gland can secrete a solution of 80% acetic acid.  Vinegar is only 3-5% acetic acid.  When disturbed they can spray it up to two feet with fairly decent accuracy, leaving the air and some unfortunate soul reeking of vinegar.

 

Tailless whip scorpions are in the order called Amblypygi, (Greek for “blunt rump”).  This refers to their lack of flagellum (tail). Amblypygids are harmless to humans.  They have no silk or venom glands. Occasionally, when annoyed they can grab a finger with their raptorial pedipalps.  Like the vinegaroons, they have extremely elongated front legs that act as sensory organs.

 

Amblypygids are an ancient order with fossilized specimens dating back to the Carboniferous period. They have a flat, crab-like, posture, and are truly alien in appearance.  Ever see the movie Lost in Space? You may recognize the metallic alien monsters, Amblypygids.

So, that’s the technical stuff.  Want to hold one?  Come to the May 11th show at Discovery World

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A CALL TO ACTION

Earlier this week we sent out an email asking for your help with our mission to build our permanent location. (SEE DETAILS HERE) If you didn’t get that email, well, you may wish to check your spam folder… or click here. 
This is a summary of what we are asking of you. Some of which take absolutely no effort on your part but truly help us.

SIGN UP TO BE A VOLUNTEER

We are in need of grant writers, graphic designers, photographers, video production assistants, bloggers, salespeople, web designers, etc etc.  Have a skill to share we haven’t mentioned? – that’s fine too.  Have spare time? We can help you with that.

DID I WIN A T-SHIRT?

Be the first to fill out and submit the form below and you win!

WEBSITE T-SHIRT STORE

This week is another chance to win a free t-shirt. It took some time and tweaking but we finally have our T-shirt shop directly on our website.  You can now view all our collections and different designs. Many new designs and products will be up as the year progresses. As a “Thank You,” for subscribing to our newsletter, you can use this code CREEPYFRIEND for %15 off your entire first order.  Share the code with friends if you like and feel free to share our products on social media.  We appreciate it.

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THANKS TO OUR WONDERFUL SPONSORS!

HEY MAMBO! MAMBO …AFRICANO?

Quick! Someone call Rikki-Tikki-Tavi! April’s bug of the month are the Mambo and White-spotted African assassin bugs! This insect is famous for its two spots and infamous for its powerful venom. A neurotoxic venom similar in potency to that of a cobra AND it can spit its venom like a cobra as well! A venom so powerful that it can cause temporary blindness in humans and knock down crickets from 12 inches away.   I don’t think anyone will be holding these but we will do a public feeding. They are merciless voracious hunters and it will be a scene sure to be reminiscent of the Colosseum.

Assassin bugs are everywhere and are considered beneficial. They are pretty much like a spider with one fang or as it’s known in the insect world a “proboscis.” While many insects have a proboscis with two sides, one for injecting and one for sucking, Assassin bugs just have one chamber.  This allows them to deliver a massive dose of their venom which liquifies their prey and then suck it up quickly.

It has been recently discovered that assassin bugs have two kinds of venom, one for prey and one for defense.  They will bite to defend themselves and it is considered more painful than a bee sting.

Assassin bugs are of the order Hemiptera (true bugs) and have many famous members of their family, the family Reduviidae that is. One smooching member you may have heard of is the kissing bug.  This nasty little member of the Reduviidae family will sneak up on you while you sleep and bite you on the lips. Their bite can deliver a protozoan parasite named trypanosoma cruzi. This causes a disease known as Chagas disease. A disease with a whole list of wonderful nasty symptoms one of which is sudden death, if left untreated.

Good times…. Good times!

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Want to see the feeding frenzy? Then come to our next show, April 13th @ Discovery World!

Ladybird is back! … kind of.

Many of you have asked about Ladybird, the Burgandy Goliath Birdeater tarantula (theraphosa Stirmi).  She was gone the last couple of shows because she was going through a molt. Well, she molted and now besides being even bigger than before – “she” turned out to be a “he!”

Yes, Ladybird is a dude.  Not that there is anything wrong with that but we needed a new name.  I was going to put it up for a vote on the book of faces BUT I had a name I wanted to use, Paul.  In honor of one of my favorite Bugs Bunny episodes with Witch Hazel.

So, Paul, Paul is back!

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A CALL TO ACTION

Earlier this week we sent out an email asking for your help with our mission to build our permanent location. (SEE DETAILS HERE) If you didn’t get that email, well, you may wish to check your spam folder… or click here. 
This is a summary of what we are asking of you. Some of which take absolutely no effort on your part but truly help us.

SIGN UP TO BE A VOLUNTEER

We are in need of grant writers, graphic designers, photographers, video production assistants, bloggers, salespeople, web designers, etc etc.  Have a skill to share we haven’t mentioned? – that’s fine too.  Have spare time? We can help you with that.

WEBSITE T-SHIRT STORE

This week is another chance to win a free t-shirt. It took some time and tweaking but we finally have our T-shirt shop directly on our website.  You can now view all our collections and different designs. Many new designs and products will be up as the year progresses. As a “Thank You,” for subscribing to our newsletter, you can use this code CREEPYFRIEND for %15 off your entire first order.  Share the code with friends if you like and feel free to share our products on social media.  We appreciate it.

DID I WIN A T-SHIRT?

Be the first to fill out and submit the form below and you win!

This is Charlie. Her grandmother won in January and she chose the Ultraviolet Scorpion T.

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THANKS TO OUR WONDERFUL SPONSORS!

SPRINGTIME IS HERE!!.. JUST KIDDING.

BUG OF THE MONTH

If you’re looking for something a little more representative of spring, come to Discovery World, March 9th.  We have a little something from down under for you, Australian Spiney Walking Sticks!  It has been nearly 20 year since I’ve had these in my show and they are wonderful!  Australian Walking Sticks (extatosoma tiaratum) are NOT what we typically think of as a walking stick.  They’re fat, leafy looking and spiney.

Their native food is Eucalyptus. In captivity, they can be kept on Bramble, Eucalyptus, Hawthorn, Oak, Pyracantha, Raspberry, and Rose.  They are very alien looking and not what most of us would picture as a “walking stick.” When threatened, they display a defensive “scorpion” pose, with the abdomen bent toward the head.  They can also give a kick with their spiny legs.

Want to know what it’s like to hold one? Well then, come visit our next show at Discovery World, March 9th! ​

A CALL TO ACTION

Earlier this week we sent out an email asking for your help with our mission to build our permanent location. (SEE DETAILS HERE) If you didn’t get that email, well, you may wish to check your spam folder… or click here.
This is a summary of what we are asking of you. Some of which take absolutely no effort on your part but truly help us.

SIGN UP TO BE A VOLUNTEER

We are in need of grant writers, graphic designers, photographers, video production assistants, bloggers, salespeople, web designers, etc etc.  Have a skill to share we haven’t mentioned? – that’s fine too.  Have spare time? We can help you with that.


SUNDAY SCIENCE CINEMA

Join our Sunday event Sunday Science Cinema.  This is a Facebook event I created to endure the winter months. It’s going on longer than intended 🙂 Every Sunday we post a new science video. All videos are posted to the event itself. Join the event and get notifications of newly posted videos and watch past episodes.  The videos are the best of the best I’ve come across on YouTube. (I do appreciate suggestions as well) All videos are posted to the event page.

WEBSITE T-SHIRT STORE


This week is another chance to win a free t-shirt. It took some time and tweaking but we finally have our T-shirt shop directly on our website.  You can now view all our collections and different designs. Many new designs and products will be up as the year progresses. As a “Thank You,” for subscribing to our newsletter, you can use this code CREEPYFRIEND for %15 off your entire first order.  Share the code with friends if you like and feel free to share our products on social media.  We appreciate it.

DID I WIN A T-SHIRT?

Be the first to fill out and submit the form below and you win!

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WELCOME TO 2019!

WELCOME TO 2019!
Creature Featured!
Darwin, the Galapagos Centipede!

As some of you may or may not know, every month this year we will be featuring a new animal in the Creepy Crawly Zoo.  Last month we had Ladybird, the Goliath Birdeater Tarantula. This month it is Darwin, the Galapagos Centipede!

In 25 years of working with invertebrates from all over the world, few things still impress me. The…

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WELCOME TO 2019!

WELCOME TO 2019!

Creature Featured!

Darwin, the Galapagos Centipede!

As some of you may or may not know, every month this year we will be featuring a new animal in the Creepy Crawly Zoo.  Last month we had Ladybird, the Goliath Birdeater Tarantula. This month it is Darwin, the Galapagos Centipede!

In 25 years of working with invertebrates from all over the world, few things still impress me. The Galapagos Centipede (Scolopendra galapagoensis) is one of the largest centipedes in the world. I have worked with large centipedes before, but NOTHING like this! The Galapagos centipede averages 12”+ with some reports of up to 16”!

What does Darwin eat? Anything smaller than him/her (honesty it’s impossible to tell with centipedes)! Large centipedes will eat small vertebrates such as lizards, mice, and birds! All centipedes are voracious carnivores.

Darwin, unfortunately, is not an animal we will be holding during the show. While Darwin is probably more “mellow” than most scolopendra species, it is still a scolopendra. Scolopendra are venomous and can seriously wound a human.  They do not bite, centipedes pinch.  The two front legs are large and thick and have venom glands.

For more information about Darwin come to our show this Saturday, January 12th, at Discovery World.  You can meet him/her yourself and Ladybird will be there too!

THE GATEWAY SCIENCE PROJECT

2019 promises to be a year of big – BIG change. This is the year we will begin fundraising for our permanent location… somewhere in the area of Waukesha.  If you’re not familiar with our vision please click here to watch our videos.

If you want to help our vision become a reality, here is what you can do:

    • SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel.  In July we will release a new series of videos in the Tales from the Bug Whisperer series. Right now you can watch our award-winning pilot episode, Who Wants to be an Entomologist? For free.
    • Tell your schools about our live show.  While we don’t have our science park yet, we do have a spectacular outreach program!  For 2019 we will have new animals every month! SHARE the below promo video.

  • Volunteer: If you want to help let us know.  We can always use new talent. Bloggers, fundraisers, grant writers, photographers, videographers, graphic designers, and just enthusiastic science lovers welcome.

As a nonprofit, we depend on you.  You can donate by clicking the “DONATE” button or purchase something from our Shopify store.  We have some of the most spectacular t-shirts, hoodies and more.

Look forward to seeing you all on Saturday!

Did you win a T-shirt?  Well, if you’re the first person to respond to this newsletter (you must be subscribed) then yes, you did!  I will announce the winner on Facebook. Hurry! bugwhisperer@creepycrawlyzoo.com

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