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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™

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