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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™

Gateway Science Project Receives Half Million Dollar Donation… In Insects!

May, 2018 Discovery World Science Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
By Lindsay Maruszewski (Guest Blogger)

Can bonding with bugs inspire the next Einstein? Two entomologists think a half million dollars worth of insects should do the trick. Together, they are on the verge of realizing a dream 25 years in the making: a permanent center serving as a gateway to science exploration for curious youngsters.

In 1994, then entomology student, Antonio Gustin (Tony) had an idea to start a traveling live insect exhibit for kids. The problem was, he didn’t know how to do that. Fortunately, there were those that did and offered help. One of those was world-renowned insect collector, Dan Capps. Capps has, what was once, the world’s largest private insect collection. “I knew of him and that he traveled to exhibit his collection. I called him up and half expected him to be less than receptive. Some collectors can be… unapproachable, and this was “The Dan Capps.” But instead he invited me over for a beer. He showed me how to connect with schools and how to put together a brochure. He literally helped me get the Creepy Crawly Zoo show on the road.” said Gustin.

Twenty-five years later, Gustin and Capps are still friends. Gustin and his Creepy Crawly Zoo went on to travel the country for the next two decades and excited, inspired and terrified over a million kids – and parents. In 2007, he produced a pilot episode to a series called Tales from the Bug Whisperer, which received five international film festival awards. “The last 25 years have been an adventure to say the least.” Gustin, the ‘Bug Whisperer,’ said. “It’s crazy to me how kids I visited early on are now coming to my shows with their kids,”

After seeing the sparkle in hundreds of thousands of kids’ eyes while holding a scorpion or hearing the hiss of a cockroach, in 2017, Gustin decided to actively pursue an idea he had been developing for years – the creation of an insect-themed natural science park he calls, The Gateway Science Project. The idea is to use kids’ natural fascination and curiosity for insects as a gateway into science exploration. The project is an indoor insect and reptile zoo, where budding knowledge seekers can touch, feed, and interact with live animals. What separates it from other such endeavors is that it will have acres of botanically designed areas outdoors, with shallow ponds where kids can run, explore and catch bugs, frogs, tadpoles, turtles and just experience the natural world via play. A place where a kid will hear, “Here’s a net, here is a jar, now go explore and have fun!

Gustin has created several videos on his website (www.creepycrawlyzoo.com) to explain the elaborate vision. It is a community science center that is designed to light a fire of scientific curiosity. There is one overall theme: “Here, we science.” At the Gateway Science Center, science is a verb, an attitude and a way of life. “It is the starship Enterprise, and all who visit are its crew!” laughs Gustin. Even the trails are based on the Fibonacci sequence. Gustin’s goal isn’t to get them interested in science as subjects but science as a way of thinking. “The very foundation of science is observation skills. Before kids go out to explore we tell them we need their help to find out what is here and what they are doing. Then kids do what kids do naturally, they play, they explore, and they ask questions. That my friends, is how science starts.”

“While insects are my tool of choice to connect with kids, my true love is science more broadly! There is a recurring theme from COSMOS that has always inspired me. When you look at the scientists who made the influential discoveries shaping our understanding of the universe and ourselves, most of them got their start when a single stranger inspired them to better themselves with science. While we are fortunate to now stand on the shoulders of their discoveries, these children could have easily missed this opportunity if it had not been for that nudge.”

“Whenever I do my show, I look at the excited faces before me. I often wonder to myself, which one of these little nosepickers is going to change the world because of what I do here today? Which one is the next Newton, Faraday, Einstein, Lamarr, Leavitt, Curie?” Gustin said.

Gustin has observed children’s reactions to and interactions with insects for decades. “Children are born scientists. They are naturally, insanely, curious about their world and over the last 25 years I’ve learned how perfect insects are to reach them. Insects are everywhere and affect everything. They are the most dominant life form on the planet. They are exciting, mysterious, alien and abundantly available to kids. Insects are almost every child’s first fascination with the natural world. No child has to do anything more than step outside to find them. Once they are introduced to them, curiosity and questions follow effortlessly. That is the very foundation of what science is – curiosity. Insects are so diverse in their form and functions that the questions kids ask about insects can lead to every science you can think of. Entomology IS a gateway science.” Gustin said.

Antonio Gustin & Dan Capps

Capps agrees. He agrees so wholeheartedly and thinks the concept is so powerful that he has offered to donate his collection, valued at nearly half a million dollars, to the Gateway Science Project!

When asked why he is donating his collection Capps said, “I have spent my entire life creating this collection. I was obsessed with insects when I was young. I was passionate about nature in general, but insects were the most fascinating thing to me. I did not amass this collection to horde specimens. I collected insects because I was passionate about them. I wanted to share my passion with the world. A lifetime of collecting and learning about all these fascinating creatures has led me to pay attention to my world in a way that would have never happened without them. I mean, what good would all this do if it just sat in my basement?”

“Tony and I met over 20 years ago when he had this idea to start a traveling live insect exhibit for kids. He was an entomology student in college and came to me for advice. What he did with that idea was amazing! Have you ever seen his show for kids? He lights them on fire! Our mutual passions have kept us friends ever since. It is my fondest wish that my collection be seen by the public. I can’t take it with me. I don’t know if you’re familiar with what Tony is out to create, but the Gateway Science Project is an unbelievably wonderful concept. A concept that I have personally witnessed in my own life. I wish something like this had been around when I was a kid. Entomology IS a gateway science and I can think of no better way for my collection to be used than to inspire generations of new scientists.”

When asked how he reacted to this, Gustin said, “I am absolutely beyond words. This was an act of faith in me that I am terrified to live up to. The Gateway Science Project just went from a dream to a full-blown reality with one selfless gesture. Now, I just need a Gateway Science facility to put it all in.”

The Capps exhibit was once one of the largest private collections in the world and can has been described as absolutely breathtaking. Capps himself, is a very unassuming retired mechanic from Oscar Meyer who enjoys riding his Harley (another of his passions). He only collected insects as a hobby. A hobby he started in 1958 at the ripe old age of …8. The young Capps developed a passionate fascination with insects. A passionate fascination that continues to this day and has led him to lead an extraordinary life.

That very simple childhood curiosity has led Capps all over the planet in pursuit of insects. His incredible expeditions have taken him to Australia, Cuba, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, and Jamaica just to name a few. He is respected throughout the entomology community and has given hundreds of lectures. His vast collection has been featured at events all around the country, most notably Disney World’s Epcot Center, Chicago’s Museum of Science and industry, The Detroit Science Center and Purdue’s Bug Bowl. An interesting side note, Capps even holds a Guinness World’s Record for “cricket spitting” and discovered himself on a Trivial Pursuit card because of it.

So, what do two friends who share a mutual childhood passion do when they grow up? They join forces to light the world on fire and inspire new generations of scientists to find their passion! While the Gateway Science Project is still a project in the making, there is no better place for kids to science than Discovery World Children’s Science Center, in Milwaukee Wisconsin. Tony’s Creepy Crawly Zoo and Discovery World have had a long-standing partnership and share a mutual mission of inspiring kids to science. On May 12th, 2018 that is exactly where Gustin and Capps will be, exhibiting together, for the first time in 25 years! “I am absolutely thrilled that Dan will be joining me at Discovery World. In all my years of doing this show, I have never ever seen anything like his collection. It is not just some pinned specimens; Dan’s collection is a work of art! It is the culmination of a lifelong passion for entomology. Milwaukee is in for a really awesome experience.” Gustin exclaimed.

For more information about the Gateway Science Project and Discovery World shows, visit: www.creepycrawlyzoo.com! 

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The Creepy Crawly Zoo Today–January 2018 Newsletter

ANNOUNCEMENTS!

Hello everyone and welcome to 2018!

This newsletter has been delayed because we have some very – VERY exciting things in the works. My long-time friend, world-renowned insect collector Dan Capps, will be joining me with his insect exhibit at Discovery World on May 12th! In all my years of being involved in the world of entomology, I have never EVER seen an exhibit that even compares to it. The Capps exhibit was once the world’s largest private collection. It has even been on display at Epcot Center! Dan will be exhibiting 21 tables of displayed insects… and that is only part of his collection! I am absolutely thrilled to bring this exhibit to Discovery World.

More about the Capps collection as the day gets closer.

Next show at Discovery World is February 10th at 11:30 am.

  • · We will be giving away another wonderful Creature’s Kit from Zoo Med.
  • · Anyone wearing one of my “creepy t-shirts” will get 5 extra raffle tickets!
  • · Everyone will receive a Science Diary, printed by Wetzel Brothers.
ZOOMED CREATURES KIT
CREEPY T-SHIRT
SCIENCE DIARY

Gateway Science Center Project

As many of you know, the whole reason the Creepy Crawly Zoo is on tour again is because of the Gateway Science Center. Many of you have asked how you can help to make this place a reality. While monetary donations are always appreciated, the following is a list of things you can do. Most of these suggestions do not require much effort on your part, but they are of enormous help to me and the Gateway Science Center mission.

  • · Tell a friend, teacher or librarian about the Gateway Science Center, our live show, T-shirt store, Discovery World shows and YouTube channel! If you tell two friends and they tell two friends and so on and so on – well, you get the idea. You can tell someone in conversation or spread the word on social media. When posting about it please include a few words of endorsement. That makes a big difference.

Over the last two decades with the live show, 95% of my business has always been word of mouth. You, the people, have always been the reason this show endured.

 Our goal is to reach 1000 subscribers.

  • · Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter
  • · Write a blog. If you or anyone you know has some creative writing skills, a blog about the Gateway Science Center project would be of enormous value. So valuable that we have offered our customers a $75 discount off a live show for this.
  • · Become a sponsor. If you have a business and would like to become a sponsor, please message me and I will send you information about what I can do for you. While the Creepy Crawly Zoo is currently not a non-profit organization most of our clients are. You can make a donation to a school or schools for our visit. This helps out schools and you or your donation is tax-deductible.

If you have any other suggestions I am always willing to listen.

BIRTH AND DEATH NOTICES

Charlotte, one of my black widows, had one of her egg cases hatch recently. (see photo)

Sadly, Clyde, the Desert Hairy Scorpion, passed away last week. In 2009, Clyde volunteered for the Creepy Crawly Zoo, when crawled under my door. I was living in Tucson at the time. He will be missed. R.I.P. Clyde.

This month’s Creepy T-shirt winner is: Vanessa Kim!

Thank you very much for subscribing to this newsletter.  This is our first and we would love to hear suggestions from you on what you want to hear from us.

Antonio Gustin

AKA – The Bug Whisperer

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Meet the Bug Whisperer

 

You’ve heard of the Dog Whisperer, the Cat Whisperer, and the Horse Whisperer. Well, now meet the Bug Whisperer. Antonio (“Tony”) Gustin, an entomologist, is an award-winning film producer, educator, and performer. He also started Tony’s Creepy Crawly Zoo, a fun and educational series of programs that teaches kids (and adults) about the world of bugs. My […]

Source: Meet the Bug Whisperer