Couple decide it is time to get big with bugs

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Gordon and Janine Thompson have decided to take the plunge and take their insect business to the next level.

They are the owners and part-time operators of Owaka’s Earthlore Insect Theme Park, and they feel it is time to go “all or nothing”.

“We’ll close it down or run it boots and all,” Mr Thompson said.

Both also worked part-time at the local Four Square. Mr Thompson had handed in his notice and would be beginning work fulltime at the upgraded theme park in November.

Part of his role would involve driving the new shuttle system, which will bring visitors from central Owaka out to the site.

For this trip, and the following tour, Mr Thompson would be dressed as “Inspector Insector”, the protector of insects.

The first attraction available to visitors was a flea circus, a Punch and Judy-style puppet show to bring people into the insect world. Next there was a bug city to wander through, built with low-lying street signs, as if from a “bug’s-eye” point of view.

There were insects of all kinds, with butterflies, bees, and even native cockroaches expected to be scurrying between visitors come November.

Of the cockroaches, Mrs Thompson said: “They’re actually quite cute. They’re good for the garden and they don’t come into your house.”

She said most, if not all, of the insects are native.

There was also a Frisbee course, utilising the location’s ample space, a field with some geese, and two friendly donkeys, waiting to be patted and fed.

Mr Gordon stressed that the new theme park would have a wider focus on other wildlife as well.

“When we started, we focused on insects, because we wanted something that would stand out. We also thought there wasn’t enough of a corridor for birds to come in, but they’ve been attracted by the insects.”

There were at least four breeding pairs of tui at the park.

The pair were philosophical when it came to the consumption of the insects by the birds.

Mrs Thompson said “That’s the way of nature.”

But there was one organism that had become a sworn enemy: wasps.

“They take the caterpillars to feed their babies,” Mr Thompson said.

The wasps were also in competition with the bees living on site.

There was no core human demographic who came to the theme park, with local parents and children coming during their school holidays, and European tourists coming by regularly as well.

Mr Thompson said they wanted to expand their programme to be more educational, because they were often “preaching to the converted.”

Mrs Thompson said insects were the foundation of all life, and that without them, humans would only last a few months.

“About 90% of all food is originally pollinated by insects.”

But they did not want to come across as zealots.

“We want to bring in the general population, and make it fun, without forcing it on them,” Mr Thompson said.