Earthlore hums with insect buzz
It has rained almost every day since Gordon and Janine Thompson opened their conservation business in the Catlins but they are not letting it dampen their enthusiasm.
For the past three years, the couple have opened Earthlore, in Owaka, to the public for one day a year to host Bug Fest insect awareness day.
However, strong public interest has prompted them to develop the enterprise into a business, and they now open the insect-themed activity park five days a week. "For the past five years we have been building it up to get a little business started," Mr Thompson said.
The tourism industry was an area the couple wanted to get involved with.
"We had a crack at carbon offset but the market just wasn't there . . . we decided to do something for tourists and found that nobody was doing anything about insects. Then one night I woke up with this crazy idea," he said.
They used their backgrounds in horticulture and sign writing to create a bug city, giving insects personalities.
Extensive planting and landscaping work was done on their 4-hectare block to create Earthlore, with about 2ha of revegetation planted specifically to attract insects.
Butterfly, moth, grass and wetland habitats were also created.
They transformed 0.1ha into "Bug City", where everything is built from an insect's perspective.
"It's something a bit different but we're just trying to make conservation fun," Mr Thompson said.
The creative couple also designed activities to keep visitors entertained at Earthlore, such as bug frisbee and a character called Inspector Insector.
"The inspector's mission is to investigate mysteries of the insect world, particularly those that happen in Bug City . . . and he is always on the lookout for junior investigators to help," Mr Thompson said.
While the business was serious about the conservation, the focus was on allowing children and adults to experience the natural world in a fun and imaginative way, Mrs Thompson said.
"We created a variety of activities to raise awareness of New Zealand's amazing insect life and a place where visitors could learn while having fun, " she said.
As the economic climate was tough, the pair would continue working other jobs - as part-time postman and supermarket worker - but planned to build the business bit by bit, they said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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