Slime Time

April 04th, 2019
Slime Time
Since 2002, BugsnSlugs have been promoting awareness of the important role that invertebrates, insects and molluscs play in the ecosystem.

Kristen Messenger draws on her many years of experience in ecology and natural resources as well as children's theatre to present a program of interactive learning where kids can get up, close and personal with the little creepy, crawly and slimies.

“The program is aimed to help children understand the real importance of invertebrates” Kristen said.

“Nature play is so important and the kids really benefit from engaging with the creatures- it creates a deeper understanding of the important role they play.”

Kristen uses living props, like her rainbow lorikeet Nemo, to highlight the importance of bugs for biodiversity.

“Nemo can’t live without bugs, even though he doesn’t eat them. They produce the hollows and materials he uses for nesting, which is an example of how everything is connected.”

“Through contact, kids develop empathy and a custodial attitude to nature. That’s really coming through with this generation.”

BugsnSlugs offers curriculum tailored programs from two year olds to university students.

“I get so many emails and phone calls from kids and students who want to know more, and I’m always happy to take those,” she said.

One of the biggest bug menageries in the country, which includes hundreds of spiders, scorpions, beetles, slugs, snails, hermit crabs and the like, is tended to by Kristen and her husband James at their home.

“Husbandry is a 50-50, full time job between us. These bugs take up less space, not less time.”

The rare and difficult to breed species require perfect hygiene, temperature and humidity control.

“James is my secret weapon, doing all the carrying and heavy lifting,” she said.

But those interested in acquiring a few rare wrigglies will be disappointed.

“I might give away a few spare stick insects sometimes, but we don’t sell the bugs, they’re strictly for education.”

Very much against the use of chemicals in dealing with bugs, Kristen worries it could have dire consequences.

“Their numbers are rapidly declining around the world, from a combination of climate change impacts and the accumulation of pesticide and herbicide usage.

“They can live without us, but we can’t live without them.”

Even the “amazing” cockroach plays a vital role in our ecosystem.

“They’re great recyclers, eating dead stuff like wood and refuse to break them down into soil.

“They can even process the oil in eucalyptus leaves and pollinate plants, not to mention being a huge food source for many animals.”

BugsnSlugs has been working in partnership with scientific education bodies like Science Alive! and SciWorld, which sees Kristen traveling all across the state to give kids a hands on experience with bugs.

“I’m so lucky for the amount of support I’ve received from people in the science and education community,” Kristen said.

One such mentor is Mount Barker resident Brian Haddy, who ran the former Investigator Science Centre which closed in 2006.

“He has brought so many science communicators together for events and projects and he has been a really inspiring mentor,” Kristen said.

Rob Morrison, who presented The Curiosity Show on Channel 9 for nearly 20 years, is also considered by Kristen to have been “instrumental” in heavily promoting science programs across the community.

At nearly 50, Kristen is satisfied her work has left a tangible impact on the community.

“I’ve seen attitudes really change over the years,” she said.

“Kids and parents have a lovely attachment to nature and they’re willing to defend it.”

Kids can get to know the bugs with Kristen on Wednesday, April 17 from 10.30-11.30am at the Adelaide Hills Natural Resource Centre in Norton Summit.

It’s suitable for ages 3 and over and children must be accompanied by an adult. To book email or phone 8390 1891.

For those who can’t make it, Kristen and her bugs will also be at Sophie Thomson’s open garden on Springs Road on Easter Monday, April 22.

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