Up for hire: The Bug Lady

10/15/2011 12:00 AM

10/15/2011 7:12 AM

Things that make most of us go "Ewww" generally delight Carrie Tiemeyer. Bugs. Snakes. Slime.

"Anything that's messy, that parents freak out about, we're doing," she said of her Bug Lady's Science Academy (www.bugladykansas.com).

The business has proven so popular in the last couple of years, Tiemeyer has moved it from Valley Center to Wichita.

Tiemeyer is now at 7330 W. 33rd St. North behind Rose Hill Bank, near 33rd Street and Ridge Road.

Dan Unruh of InSite Commercial Real Estate handled the deal.

Tiemeyer is keeping her 800 square feet at 226 W. Main St. in Valley Center at least through March because she's already worried her new 2,400 square feet won't be enough.

It's not bad growth for what Tiemeyer calls her "accidental business."

She used to teach kindergarten and had a lot of animals and insects in her classroom. Tiemeyer quit to open a day care.

"At the time, my animals were kid-friendly, and I wanted to keep them like that for my day care," Tiemeyer said.

So she called friends who were teachers and started visiting classrooms.

"Then," she said, "teachers I didn't know were calling me."

Tiemeyer and her partners decided not to open the day care, so she kept visiting classes and started charging a nominal fee to share her tarantulas, cockroaches, ant farms, worm farms, exotic birds, hedgehogs, rats, ferrets, bunnies, lizards, snakes and other animals.

Then when she and her husband figured her taxes and saw what she was spending on gas and other expenses, Tiemeyer said, "My husband said, 'Um, you need to start charging.' "

It's worth the money, said Teresa Thompson, lead early childhood instructor at Butler Community College.

"I just enjoy her passion because she's so enthusiastic about working with young children and engaging them in science," Thompson said. "It's something wonderful to explore. It's not boring."

Tiemeyer was the first president of Butler's association for early childhood education.

"Her very first audience was the early childhood profession," Thompson said.

"Once you go to Carrie, you go back to Carrie," she said. "She is just so engaging, and the information that she shares is so relevant. ... I learn things every time I listen to her."

Word of Tiemeyer's business spread among parents.

"I call them my cul-de-sac kids," she said of the children's birthday parties she does.

"It's all those moms sitting on their cul-de-sacs on their chairs" telling each other about the Bug Lady, she said.

She started visiting day cares and schools.

"I wanted to get the animals out of my house, and I found a little shop in Valley Center," she said. "I grew out of it the day I moved in, but I had to test out this theory."

Last year, Tiemeyer visited 291 schools and saw 6,691 kids, not including the ones at birthday parties. She traveled as far as West Virginia to lecture at a college.

"And believe me," she said, "on a road trip with 30 animals in a rented car is an experience."

She has already seen more than 9,000 students this year, not including the ones she sees at parties.

"I'm booked well into next year," she said.

Thompson says Tiemeyer's presentations are fun, funny and "a little ewww."

That's something Tiemeyer tries to prepare people who might be visiting her new space.

"I'm a really touchy-feely, hands-on type of person," Tiemeyer said.

That even includes roaches. She said the looks on kids' faces when they plunge their hands into a bucket of bugs says, "This is the coolest thing ever."

That's how she feels, too.

"I've got the best job in the world," she said. "I play with animals. I play with kids."

Unlike some of the headaches that come with day cares, she said, "I get to do all the fun stuff."

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