Carrie Rengers

One Lady, 300 animals and bugs plus a bunch of children to move to District 96

The first new building at the newly named District 96 business park at K-96 and Oliver is going to be filled with worms and snakes and slime — on purpose.

Carrie Tiemeyer is moving her Bug Lady’s Science Academy to the park next year.

She’s also bringing an early learning center, greenhouses, an event center, tarantulas, cockroaches, ant farms, worm farms, exotic birds, hedgehogs, rats, ferrets, bunnies, lizards, snakes, tortoises, lizards, “tons of amphibians,” guinea pigs, chickens, stingrays, a 55-pound bunny named Willow and a therapy dog named Harrison.

“We have a little bit of everything,” Tiemeyer says.

“It’s called a hoarder,” she jokes.

Almost from the moment Tiemeyer started her “accidental business” in 2011, she’s been running out of room.

She used to teach kindergarten and had a lot of animals and insects in her classroom that she began taking to visit school classrooms.

That grew into a business Tiemeyer started in Valley Center in 2011. Six months later, she moved to larger space at 33rd and Ridge Road, then in 2014 she moved to 5,000 square feet at the Art Park near 29th and Woodlawn.

Two years ago, she added an early learning facility. It’s a daycare, though Tiemeyer doesn’t like that word, but it offers education in Spanish, sign language, yoga, art and music. The business quickly took up more room.

“I have a huge waiting list.”

Tiemeyer will be able to accommodate 82 children in her new 7,400-square foot building, and she’ll be able to have 114 for a summer learning program for children up to age 12.

With the new space, Tiemeyer says she’ll be able to add a number of things, including freshwater stingrays like she’s seen in displays elsewhere.

“I really found it fascinating,” she says. “Plus, being able to feed a stingray is really cool.”

Her idea is to have more interactive animal displays.

There will be an indoor beehive observation area, a huge chicken coop and other animal enclosures outside for nicer weather and aquaponics in the lobby. That’s where plants such as a tomato bush can grow on top of a fish tank.

“Basically one thing helps the other thing,” Tiemeyer says.

Tiemeyer takes her animals to outreach programs at schools, and she used to offer field trips to her business for children to see the animals. Now, though, she uses those rooms for her early education program. At her new space, Tiemeyer says she’ll once again offer the field trips.

Tiemeyer has purchased 2.51 acres at 3725 N. Ridgewood St., which is not along the more prominent K-96.

“I didn’t need frontage because I’m a destination.”

She already knows when her new space opens in May 2020 it won’t be enough room for everything she wants to offer, but Tiemeyer has a few more plans.

“We positioned the building to where we could add on to my animal space.”

She’ll eventually add greenhouses for farm-to-table cooking “so we have options for other field trips besides animals.”

There will be two greenhouses initially, but Tiemeyer hopes to have seven.

In 2021, she also plans a 2,500-square-foot event center that field trip visitors can rent.

Her expansion plans extend beyond Wichita as well.

“We’re looking at Derby as another location,” Tiemeyer says. “But one thing at a time, friend. One thing at a time.”

First she has to build a building and move about 300 animals and insects.

Tiemeyer says Studium, her architect and contractor, is walking her through it all.

“They’ve been amazing. They’ve really held my hand, because this is not my world.”

Tiemeyer says she still can’t believe how far she and her business have come in less than a decade.

“To be honest with you, sometimes I . . . think how could this be?”

She may not know how, but Tiemeyer says there’s no question why she does it.

“My husband, he cannot believe that people actually pay me to talk about bugs,” Tiemeyer says.

She says she regularly hears from children years after they’ve visited her. A ninth grade student approached her and asked if she remembered him from when he was in fourth grade.

Tiemeyer — who says she sees about 25,000 children a year — did not remember him.

However, he remembered every detail of his visit.

“I really impacted this kid,” Tiemeyer says. “It amazes me.”

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Carrie Rengers has been a reporter for almost three decades, including 16 years at The Wichita Eagle. Her Have You Heard? column of business scoops runs five days a week in The Eagle. If you have a tip, please e-mail or tweet her or call 316-268-6340.