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Home is where the bugs are… at Paignton Zoo

Jammy has just moved into her new home and is a little unsure of her surroundings. Right now she’s doing what she always does when she lacks confidence - she’s covering her face and hoping it will all go away. It’s an endearing trait, and not one you’d expect to find in a red-kneed tarantula spider.

Flower beetle courtesy the Zoo Just in time for Halloween, the small but fascinating invertebrate house at Paignton Zoo has been reimagined around the simple idea of home. You might not think you have anything in common with a tarantula, but everyone needs a home.

The zoo’s Head of Education Steve Nash said, “Bugs at Home is all about the concept of home. Home is important, regardless of what species you are. Every species needs a place to call their own but, around the world, habitat loss is causing many species to lose their homes. We can all help to fix this problem by making new homes for invertebrates around our own homes and gardens. Conservation is for everyone and begins, quite literally, at home.”

The exhibit has been refurbished with large new vivariums and extraordinary species such as leaf cutter ants, the critically endangered Deserta Grande wolf spider, leaf insects, vampire crabs and upside down jellyfish. The approach is flexible with species being swapped in and out or shown seasonally. And everything leads back to the idea of home.

Goliath spider courtesy the Zoo Next door to Jammy there’s Parker, named after Peter Parker aka Spiderman. You won’t be surprised to find he’s a spider--in this case, a burgundy Goliath bird eating spider, one of the biggest species in the world.

For keeper Lauren Lane creating the new exhibit has been hard work, but enjoyable. Lauren is a passionate advocate for bugs; five minutes with her will probably convert any arachnophobe. As well as selecting the species for the exhibit, Lauren has been sorting out tanks, heating systems, lighting, water supplies and filtration equipment. She’s also ordered plants and substrates to make each tank right for the species to be displayed in it.

How has this exhibit been improved? Lauren: “We’ve gone big. We have beautiful, big enclosures that allow the animals to behave naturally and interact with a diverse environment. Bugs are often seen as optional extras, but this house is a must-see.

“People mostly aren’t keen on invertebrates, they’re afraid of them or find them gross, but that’s so wrong. These animals are individuals; they have heaps of personality - they just show it in a different way from us.

“It helps to watch them for a bit. Spiders will tell you when they are unhappy with something; they can be very expressive when they’re sad - some spiders will even cover their faces with their legs, like Jammy. Elizabeth our regal jumping spider comes to the door for her food and takes it from your hand - they learn. They deserve a good life and a proper home, like all animals.”

Does Lauren have a favourite? “There are too many. I love them all in different ways. I’m a big spider fan, so maybe the Goliath spider or the lime green bean stick insect or maybe the giant tiger snails.

“I want this to be the best display possible. It’s only small, but we’re hoping it’s perfect for our guests and our animals. We are hoping the public come to love these animals as much as we do.”

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