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McClatchy-Tribune  08/31/2014 1:31 AM ET
Bugs begone: Insect zoo is closing soon [The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va. :: ]

Aug. 31--Cindy Robinson has spent 19 years introducing children to Madagascar hissing cockroaches, Chilean rose hair tarantulas and a host of other creepy-crawlies.

Now she has decided the time has come to shutter the Bug Box, her insect zoo housed in an eye-catching building at 10822 Courthouse Road in Spotsylvania County. The last day will be Nov. 1.

"I'm trying to slow down and retire from some of my projects, and that's one of them," said Robinson, who also owns and operates CSI Home & Commercial Services of Virginia with her husband, Barry Robinson.

She said that a "huge rush" of children have come in to tour the Bug Box since she announced the upcoming closing on Facebook. Dozens of adults have posted comments on the page expressing sadness that they'll no longer be able to take children there for field trips and birthday parties.

Most of the critters at the Bug Box are Robinson's pets, and she plans to take many of them home. Some of the insects, however, have short life spans and may not be alive in November.

"I have earmarked a couple things for some of the staff that has worked here before or work here now," she said. "I think I have homes for just about all the live animals."

Robinson plans to sell her gift shop items and everything else--except for the business itself.

"I can't even imagine selling the business, she said.

Robinson realized that there was an unmet demand for information about insects soon after she and her husband launched their pest control, lawn care and home inspection business in Prince William County. School teachers had started calling to ask if she could bring insects to their classrooms.

"I met with some teachers from Prince William and got their SOLs and developed programs that would tie into the SOLs for each grade level," she said.

Soon Robinson was taking insects and such reptiles as snakes and turtles to classrooms, children's events and expos. She's also been a regular at the Earth Day programs at Old Mill Park in Fredericksburg and the annual Stafford County Agricultural Fair & Hartwood Days Festival.

"It was just the enjoyment of watching the children react to the insect zoo," she said. "They were always so afraid. I wanted to project a different aspect.

"I wanted them to not step on every bug and know that they didn't always need to have the bug man come to their house. If you just have a couple of ants, you might not need to hire the bug guy."

Robinson initially ran the insect zoo out of her Stafford County home. When the lease ended for CSI's office in Prince William, she and her husband decided to buy the building on Courthouse Road and open the Bug Box there.

Over the years, however, attendance has declined as schools have cut back on the number of field trips they take, she said. She's also getting fewer and fewer requests for her programs, which also help defray the cost of running the insect zoo.

"Looking at that and my other projects, I figured it was time to close," said Robinson, who will continue traveling to schools upon request.

Still, she feels that the Bug Box has made a difference. Among the many visitors she had over the years for example was Joe Montemoyer, who'd celebrated his seventh birthday at the Bug Box when it was in Woodbridge. Now a 19-year-old student enrolled at Virginia Tech, he tracked her down and volunteered to work for her over the summer.

He is studying wildlife sciences with a minor in entomology, and Robinson introduced him to Rachel Parsons, a former employee who is now a curriculum development specialist for Tech's pesticide programs. She was instrumental in getting the university to hold its annual Hokie Bug Fest, which was inspired by the bug fests the Bug Box held for years.

"He's going to volunteer, and hopefully he'll get involved with the entomology folks at Tech," Robinson said.

Robinson will be spreading the word that she's shutting down the Bug Box while exhibiting at the Third Annual Fredericksburg Pet Show, which will be held Sept. 20-21 at the Fredericksburg Expo & Convention Center; and on Oct. 3 at the the State Fair of Virginia, which will be at The Meadow Event Park in Doswell.

"I will have some kind of an event [marking the Bug Box's closing] on Nov. 1, which is the day after Halloween," said Robinson, who was known for decorating the exterior of the Bug Box for holidays. "I figured that would be perfect."

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407


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