For the past 10 years Jack and Sue Hasenpusch have been developing the Australian Insect Farm in Far North Queensland near Innisfail. It is an insect educational and breeding centre set on their 30 hectare (around 80 acre) rainforest property.
The vast majority of Australia is privately owned with only about five percent of it protected in national parks. Conservation today depends on the privately owned land being used to sustain the owner and protect the wildlife, a sustainable use of wildlife.
Working with nature
Here the Hasenpusches have found a way of working with nature, earning a living and conserving the environment all at the same time. They call it an insect farm. The project began as a hobby but is now an excellent example of sustainable development at work.
Very little is known about the habits and lifestyles of many insects so the aim of the project is to help people understand, appreciate and value insects. About 60 species of insects are housed and bred at the farm. Some are new insects Jack and his son Paul have discovered that haven’t been recorded before.
The farm sells live insects which are supplied with information sheets on how to look after them, their breeding requirements and everything you will need to know about keeping insects. The insects that are sold to the general public are easy to look after with a ready supply of food. The sale of the insects funds the running of the educational centre.
Although many of the insects at the farm look fearsome, most are totally harmless. Indeed it is more likely that humans may harm the insects through mishandling rather than suffer any harm from an insect.
Some of the insects featured on ‘Burke’s Backyard’ included many colourful beetles, several types of stick or spiny leaf insects (also known as phasmids), which depend on camouflage to avoid predators, and one of the largest moths in the world, the Hercules Moth. Some of the insects are previously unknown species and some have not yet been named.
Particularly curious to see was the Peppermint Stick Insect, so called because it squirts a peppermint-scented spray from the back of its body (from the prothoracic glands) to deter predators. This insect can disappear from view due to its camouflage.
The giant Hercules Moth (Coscinocera hercules) and its large caterpillars are found in the rainforests of tropical Australia and Papua New Guinea where they feed on the native bleeding heart (Omalanthus populifolius). This moth is one of the largest moths in the world. Its wingspan can be huge – specimens found in 1948 had a 36cm (15″) wingspan.
Contact the Australian Insect Farm for more information about the educational centre or to purchase insects. Write to:
Australian Insect Farm
PO Box 26
Innisfail QLD 4860
Phone/fax: (07) 4063 3860