Ken “The Bug Guy” MacNeil talks about collaborating on the film “Epic”

Ken MacNeil, also know as “The Bug Guy” is the owner of the largest retail pet shop in the country that is devoted to insects and other arthropods. Ken was recently contacted to work on the film “Epic” as the bug expert. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Ken about his love for bugs and his work on the film.

Mike Gencarelli: I think the first obvious question has to be how have you developed this love for bugs?
Ken MacNeil: I have been into bugs my entire life. Going back, I had started with having some hissing roaches and mantises. I ended up breeding my mantises and got an egg sack. I was a programmer at the time, so I sold those to a local pet shop and made some money. I new a local buy guy at the time that was going out of business, so my wife and I drove out and ended up coming home with 130 tarantulas. We thought we were crazy but at the time we didn’t realize that that number was nothing (laughs). We ended up selling them over a month or so. So then I got a call from the same guy hearing that I sold the first 130 so fast and he asked me if I wanted to buy the other 2,000 tarantulas he had (laughs). Well once again I asked my wife and she told me to go for it, since I liked it so much. We thought we were really crazy when we drove home with a truck full of tarantulas (laughs).

MG: So you have no fear to those kind of bugs?
KM: No, not at all. At the very beginning when I was packing a tarantula that wasn’t docile, I was a little nervous. My wife was less nervous since she grew up having tarantulas. My mom was arachnophobic, so I didn’t have any type of spiders growing up but I have always been fascinated by them.

MG: How did you end up getting contacted to work on “Epic” as the bug expert?
KM: Truthfully, I am not 100% sure how they found me. Because I am an ex-programmer, I was able to get my name and website into the front of the search engines. So if you do a general search for a pet bug, I come up first. So I bet they just did a search and came across me.

MG: Tell us about “Bugs of Camouflage” available on the special features on the home release?
KM: They came into the shop and wanted to see a bunch of different bugs. They wanted to see a bunch of different things that could fit the movie. We tried to pull up some that the movie had, the same kind of ability or the actual bug itself. I got a hold of some walking sticks for them to film since there is an actual walking stick in the movie. They have a great demonstration of camouflage and how these insects use their defense in the wild.

MG: What other films or TV shows have you been asked to consult on?
KM: I have done a few different things over the years. We also had a TV show on the Science Channel called “Bugging Out”. I have also done a bunch of articles of newspapers and also NPR did some pieces on us as well.

MG: Tell us about your retail pet shop in Tucson, AZ that is the only one in the country devoted to insects and other arthropods?
KM: We are the largest bug business in the U.S. by a lot. The next guy down probably has about 1/10th of what we got. It is what we specialize in and the tarantula hobby is the biggest part of the business. So we have more tarantulas that anything but we also carry scorpions, centipedes, millipedes, roaches and many others. On top of that I have opened an exotic pet shop that carries others pets like reptiles etc. But it seems more like an after thought when you have 10,000 bugs to 40 animals (laughs).