Last month I was given the opportunity to attend the inaugural Australasian Invertebrate Conference held in Melbourne. The conference brought together Australian researchers, butterfly breeders and other invertebrate keepers for the first time to learn and discuss a wide range of topics.

The conference was organised by Skye Blackburn; owner and operator of Butterfly Skye's Butterfly Release and Insect Education and Patrick Honan; Live Exhibits Manager at the Melbourne Museum. The program was split into two sections, which people could attend either or both. The first two days focused just on Butterflies and the last two days on all other Invertebrate groups (although many of us that attended all four days could not stop discussing butterflies).

Orchard Butterfly, Caterpillar
Orchard Butterfly, Caterpillar Image: Chris Hosking
© Australian Museum

The butterfly section, which was mainly attended by butterfly breeders, was hosted by Melbourne Zoo's Invertebrate Section, where they have been successfully raising tropical butterflies in Melbourne's temperate climate for over 25 years.

The speakers covered many topics including, conservation, communication, public engagement, disease, pest control, landscaping and exhibit maintenance. Other highlights included tours of the new horticulture section, butterfly house, caterpillar rearing house as well as the breeding facilities for the endangered Lord Howe Island Stick Insect, Dryococelus australis (my favorite invertebrate ever). There was even a butterfly pinning workshop on the second day.

The second part was hosted by Melbourne Museum's Live Exhibit team, who are responsible for the development and maintenance of the amazing Bugs Alive! exhibition.

Subjects included invertebrate photography, health, record keeping (my favorite of all the talks) and the development of Bugs Alive! There was also talks about the captive care of particular groups including; Mantids, Lord Howe Island Stick Insects, Cockroaches, Aquatic Invertebrates, Huntsman Spiders and Katydids.

After another pinning workshop we were also given guided tours of Bugs Alive! and the many back of house facilities that the public never see, but a crucial in keeping the living displays running well.

In addition to the tours, workshop and talks the conference also gave Invertebrate Keepers the rare opportunity to network, mingle and share ideas in person. It was great being able to discuss the challenges and opportunities that come with caring for a group of animals that we have only just begun to scratched the surface when it comes to understanding.