By STEVE JONES Sentinel staff writer


OPPORTUNITY ROCKS — The opportunity for new business knocked for Lee and Pam Voelker, shown below left, with their granddaughter Rayna Massey, 6, in The Beast store surrounded by bins of different insects.

THEY DO HISS — They are called hissing cockroachs because of the sound they make forcing air through their breathing pores. Native to Madagascar, they love to hide in well-rotted wood and can live as long five years. Hissers have played feature roles in motion pictures like "Men in Black." (Sentinel photos by John Clifford)

THEY ARE A MEAL — They are called mealworms because they eat meal like oats, wheat bran, or grain, not because at The Beast the worms are cultivated to be one. Mealworms are the larval form of the mealworm beetle which ends up only half as long as the larval stage. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)

SUPERSIZED — These superworms, left, cultivated at The Beast, stay longer in their larval stage if they are crowded together in close contact. Otherwise they mature into beetles. As a meal, consider them similar to mealworms.

Having trouble finding food for a pet gecko, iguana or chameleon? The Beast, a store specializing in "feeder insects," opens this weekend.

It started out as a hobby for Lee Voelker, whose family has plenty of reptilian pets, said his wife, Pamela. "It got bigger and bigger and bigger," she said of their efforts at home on Bartlett Road.

The family-run business at 8963 Turin Road will hold a grand opening today. Initial hours will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays, as well as 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Fridays and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. There will be reduced hours from June to September, and no weekend hours. The couple will also have the help of their son, who is in high school, and their daughter, who is in college.

The wholesale breeding and sale includes a host of feeder insects: mealworms, superworms, crickets, dubia roaches, hissing cockroaches, wax worms and two types of fishing worms. They are meant as food for such pets as geckos, bearded dragons, iguanas, Chinese water dragons, monitors and chameleons.

The store will sell to the public and to pet stores, Pamela Voelker noted. The family decided to open a store because nearby pet stores were interested in a full-time supplier locally, to cut down on shipping, she said.

The store will focus on the Oneida County area, but the family has already established customers from Syracuse to Albany. They also intend to supply feeder insects to several Rome businesses, such as Peterson’s Pets and Jungle Kids Play House.