This was Kathleen Burton’s reaction when she ate the first of six mealworms as part of a fundraiser to help restore the floating boardwalk at Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary. Wolf Depner/News Staff

Swan Lake director chows down for fundraiser

Kathleen Burton eats six mealworms to raise $3,000 for the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary

Chew or swallow.

That is the question everybody asks as Kathleen Burton, executive director of Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary, gets ready to sit down for a special meal.

It is Sunday afternoon and the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary is hosting an afternoon of nature lessons under the heading of Grossology that allows visitors to learn more slugs, snakes, and spiders. But the undeniable highlight of this journey into “the secret world of the revolting” as the centre calls it is of a gastronomical nature.

The setting itself could not have been more picturesque. Sparkles danced across Swan Lake as the sun streamed through the window, where staff had a set up a small table for Burton. A simple ‘reserved’ sign and colourful flowers pinned down a white table cloth. The dinner ware was rimmed porcelain. Everything looked very elegant, if romantic, where it not for the fact that the food on the plate was still wriggling.

Minutes before Burton sits down, five live meal-worms were squiggling and squirming on the plate. By the time, Burton had sat down, their numbers had grown to six, after local realtor Krista Voitchovsky had donated $500 towards the Give-a-$heet campaign to restore the floating boardwalk at Swan Lake. This of course meant that Burton was about to sit down for a $3,000 meal, but she wasn’t exactly watering at the mouth.

“Does anybody want to share?” she asked the 30 people, who had gathered around her table to watch her chow down. “I’m happy to share.”

“No,” responded the crowd, with laughter. After Burton had thanked the various donors, she sat down. “Want do you think, one at a time?” she asked. The audience however was baying for Burton to eat standing up. Obliging, she showed for everyone to see. “Oh, they are wiggling off the plate,” she said. “Don’t you let them escape,” said Coral Forbes, naturalist.

“Oh, look at them wiggle,” said Burton. “I’m shaking. Here we go. Num, num, num.”

People cheer and clap after Burton has chewed down on the first worm. But her facial reaction left no doubt that she did not savour it.

“All right, that is one,” she says, as her cheeks are contorting with disgust. “Oh, they are not yummy, let’s just say.”

But Burton is game and she actually praises the second worm. “Oh, that one is kind of nice,” she says, seemingly surprised by her own reaction.

Number three and four go down easier and Burton is obviously having fun now.. “I could be on Fear Factor now,” she says, matter-of-factly.

Number five leaves behind a bad taste, but Burton’s ordeal is about to end.

“Kathleen, Kathleen,” cheers the crowd in unison. She then chases the empty plate with a glass of cranberry juice. “Oh, that is much better, much better,” she says.

So how did it taste? “That first one was really disgusting,” she says. “That thing exploded in my mouth.” But good causes often demand difficult sacrifices and Sunday’s unusual gets the centre closer to its goal of replacing the floating boardwalk.

This said, the centre still needs to raise $400,000 to $500,000, or about anywhere between 800 and 1,000 mealworms. “If a big donation were to come in, I would gladly eat a full meal of mealworms. But I think I would have to have them cooked, and sauteed and flavoured. But I would do it.”

Just Posted

Bungy jump naked in support of mental health programs

Registration open for annual fundraiser for BC Schizophrenia Society

Saanich police look for driver involved in a hit-and-run

Incident happened Monday, Feb. 18 near Admirals Road by Murray Drive

Sooke School trustee and VIHA both call for vaccine education in schools

A renewal of cultural memory is needed, says trustee

Victoria parking fees bring in more than $17 million every year

Parking fees make up seven per cent of the city’s annual revenue

Home show hits Pearkes this weekend

Victoria Early Spring Home Expo, Friday to Sunday

Black Press readers share photos of their favourite critters on #LoveYourPetDay

Greater Victoria is raining cats and dogs…and snails and goats

POLL: Will you be wearing pink to take a stand against bullying

Schools and workplaces across Greater Victoria and around the province will be… Continue reading

Federal fisheries minister calls for precautionary approach to fish farming

Government still reviewing Federal Court’s decision on PRV – Wilkinson

Why do zebras have stripes? Perhaps to dazzle away flies

Researchers from University of Bristol look into why zebras have stripes

Poll: More voters believe Canada doing worse under Trudeau government

22 per cent believed the country is doing better and 27 per cent said things are the same

HBC shuttering Home Outfitters across Canada

North America’s oldest retailer is revamping its various stores to improve profitability

BC SPCA investigates Okanagan woman with prior animal abuse convictions

BC SPCA is investigating a property near Vernon

Man wanted for sex trafficking, confinement may be heading to B.C.

Kevin Myrthil, 26, is also accused of assault on a 19-year-old woman at an Edmonton hotel

Parksville council won’t ban single-use plastic bags

Politicians vote 6-1 against proposed bylaw

Most Read