Neighborhood Spotlight: Kathy Burkholder

By: Cathy Strini

After meeting Kathy while out in the Golden Hills neighborhood, we were intrigued by both her and her line of work. Kathy’s Critters offers fun and educational zoology presentations for schools, birthday parties and other special events. From snakes to tarantulas to Madagascar hissing cockroaches, Kathy and her crew specialize in “misunderstood, but friendly critters”.  Former “Zookeeper” at the Insect Zoo, Los Angeles County Natural History Museum and Nature and Science Instructor for the City of Manhattan Beach, Kathy has years of experience working with reptiles, amphibians, arthropods. She has a degree in horticulture, but is always looking to learn more! Through conferences and research, Kathy works continuously to stay on the forefront of Entomology and to connect with other educated enthusiasts.

Lauren, Kathy, Michelle

Kathy’s connection with her critters goes beyond the knowledge she has acquired through work and study. Even as a young girl she had a love for all bugs and reptiles!  When she was not out searching the gardens, she was inside teasing her siblings (and mother!) with her newly found “pets”. It was inspiring to hear first-hand how Kathy was able to create and grow a thriving business centered around her life-long passion. A true entrepreneur, Kathy has created a space to share her enthusiasm while educating others.  As a lifelong South Bay resident, Kathy has seen the area change tremendously and was able to share both some of her favorite memories and also how the community has helped foster the growth of her business. We love that we have neighbors who are actively working towards their dream careers, but still maintain a community-based mentality!

frog (2)
Kathy and Jabba

We had a chance to meet some of Kathy’s little friends and to see her in action with them!


(Left) Corn Snakes Hamlet, Ophelia and   Portia          (Right) Spike the Bearded Dragon


Kathy was kind enough to participate in a little Q&A session with us so continue reading to learn more about her:

1. Tell us about your experience in the “critter world” and how it led to starting your business.
 I have always been interested in the life sciences. In college (El Camino), I received my A.S. in Horticulture and took every Entomology class they offered.

I continue my education constantly by conducting my own research and attending annual educational Entomological conferences along with educators and scientists associated with institutions, universities, museums and butterfly houses from around the U.S. and abroad.

When I was a single mom with two children, I worked many jobs, sometimes two or three at a time. One of my favorites was as an Animal Control Officer at the Humane Society. I also worked at the Agriculture Department in pest control for projects such as the Mediterranean Fruit Fly and Japanese Beetle. While there (about 25 years ago), I was offered a position at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum as the Insect Zoo Technician (“Zookeeper”) for the Insect Zoo. Part of my job required that I do outreach programs, travel to schools throughout the county, and give lessons and assembly programs on the live insects we brought to them. After one of my programs, a teacher asked me if I knew anyone who did the same type of program only with reptiles. I thought to myself, I have enough of my own, so I offered to bring some. Word-of-mouth spread, and Kathy’s Critters began.

Eventually, Kathy’s Critters became my only job and I’ve been doing it ever since (over 20+ years).

2. Introduce and tell us a little bit about three of your favorite critters.
 As everyone knows, a mother loves all of her children equally. With that said, I have a fondness for the animals I’ve had the longest time, and they hold a special place in my heart. They include two of my corn snakes, Ophelia and Portia, who are over 20 years old; Blue, my blue-tounged skink (a lizard from Australia) who is almost 20; and Worf, a California Desert Tortoise around the same age.
3. Give us a brief run-down of the experience that “Kathy’s Critters” provides at birthday parties.
 The birthday child will be the center of attention as he or she shakes hands with a tarantula, caresses a cockroach, “trains” a stink beetle to “play dead” and “roll over”, becomes a habitat for a tree frog, gets kissed by a lizard, wears a snake necklace (or necktie) and much more.  He or she will be the “Zookeeper and Animal Handler for a day”.

The birthday child will carry the animals and show them off to his or her friends.  Everyone will get to touch, hold or pet most of the animals (if they so desire). Free toy souvenirs are included for the kids and the birthday child will receive a nice gift.

– See more at:

4. Do you have any plans for further expansion of your business?
 I am working on a traveling walk-in butterfly house, which can be brought to events such as spring extravaganzas, garden parties, butterfly parties. I’m also going to offer Butterfly Gardening lectures to local nurseries and Garden Clubs. I can include the butterfly house with these lectures. I’ve been growing a butterfly yard for many years at our house in Redondo Beach (Golden Hills area) and neighbors will often stop in front of our house and comment on the number of butterflies in my yard. I have a lecture entitled “Build It and They Will Come” which I recently presented to the Lorquin Entomological Society. The majority of the photos in this presentation were taken in our yard, which only proves that no matter how small of a yard, you can still successfully build a butterfly garden.  I also do consulting on growing your own butterfly friendly garden.
5. How has living in the South Bay, Redondo Beach in particular, helped aid the expansion of your business?
 The people of the South Bay are great. Our neighbors could not be better. We are a very close community and our block gets together annually for a block party, for which we’re always out in the front driveway with the critters for the neighborhood children.  The award-winning schools are fabulous and are always welcoming to our critters.

The weather here is perfect. I can do my shows year-round without worrying that my critters will get frozen on the way to my car while I pack them. I know other people in different states who cannot do winter shows for that very reason.

6. As a life-long member of the South Bay community, how have you seen the area grow and prosper?
 Our family was one of the “early settlers” in the very newly built Bodger Park area of Hawthorne. We were one of the first families on the block. Manhattan Beach was our hangout and only a short drive away down a beautiful two-lane country road lined with eucalyptus trees; I think it was Rosecrans. My early memory is while my dad was driving, the car would fill with the aromatic scent of the eucalyptus seedpods over which we were driving. We would also drive to Dockweiler Beach and look at the farms and horses on the way. I also remember the drive-in A&W Root Beer stand on, what is now, the El Camino parking lot. Across the street was a dairy farm with real cows.

The South Bay has grown a lot since then.


**For $50 off one of a school or birthday Kathy’s Critters program, email and be make sure to mention the Weber Accetta Group**

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