Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Field Trip - Grand Traverse Butterfly House & Bug Zoo

Last Saturday I visited one of my favorite new destinations in Michigan - the Grand Traverse Butterfly House & Bug Zoo.  Located at just east of Traverse City 8840 E. M-72, Williamsburg, MI, the Grand Traverse Butterfly House is about a two hour drive from Mid-Michigan.  It's well worth the trip.

After a one-month trial run last October, the Butterfly House officially open on May 1st, 2015.  Their open season will run until the end of October.  Daily hours are from 10:00AM to 6:00PM.  Admission is $9 for ages 13 and older, $6 for ages 4-12, and children under age 3 are admitted free.  Groups of 10 or more qualify for reduced rates.

The Grand Traverse Butterfly House & Bug Zoo

Although the facility small it packs a lot into its space.  With the butterfly house taking up about half of its floor plan.  In the photograph above, the gift shop, bug zoo and offices are in the portion of the building to the left and the butterflies are in the translucent paneled section to the right.

The Butterfly House is operated by a helpful and knowledgeable staff of paid employees and volunteers.  After a brief introduction that included information on the life cycle of butterflies and moths we were off on our self-guided tour.

A butterfly mural

First stop, the butterfly house.  One thing that we liked about the butterfly house is that the rules are clearly posted both outside and inside the entrance.  The one rule that we particularly liked was the "no touching" rule.  In butterfly houses that allow touching, the butterflies are often so harassed by visitors that they rarely land in places where they can be closely observed.

Rules must be followed

Immediately inside the entrance to the butterfly house is a small glass-fronted room where the butterflies (and moths) emerge from the chrysalises and cocoons before being released into the habitat.  Like most other butterfly houses, the Grand Traverse Butterfly House does not rear its butterflies from eggs.  instead it received regular shipments of chrysalises and cocoons from facilities that specialize in rearing. Upon receipt, the chrysalises are pinned to foam covered rods where they can be observed by the public.

A volunteer talks to Shara about butterfly rearing

Freshly pinned chrysalises

Newly emerged butterflies

One of the best things about this butterfly house was its openness.  There was lots of room to move around inside.  I am sure that this design feature was largely done to make sure that it was accessible to individuals in wheelchairs, but after experiencing the often-cramped conditions of other butterfly exhibits this openness was refreshing.

Inside the Grand Traverse Butterfly House

The butterflies in the exhibit were very active during our visit.  Temperatures inside the butterfly house were over 90 degrees with a very high humidity.  Most of the butterfly species in the exhibit are from the tropics and love this combination of heat and humidity.  They were especially active when the sun was out.  When a cloud drifted over, many of the butterflies would stop flying.

A male butterfly courts a female

Butterfly fight!

Because the butterflies were so active, many of them were very difficult to photograph.  However, when they are really active, they need to pause occasionally to feed.  The butterfly house has lots of nectar plants for this purpose.

An Emerald Peacock butterfly

A Scarlet Mormon butterfly

In addition to nectar, many of the butterflies will also feed on over-ripe fruit.  Several dishes with bananas, oranges, and other fruits were scattered throughout the exhibit.

The rule about not touching the butterflies - there is no rule about the butterflies touching you.  Shara and I both had several butterflies land on us while were walking around.  We ended up having the butterfly house to ourselves for nearly more than 20 minutes!  At that point another family came in.  We stuck around for a few more minutes before exiting to check out the "bug zoo".  This also did not disappoint with a demonstration honeybee hive, several species of tarantulas, scorpions, beetles, mantids, and roaches.  They also had axolotls!

One of many tarantula species

A whip-scorpion from Vietnam

A Giant Cave Roach - right at the top of the stump

One of several axolotls in the "bug zoo"
Another axolotl shows off its gills that it retains as an adult
Before leaving, we walked through the Butterfly House's gift shop with its selection of butterfly and insect related products.

The giftshop at the Grand Traverse Butterfly House

Grand Traverse Butterfly House & Bug Zoo quickly jumped onto the list of must-visit places for us.  It's one more reason to plan a visit to northwest Michigan.

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