Life at the G.T. Butterfly House & Bug Zoo is buzzing! Butterflies flutter by, beetles bustle and spiders spin their webs. This month we check in with owner Cyndie Bobier to take a closer look at a Michigan native, the honeybee—plus, Bobier shares the upcoming lineup of fun opportunities. Here’s the buzz.

How many honeybees are housed in the G.T. Butterfly House & Bug Zoo?

In the beginning of May, a few hundred honeybees were introduced into the G.T. Butterfly House & Bug Zoo. Now, according to co-owner Cyndie Bobier, the hive has grown to at least 3,000 bees–even that number might be an underestimation. The bees are so busy at the Butterfly House & Bug Zoo that you can smell the honey in the room! Bobier says their honeybee observation hive produces about one pound of honey each season.

How can you identify the honeybee?

Honeybees can be differentiated from other hornets, wasps and the like because they are smaller and their personality is more peaceful. They are not carnivorous like wasps and hornets; instead, they feed on flowers. “The best way to view bees is when they’re visiting flowers,” Bobier notes. “Watch them while they’re working.”

Are they dangerous?

No! Bees are not naturally aggressive. “Many mistake them for wasps or hornets and therefore wave their arms around,” Bobier says. “This frightens the bee, so they’ll sting to defend themselves. Honeybees are loving and loyal. We can learn a lot from our bees and how they treat each other.”


Fun facts about the honeybee:

  • The average lifespan of a honeybee is about 7-8 weeks. The queen, however, can live up to five years. The queen at the G.T. Butterfly House & Bug Zoo is now two and a half years old! The zoologists marked her with green to help viewers identify her.
  • Honeybees don’t actually sleep, they sit motionless to conserve energy.
  • Bees have hair on their eyes!
  • Honeybees can only sting once, and they will die within hours of stinging.
  • A group of hives is called an apiary. A beekeeper, or a person who tends the hives is called an apiarist.
  • Flowers secrete nectar to attract bees. They consume the sugary drink to make honey. While collecting nectar, bees brush against pollen, and by default, transport this powder to pollinate other flowers.


Become a Bug Expert 
Day camps offered through the G.T. Butterfly House & Bug Zoo and the Grand Traverse Conservation District are fun and educational! Here are some upcoming opportunities.

Insect Investigators, ages 7 to 10
When: Monday-Friday, July 20-24, 9AM to 3PM
Where: Boardman River Nature Center
Description: Discover the wonderful world of tiny critters – worms, pill bugs, insects and more! We’ll investigate the forest floor, a rotting log and the underwater habitat of Jack’s Creek. Learn about these little invertebrates by exploring what they eat, where they live and why they’re important. Maybe you’ll find they’re not all that creepy after all! We will be touring the Grand Traverse Butterfly House & Bug Zoo.

Bugs Grubs & Slugs, ages 4 to 6
When: Monday-Friday, July 20-24, 9AM to Noon
Where: Boardman River Nature Center
Description: Get ready to find some new friends! Slimy friends, friends that fly, friends with hundreds of eyes and of course some new human friends, too! At this week of insect camp we’ll learn about catching and identifying all sorts of bugs! We’ll set traps, use nets, play games, and hike all over as we complete hands-on activities around the Natural Education Reserve.

To view the full schedule of nature camps, visit the Grand Traverse Conservation District’s website.
Find out what else is buzzing at the G.T. Butterfly House & Bug Zoo’s website.

Photo(s) by Colleen Otte