The Buzz on the Bug House

Spring is just around the corner, and you know what that means – bugs, and lots of them! Last May, the Houston Zoo unveiled its Bug House with the new wombat exhibit as part of the John P. McGovern Children’s Zoo. With more than 30 different species of invertebrates living in the Bug House and less than a year old, our bug zookeepers are thrilled to educate the general public about these important species.

Check out our cactus longhorn beetles, one of over 50 species featured at the Bug House!

“I learned pretty early on that bug education stops at around the second grade, so at around eight years old, you’re no long being taught about bugs in school,” bug zookeeper and “bug guru” Julie LaTurner said. “I think part of the misperception that bugs are bad and gross kind of come from kids not learning about them. So I think the good thing about bug houses, especially now that more zoos have them, is that it breaks down that misperception. And we have to take on that role of the education from where it stopped.”

At first, people may seem squeamish or afraid at the very idea of bugs. However, bugs and spiders play important roles in our ecosystem! From decomposition of dead plants, pollinating our fruit and vegetables and even acting as “pest control” – we have a lot to be thankful for what invertebrates do for us!

“Bugs help break down vegetative matter,” LaTurner. “For example, 99 percent of the world’s cockroaches are ‘good.’  The ones we have out on exhibit are good cockroaches. If we didn’t have insects like cockroaches, we’d be up to our eyeballs in dead plant material lilke fruits and vegetables. Because they break down so much biomass, it in turn helps fertilize the soil so new plants can grow.”

LaTurner handles a young giant wingless phasmid. There are 1.5 billion insects for every human!

People may think handling and caring for all the insects and arachnids comes as an easy task, but there is a lot of work that goes into feeding, breeding and housing these different kinds of species behind-the-scenes.  For instance, almost all invertebrates (with the exception of species native to desert climates) need to have their enclosures misted daily to replicate humidity levels in the wild. Also, all the invertebrates have specific dietary needs since some are carnivorous and others are herbivores.

LaTurner hand-feeds this juvenile giant Asian mantid a cricket. Mantids are the only animals that can turn its head 360 degrees!

“We don’t really have a slow day in here,” LaTurner said. “So if we’re not feeding our herbivores, we have to feed our assassins and mantids. Back here, we have to hand mist a lot of these enclosures, and we have to clean the exhibits to make them look nice, such as cleaning tank fronts, watering plants inside the exhibits and changing out different parts of the exhibit like the dirt. We also have aquatic insects that need daily care.”

Because most of the insects at the Bug House only live up to about a year or two, carefully monitoring the breeding process is also a high priority for bug zookeepers. For example, for two beetles to successfully mate, a male and female need to be enclosed in their mini-habitats with plenty of layers of substrate, or dirt. Mating will not occur if the substrate is too shallow.

Rhino beetles are considered the strongest creatures in the world, with the ability to lift over 850 times its own weight! Pictured above is a male Hercules beetle, a type of rhino beetle.

LaTurner said since the Bug House is still relatively new, the breeding program is not only a way to ensure and maintain a population of certain species the Zoo offers on exhibit, but also to someday have the ability to trade insects with other zoos in the future.

One way for people to actively help the insect population is to learn how to sustainably garden. To find out more information about sustainable gardening, check out one of our past blog posts for tips like using garlic and planting marigolds.

“A lot of times when people start seeing pests, like roaches and fire ants, they tend to use a broad spectrum of pesticides,” Kevin Hodge said, the curator for carnivores & Children’s Zoo. “Not only will it wipe out the nuisance pests, but it’ll wipe out the beneficial insects as well. So it’s all about learning how to live with them.”

Also, every time you visit the Houston Zoo you help save animals in the wild. Don’t forget to stop by the Bug House!

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This is Pumpkin. No not the pumpkins, the orangutan. Well yes, those are pumpkins too, but our orangutan is also named Pumpkin. Take a minute and enjoy Pumpkin(s). ... See MoreSee Less



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He ❤️❤️❤️ his kale. But some days you get to splurge and eat your dessert, pumpkin pie spiced popcorn, before your vegetables🥗🥕🥔

He takes the good stuff out & pours the leftovers in his mouth. Maybe Pumpkin prefers to drink his meals! Pumpkin says, “Smoothies, please!”😄❤️

It's ok Pumpkin. I feel the same way about kale. 👎

I worked with Pumpkin when he was younger.

Kenna Halloween orangutans

Charles David looks like we need another zoo trip! We never saw pumpkin

I just love the orangutans!! Is Bubba still there??

I love ❤️ to watch them!

So glad he is doing well and in a great place!!

Sweets for the sweetest orangutan ever! Love him

Jane Carolyn Sablich something you would thoroughly enjoy watching

He goes for the popcorn first !!! Great little video. Thank you ! :-D

Mayra Núñez we have to go!!!

Cooper Hale I hope Ned school is treating you well ❣️

Dalton Kuntschik this is my friend who came up to the window!!! 😍

Maria Bergan a little orangutan entertainment for you 🙂

Pumpkin says no to kale.

We got to see him last week!

Alex Garcia look how adorable he is!! 😍😍😍

Nothing at the bottom

He's beautiful!

Pumpkin is so handsome!

Super cute!

Great enrichment!

That’s awesome

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Happy Friday the 13! Calling all little ghosts and goblins - Zoo Boo has begun! ... See MoreSee Less


Happy Friday the 13! Calling all little ghosts and goblins - Zoo Boo has begun!


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Went today! It was fun but super hot. My heart sank every time I saw a child in full costume long sleeved and pants all sweaty and red was 92 degrees.

We had a lot of fun today. XANDER, 1, painted his pumpkin, brushed the goats and loved the Giraffes and Elephants. It's a great event.

Why is the splash pad closed? It's ridiculously hot today.

Kelli!!! We have to go!!!

we were thinking of taking them to a Halloween even in bridgeland it's @ 10 am

Meg Elizabeth from a quick glance i thought these boys were yours 😂😂😂

So cute how you have pumpkin patches in the US - We have a few now in the UK but the US ones are EPIC!

Kimberly Olson we should dress up and go!

Kimberly Martinez look at this! It is to cute!😀

Susan Hendrix Curry look at how cute this setup is!

Michael Mitchell this is what I want to take them to at the zoo

Alfredo Vargas i wanna take the kids!!!

The little ones look like they're having a wonderful time :-).

Cristina Obregon are you busy Saturday? We should take the kids!

Jacques when are we going?

Is this wer the kids dress up

Love it!!!!

Kacie Nichols we need to go

Amanda Myers Jessica Longoria omg so cute we should go!!!

Melissa Mar vamos mañana

Kong Suarez Houston zoo

Esperanza Barriga Adriana Campos this is cute!

Maria Marcos Sha-keta Smith Emily Diane Montelongo for our baby gio!!!! :)

Colochita Vasquez this cute

Heleana Hohl I want to go

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