For the fifth year running, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens will host educator and nature photographer Samuel Jaffe and The Caterpillar Lab, August 3-10. A perennial favorite, this exhibit will highlight the diversity and ingenuity of some of New England’s most unusual caterpillars.
“We really love the work of The Caterpillar Lab – you might not think these tiny little creatures would inspire wonder, but Sam Jaffe and his team simply knock people off their feet with their show,” says Daniel Ungier, the Gardens’ Vice President of Guest Experience and Education. “Everyone, from young children to seasoned biologists, leaves The Lab with grins on their faces and a new appreciation for the hidden insect world all around us.”
The Caterpillar Lab is known for its over-the-top, up-close native caterpillar exploration experiences. Visitors—even those familiar with their own backyard wildlife—will meet many dozens of species, all showcased in open-air displays, and including enormous giant silk moth caterpillars, fierce-looking snake-mimicking caterpillars, convincing twig-like caterpillars, and bizarre legless slug caterpillars. Guests can witness metamorphosis, ecological relationships, and even parasitism, all playing out first-hand at display tables and under digital microscopes. The Lab’s experts will be readily available for those who wish to learn even more.
A nonprofit learning facility, The Caterpillar Lab is a functioning caterpillar-rearing, researching, photographing, filming, and educating facility. Director Jaffe’s passion for the natural world finds itself in good company at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. “The Caterpillar Lab is all about finding wonder in the unexpected,” says Jaffe. Accessibility to caterpillars is what makes The Lab’s residency at the Gardens an exciting, thoroughly unique and family-friendly event, encouraging independent thought and empowering discovery.
One such discovery adventure includes a night of moth lighting, Friday August 5, from 8-10:30 p.m. This after-hours mothing extravaganza, called “lightsheeting” or “mothing,” is the practice of illuminating a large white sheet, providing an irresistible surface for insects land to on. A favorite pastime of biologists, it has quickly become a popular hobby worldwide for nature lovers, gardeners, and the naturally curious. Also on offer is a Caterpillar Walk on select days, 4-5 p.m. Participants can join a search of the Gardens for native caterpillars and other insects, discovering how they live in the wild.
The Caterpillar Lab’s in-residence exhibit is a casual drop-in experience. There’s something for everyone, from the mildly curious to young children, from seasoned naturalists to professional biologists. This exhibit is free with admission. For more information on the Lab and the residency’s accompanying events, visit mainegardens.org.
At nearly 325 acres, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is the largest public garden in New England. The nationally recognized public garden features two miles of hiking trails, 19 acres of ornamental and themed gardens, a children’s garden, a sensory garden, and so much more. The mission of the Gardens is to inspire meaningful connections among people, plants, and nature through horticulture, education, and research. To learn more, visit mainegardens.org.