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David Rogers' Big Bugs



We’re thrilled to host David Rogers’ Big Bugs this summer, an enchanting outdoor art installation featuring 10 enormous insect sculptures created from fallen or found wood, cut saplings, twigs, raw branches, twine, bark and other natural materials.  To further enhance the Big Bugs visitor experience, two Nashville architecture firms have designed special interactive pieces for climbing, exploring and learning.


Explore the enormous insects and discover fun, fascinating facts about each one, from its quirky habits to its unique job in nature. The safari will highlight not only the fascinating world of insects but also the importance of bugs in the earth’s natural environment.
Meet at the Visitor’s Center.

This free, self-guided tour gives clues to insect investigators of all ages to follow as they discover the Big Bugs hiding throughout the gardens. Available at the Visitor’s Center.

Since its debut in 1994, David Rogers’ Big Bugs have toured botanical gardens all over the U.S. as a featured exhibit. This collection of huge creepy crawlers has delighted garden visitors for over a decade with its giant insects and natural aesthetic, and has also served a very important educational purpose: to build public awareness about the importance of the preserving our natural world.


Praying mantids (the plural of mantis) use camouflage to hide from predators. Different species mimic leaves, twigs, or bark. They need the cover of plants to survive, as they don’t blend in well on sidewalks or buildings. Mantids use their large, spiny forelegs to grasp and hold their prey and are considered helpful in the garden because they feed on many pests. They are not picky and eat all sorts of insects, including other mantids!

Bug “Bytes”: Did you know…
• The word mantis is Greek for “prophet” or “soothsayer,” referring to the prayerful posture of this insect. But rather than praying, the mantis is poised to kill.
• Mantids can turn their heads 180 degrees to scan their surroundings with two large compound eyes and three other simple eyes located between them.


Daddy longlegs are not spiders, or even insects, at all! They are, in fact, called harvestmen. Unlike spiders, harvestmen lack silk glands and have long stilt-like legs. Each leg has seven joints, making them highly flexible and allowing the animal to run rapidly over leaves and grass. Daddy longlegs are beneficial to the garden as they eat many plant-eating pests such as aphids, beetles, and slugs.

Bug “Bytes”: Did you know…
• The order name of the daddy longlegs, Opiliones, comes from the
Latin word “opilio” meaning “shepherd,” because walking harvestmen
resembled the European shepherds who walked on stilts for an improved view of their flock.
• A daddy longlegs can detach an entire leg if a predator grabs it.
• You may have heard that daddy longlegs are extremely poisonous but
have fangs too short to bite humans. That’s a myth – daddy longlegs
have no venom


Did you know that dragonflies spend most of their lives underwater? Young dragonflies, called nymphs, live in water for several years. Eventually, nymphs emerge from the water to shed their skin, becoming adult dragonflies. They benefit humans by preying on pest insects, sometimes eating hundreds of mosquitos in a single day.

Bug “Bytes”: Did you know…
• Dragonflies belong to the order Odonata, from the Greek meaning “toothed ones.” Their sharply serrated lower jaw is what gives them their name…and helps them seize their prey!
• The dragonfly has 2 large compound eyes that take up most of the head. Dragonflies may have as many as 28,000 individual lenses per compound eye.
• Dragonflies have been around for over 300 million years. (Before the


Assassin bugs live up to their name with their fierce hunting skills. First, an assassin bug injects prey with toxic saliva that liquefies its insides. Then it uses its long, tubular mouth like a straw to suck out the “bug juice.” Many of the assassin bug’s victims are pests that harm trees, such as aphids.

Bug “Bytes”: Did you know…
• Some assassin bugs wear the bodies of their dead prey as armor.
• The legs of some assassin bugs are covered in tiny, sticky hairs that
help them hold on to their prey.


To be so small, ants have an enormous impact on our environment! They enrich the soil, help recycle rotting things, and allow air into the ground thereby helping plants grow. Their success as a species is a result of their organized lifestyle. Ants live in complex colonies where
everyone has a specific and important role.

Bug “Bytes”: Did you know…
• If you weighed all the ants on Earth, they would collectively weigh more than all the humans! Scientists estimate that there are over a quadrillion ants living on earth at any given time.
• Some ants can carry objects 20 times their own body weight. If we had muscles in the proportions of ants, we’d be able to lift a car over our heads!


Dragon or damsel…how can you know? Damselflies are closely related to dragonflies. To tell the difference, look at their wings when resting. The dragonfly holds its wings straight out. The damselfly pulls its wings together with the tips almost touching above its back. While dragonflies zoom through the air with a purpose, damselflies flit around quite slowly.

Bug “Bytes”: Did you know…
• Damselflies have amazing vision, with enormous eyes made up of more than 10,000 lenses.
• Young damselflies spend their first year under water, breathing through three fin-like gills attached to their tail.


Spiders are not ‘bugs’. In fact, they are not insects at all! They belong to a class known as arachnids, characterized by four pairs of segmented legs and a body that is divided into two regions. All spiders can produce silk, though not all spiders make webs. Some species just spin a sticky line with which they capture prey. Many of their victims are pests that harm trees and people.

Bug “Bytes”: Did you know…
• Spiders often eat their webs when it is time to build a new one.
• Spider silk is the strongest known natural fiber.
• Spiders taste and smell through special sensory organs on their legs. And they hear – or, more specifically, they sense vibrations – through hairs and tiny slits distributed over much of their body.


Experience a bug’s habitat at an enormous scale! The honeycomb walls provide tunnels and passageways to squeeze and climb through, creating a sense of wonder and curiosity. The tunnels open onto a central space surrounding the tree, which represents the queen bee, the central element to any natural beehive.

Project Team:
Tuck-Hinton Architects
Crain Construction
Signcraft USA


The idea is to create an interactive play structure that abstractly depicts the transformation of a caterpillar going into the cocoon phase and becoming a butterfly. The caterpillar form is created by an articulated set of wooden ribs curling through the landscape. The caterpillar form rolls into a cocoon structure, which takes the wooden rib idea, and stacks them horizontally to create a place of shelter. Using the caterpillar ribs as structure, a pair of butterfly wings float above, connected by a spine that doubles as a slide.

Project Team:
Pfeffer Torode Architecture
Anne Daigh Landscape Architect
Steelhead Building Group

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