Botanical Gardens welcomes The Caterpillar Lab back for fourth season

Fri, 08/06/2021 - 7:45am

    For the fourth year running, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens will host educator and nature photographer Samuel Jaffe and The Caterpillar Lab, Aug. 19-27 (with a break on Monday, Aug.23). 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 Sam Jaffe and The Lab do—it aligns with our mission, and it’s such an unforgettable experience for anyone of any age, from young children to seasoned biologists,” says Daniel Ungier, CMBG’s Vice President of Guest Experience and Education.

    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 20, from 8-10:30 p.m. This after-hours mothing extravaganza, called “lightsheeting” or “mothing,” is the practice illuminating a large white sheet, thereby 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. Popular events like National Moth Week and Mothapalooza have been attracting more and more attention—and now you, too, can be an explorer at this exclusive event.

    Jaffe will arrange his ultra-moth-attracting setup and be on hand to help identify the hundreds of species likely to appear. Guests to the experience will be amazed by the diversity, size, and beauty of Maine’s nocturnal insect inhabitants. The program is designed for anyone ages 10 and up, adults and families alike. Note: Moth lighting is an event separate to the exhibit, and participants must register in advance, online, at MaineGardens.org.

    This year, a Caterpillar Walk will also be on offer on select days, from 4-5 p.m. Participants can join Jaffe on a search of the Gardens for native caterpillars and other insects, discovering how these creatures live in the wild. Jaffe will outline how The Lab finds its caterpillars, discuss host plants and parasitoids, and share caterpillar-finding secrets from one of the foremost caterpillar hunters in the world.

    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.