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'Big bugs' land at the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden

A massive wooden sculpture of a daddy long legs spider.
Kara Holsopple
The Allegheny Front
David Rogers' daddy long legs sculpture is made from willow and Eastern red cedar.

When you look at a daddy long legs, you usually don’t have to look up. But an eight-legged specimen at the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden near Settler’s Cabin Park is about 12 feet tall.

It’s part of a large-scale sculpture exhibit that highlights the importance of pollinators and insects.

David Rogers’ Big Bugs + Pollinators features 10 pieces by the Long Island artist who works with native wood and natural materials. Admission to the exhibit is included in the garden’s entrance fee.

The first piece visitors will notice is a butterfly in the lobby of the welcome center. Its body is made from black walnut wood, and the intricate wing pattern is created with fungi.

Just outside the orientation garden, a hummingbird sculpture hovers over an opening flower. It’s 10 feet tall and eight feet at its widest point.

A large sculpture of a hummingbird at a flower.
Kara Holsopple
The Allegheny Front
Roger’s hummingbird sculpture is paired with plantings of the native cardinal flower.

“The hummingbird is very much attracted to our native cardinal flower, lobelia cardinalis,” said Mark Miller, education and exhibits director. “And that’s exactly what we have planted around the sculpture.”

In real life, the tubular shape of the vibrant red flower is important for hummingbirds. They use their long beaks to mine the flowers for nectar.

The sculpture is highly polished, and the stems of the flower seem to curve with the natural bend of the red cedar and black locust wood.

“It looks like it’s kind of blowing a little bit in a soft breeze,” said Beth Exton, the botanic garden’s external relations director.

Exton said there will be educational programming around David Rogers’ Big Bugs + Pollinators every day until it closes on Sept. 15. Each piece is also paired with signage that explains more about the artwork and species.

“I think the beauty of these artworks — in and of themselves, they’re beautiful pieces of art. But they really make you look again at something that’s probably so tiny you never pay attention to it,” Exton said.

Other representations of bugs and pollinators include a pair of ladybugs, daddy long legs, a damselfly and dragonfly, a praying mantis, a spider and a bee on a sunflower.

“Insects and pollinators work in harmony with native plants to sustain and grow healthy environments where humans and wildlife alike can thrive,” said Keith S. Kaiser, executive director of the botanic garden. “Everything from the food we eat to the air we breathe depends, in some way, on these small but mighty creatures.”

Large wooden sculptures of a damselfly, praying mantis and two ladybugs.
Kara Holsopple
The Allegheny Front

Creating pollinator habitat at home

One goal of the exhibit is for visitors to feel inspired to support pollinators and beneficial insects in their own communities. Habitat for pollinators is shrinking.

“It’s actually easier than you might think,” said Miller. “Pollinators are looking for the same things we are. They’re looking for food, and they’re looking for water. Shelter. And that’s easy to provide.”

Miller said you can add a birdbath to your yard or even a small bowl of water with a rock or two that comes just above the surface of the water.

“Plants that are blooming at different times of the year that provide nectar and pollen, that’s also great,” he said. 

Over the winter, insects need an area to shelter in place. And Miller said to try to avoid using any kinds of pesticides.

A large sculpture of a butterfly.
Kara Holsopple
The Allegheny Front
The butterfly sculpture in the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden welcome center is the first piece visitors see in David Rogers’ Big Bugs + Pollinators exhibit.

David Rogers’ Big Bugs + Pollinators is funded in part by the Laurel Foundation, which also funds The Allegheny Front.

Read more from our partners, The Allegheny Front.

Corrected: June 29, 2024 at 11:36 AM EDT
Corrected the location of the botanic garden in relation to Settlers Cabin park.
Kara Holsopple is the host of The Allegheny Front and reports on regional environmental issues. She began working in radio as a volunteer for Rustbelt Radio, a project of the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center. A lifelong resident of western Pennsylvania, Holsopple received her undergraduate degree from Sarah Lawrence College and earned a Master of Professional Writing from Chatham University. She can be reached at