Prove your humanity

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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, west of the city, 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.

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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 brown wood sculpture of a humming bird and a flower against green trees

Roger’s hummingbird sculpture is paired with plantings of the native cardinal flower. Photo: Kara Holsopple / The Allegheny Front

“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 September 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.” 

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. 

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

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