Big Bugs Brings Larger-than-Life Exhibit to Dow Gardens

Luckily, most of us haven’t seen a 10-foot-tall daddy long legs, until now. Luckily, this giant spider isn’t in our homes. Dow Gardens invites the community to experience creepy crawlies in a big way with their latest exhibit. Big Bugs, a traveling exhibit, is coming to Dow Gardens from July 15 to Oct. 16. 

Originally intended for 2020, Carolynn Paten, assistant director of guest operations at Dow Gardens, says the exhibit got pushed back due to COVID-19. Paten says the sustainably-harvested exhibit, which has been traveling since the mid-90s, is a perfect fit for the summer and fall garden setting. 

“We’ve had Craig Mitchell Smith’s Garden of Glass, origami in the garden, the art of Dr. Seuss [as part of our summer programming]. Dave Rogers really fits into what we want to share as a garden, as we want to help educate. We have an entomologist on staff, we do a lot of bug programming, so this just seemed to be a really good fit for us,” she says. 

To complement Big Bugs, Dow Gardens also hosts “Insect Encounters” with Elly Maxwell to learn more about the insects. These free, hour-long, drop-in activities take place Wednesdays and Fridays throughout July and August. 

Paten says the eight larger-than-life sculptures include a daddy long legs spider, a praying mantis, dragonfly, and ants marching, inviting garden guests into the immersive exhibit. 

“The pieces themselves are made out of found wooden materials in nature, whether it’s dead trees or fallen branches,” she says. “Dave Rogers fashions them into large pieces of art that are in the likes of bugs. When we say big bugs that’s not an exaggeration. The ants are 25 feet long and 10 feet tall.”

“It helps give you a different perspective,” Paten says. “We’re so used to seeing small bugs, and now we may know what it feels like to be small in comparison.” 

The pieces will be very visible around the gardens’ 110 acres, adding to the sense of discovery as you walk through, says Paten. “There will be one in our front bed so people can see it as they approach the gardens, and more will be scattered throughout the gardens,” she says. “Most of the pieces are located in a place where they’re visible from the main path. Even if guests can’t get off the path to wander, they should be able to see the majority of the pieces in the exhibit.”

Big Bugs features larger than life sculptures.
Although most pieces are visible from the main path, Paten still encourages people to come prepared for a lot of walking, and wants to remind people to wear comfortable shoes and be ready to explore. 

Big Bugs is included with admission to Dow Gardens and Whiting Forest. Tickets can be purchased on-site, the day of your visit or online. No advance reservations are required. Tickets are $10 for adults, $2 for kids ages 6-18 and college students, and free for kids ages 5 and under. 


Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.

Sarah Spohn is a Lansing native, but every day finds a new interesting person, place, or thing in towns all over Michigan, leaving her truly smitten with the mitten. She received her degrees in journalism and professional communications and provides coverage for various publications locally, regionally, and nationally — writing stories on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, community, and anything Michigan-made. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at