There are strange, beautiful, and sometimes grotesque caterpillars living right in our own back yards! Come explore the incredible hidden world of New England caterpillars through hands-on, interactive activities that explore topics such as caterpillar anatomy, defensive adaptations, and shelter building. And, experience a huge variety of local caterpillars in all phases of their life cycles, curated and explained by naturalist Sam Jaffe and other educators from The Caterpillar Lab. 

Please note that the live caterpillar lab portion of the exhibit will be open to visitors Wednesdays through Sundays only, 10:00am to 4:00pm.

This new exhibit was created by museum staff in collaboration with naturalist Sam Jaffe, creator of The Caterpillar Lab.

Photos (c) Samuel Jaffe

In this Exhibit

a young girl looks at a very large caterpillar suspended from a leaf
The Caterpillar Lab in Residence

See and touch—if you like!—strange, beautiful, and sometimes grotesque caterpillars up-close and in all phases of their life cycles, while naturalist Sam Jaffe and his respected staff share their in-depth expertise.

a child wears a caterpillar-skin-like printed cape in front of a nature-print curtain
Blend In or Be Bold?

To help protect themselves from predators, caterpillars can either blend in to their surroundings and be hard to find, or be bold to scare off potential predators. Try on fabric capes that represent actual caterpillar skins and textures, then experiment in front of a mirror with a variety of backdrops that represent caterpillar habitats and host plants. Will you blend in, or be bold?

two girls drape fabric over a wooden-framed hut
Shelter Building

Many New England caterpillars build shelters to stay safe and warm. Using materials that mimic natural materials caterpillars might use or create, build a shelter of your own.  What will your shelter do for you?

a girl places tiles printed with caterpillar parts on a magnetic wall
Construct a Caterpillar

Caterpillars are made up of basic body parts: a head, body, and tails. They can also have a variety of defensive adaptations such as horns, inflatable tails, false eye spots, and spines that make them unique.  Explore some of the basic caterpillar parts and defensive adaptations while constructing a caterpillar that looks as unique as you. If you were a caterpillar, what would you look like? 


a boy looks at caterpillar specimens with a magnifying glass
Look Closely

Caterpillars leave behind all kinds of interesting specimens such as skins, cocoons, and even frass (poop!). Using magnifying glasses, take a close look at some of the fascinating features of caterpillars. What kinds of details will you notice?