Caterpillars of Eastern Massachusetts

Sam Jaffe writes:

Turbulent Phosphila (Phosphila turbulenta)

Dear friends, family, and fellow naturalists,

I would like to formally announce this summer’s exciting new caterpillar exhibit:
 The Caterpillars of Eastern Massachusetts  an exhibit of photography, local natural history, and live caterpillars.
June 30th to September 12th, 2011
Click here to visit my new website for more information on the exhibit, and for a listing of the live caterpillar show dates.
Click here to visit my online galleries and get a feel for my work.

If you’re interested in helping out with the project, you can make a tax-deductible donation (any bit will help) and/or pass along this announcement! I would like to extend a sincere thank you to all who have contributed their time and resources to making this exhibit possible.  I am responsible for funding this project, and I could not have gotten this far without you!  

Looking forward to seeing you all there,

– Sam

The Caterpillars of Eastern Massachusetts
Too few people ever realize the natural wonder that Massachusetts’ biological systems have to offer, instead they assume that real biological diversity only exists in the tropics or other far away places. Yet our native flora and fauna are diverse and anything but mundane. Since childhood I have sought to identify and catalog the many species that inhabit our green spaces, from the smallest vacant lots to the largest wildlife refuges. This quest has provided me with a unique education in the natural history of New England.

In the fall of 2008 I began photographing caterpillars. These larval insects demonstrate a diversity of morphology and behavior better than perhaps any other group of animals in this region, and yet, they remain relatively unknown to even the most dedicated of naturalists. Through my photography, and through documenting the life histories of the species I find and raise, I hope to share some of what I have learned about the quality of our native biome.

In ages of exploration, drawing and painting were important tools used to document new discoveries. Old illustrations of insects regularly depict the subject and its food source alone on a page, isolated from background distractions. However, the desire to visually record an insect’s behavior and life history often infused these images with life and motion, and many artistic and powerful compositions resulted. These classical natural history pieces are the source of my inspiration. Isolated against a black background, the caterpillars are conspicuous and sculptural. Further, each species is shown upon its native hostplant and each composition aims to tell a story about its subject’s unique natural history.

Sam’s Note about the above photo of the Turbulent Phosphila: This group was collected September 4th from Medfield MA, but many such groups were found throughout August and the first part of September wherever Greenbrier was present. These caterpillars rest quietly on the underside of larger leaves during the day, but when they are disturbed they will first undulate their bodies in unison and then, given further prodding, leap off the leaf and hang in mid-air. A group of over 150 early instars diving off a leaf together is quite a sight!
Feel free to contact me with questions and ideas:Sam Jaffe


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