Big Bugs, Sculpture, and West Lake Okoboji


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This is the ant ("Ant #3 in the caption below) Katie and I first saw from Highway 86.  Notice its size in comparison to the car in the background at the far left.  Click photo to enlarge.

This is the ant Katie and I saw. (It is indicated as "Ant #3" in the middle photo's caption.) Notice its size in comparison to the car in the nearby background. (Click photo to enlarge.)

Earlier this month, Katie (our younger daughter) and I were in search of garage sales along the west side of West Lake Okoboji.  We didn’t have luck of the garage sale kind, but were lucky to accidentally see, from Highway 86, part of the “Big Bugs” exhibit.  Not knowing there was such an exhibit, I marveled at the hugeness and design of the ant sculpture, especially because it was out in the middle of nowhere.

One ant at far left, one in middle.  The third one, at the far right relatively close to Highway 86 is the one Katie and I first saw.  (Click photo to enlarge.)

Using my own naming system, "Ant #1" is at the far left close to the horizon. "Ant #2" (shown again in the photo below) is in the middle at horizon-level. "Ant #3" (also shown in the top photo) is at the far right at the horizon and relatively close to Highway 86. (Click photo to more easily distinguish all three ants.)

Last weekend Bill and I went to see the same giant ant.  Bill, always acutely observant, pointed out that there wasn’t just one ant, but three.  Between Google and an Iowa Lakeside Laboratory brochure, we’ve learned the following.

The Estherville, Iowa, newspaper published an article about the “Big Bugs” exhibit.  Also, the laboratory’s brochure tells about 2009’s 100th anniversary of the laboratory.  The brochure says, “Since its debut in 1994 at the Dallas Arboretum, the ‘Big Bugs’ exhibit has traveled all across the United States. The bugs will swarm at the Lakeside Laboratory from July 4 through October 4, 2009.”

Bill noticed this ant, at the left, when I returned with him to the exhibit.  Of the three ants, this ant, which I have named "Ant #2," is furthest from Highway 86 and is th emiddle ant in the above photo.  I took this photo from HIghway 86, facing mostly east.

"Ant #2" is in this photo. It is the middle ant in the above photo. I took this photo from Highway 86, facing mostly east.

The brochure also says, “The sculptures are created by artist David Rogers, using various combinations of whole trees found standing or fallen dead, cut green saplings selectively harvested from the willow family, dry branches, and other forest materials.  The bugs are recreated on a gargantuan scale in this outdoor sculpture exhibit.”

For more information about the laboratory’s 100th anniversary, go to the Lakeside’s website at  More  information about the “Big Bugs” exhibit is available at

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5 Responses to “Big Bugs, Sculpture, and West Lake Okoboji”

  1. Clara Says:

    I’m so glad you wrote about this. I had seen something about it towards the end of our stay at the lake and then forgot about it. I overheard someone talking about it, too. It would have been neat to see. I hope Martha and Daddy see it. My college roommate Marji worked at the Lakeside Lab, so I’ll have to let her know about the 100th anniversary and the Big Bugs.

  2. Marti Gunderson Carlson Says:

    These are impressive sculptures. Daddy and I will dfeinitley need to check these out. I will only add that it makes me think someone had too much time on his hands to set out sculpting huge bugs!

  3. Nancy Brinkman Says:

    I had to laugh at the large ants, as I started an unofficial ” collection” of photos of large things a few years ago. Of course we know of the Indian maiden in Pocahontas, but I found three large scultures (I use the term loosely)in Marshalltown, when visiting Jana. There’s a large chicken (rooster?) atop Cecil’s restaurant just off Hwy 30 on the main drag into town, and of course the famous (from my childhood traveling old Hwy 30) pink flamingo of the Flamingo Motel fame. There’s also an oversized bowling pin near a now defunked bowling alley. I laugh at myself when I pull over to take a photo of other large statues. Clear Lake has their own large chicken and a very large twist ice cream cone at The Barrel Drive In on Hwy 18. As you can imagine, Gus groans whenever I spot something new to be photographed for my collection, as he did over the Clear Lake items. On the way home from Rathbun a few weeks ago, we came across two large dinosaurs, which Gus was even interested enough to step out of the vehicle to view. The kids stayed in the AC, as it was a sweltering hot afternoon. We actually thought of your dad, as they were constructed from machinery parts. I can’t remember the hwy or the business that they obviously belonged to. Oh yes, and there was also a very good likeness of the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz standing nearby. As an art major, it’s not the art I’m particularly impressed with, I just chuckle over the large scale. I had my own version of a huge ice cream cone Gus helped me construct for a library float (no pun) years ago. He got carried away with the chicken wire. The base was a plastic barrel. It was a sight to behold, for sure.
    Nancy Brinkman

  4. Louise Gunderson Shimon Says:

    Nancy, if you happen to determine where exactly the dinosaurs and the Tin Man were/are, I’d be interested to know in case we are ever that way, especially with Jackson. I did not know about any of the large sculptures you described, but am glad I do now!

  5. Peg Says:

    Like the article said, these ants are GARGANTUAN!!! Or, more accurately, GARGANTUANT!!! (Hehehe. Love it! :-)) Made of trees, saplings, and more. That’s pretty wild. How creative, resourceful, ambitious, and industrious!!! I couldn’t see the ants in the middle/landscape photo until I enlarged it. I thought maybe you were spoofing me. 😉 What a novelty post!

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