Anybody can paint with a brush. Can you paint with a maggot?

(Editor’s note – This event was cancelled on 3/12/2018)

Wine and painting nights first started appearing as social events and fund raisers a number of years ago and today many towns throughout the U.S. have storefront locations where, for $30-$50, people have an opportunity to pick up a brush in one hand and a wineglass in the other.

Dr. Juli Gould, an entomologist with USDA-APHIS in Buzzards Bay, MA and a member of the Entomological Foundation (EF) Board of Counselors, heard about a sip and paint night recently and thought she could do better.

After some conversations with other leaders of the EF, she conceived of what is surely one of the most unique fundraisers for the EF ever to be held – Maggot Matisse – a wine and painting event that uses fly larvae rather than brushes to create the paintings.


The 2018 ESA Eastern Branch meeting in Annapolis, MD will feature the debut of this new fundraiser. The concept is simple and has been a staple of the Insect Expo for many years – dip fly larvae in paint, set them down on the canvas, and let them wriggle away, creating a colorful, painted trail in their wake.

Maggot Matisse will be held at ArtFarm in Annapolis. Co-founder Alison Harbaugh was excited when she first heard about the idea, deciding that it fit well with her clientele and her shop’s past support of avant-garde events such as the Annapolis Fringe Festival.

“The great thing about the art scene in Annapolis is that people are willing to try anything,” said Harbaugh. “I guess this counts!”

There will be two events on Sunday, March 18th. The first one, starting at 3:00pm, targets families for a lower ticket price. Tickets for the 3:00pm event are $25/painter. The second event starts at 4:30pm and is where the wine and other refreshments will be served. Tickets are $50/each. The EF expects to use revenue from the 3:00 event to cover all costs, so that all income from the 4:30 event can be a 100% donation to the EF (Purchase tickets for both events here). The EF and ArtFarm will supply everything you need (except a strong stomach!) to make your very own abstract painting – a canvas, all the maggots you can use, paint, forceps for picking up the larvae safely, and rinsing pans for cleaning them off when done. Extra canvasses are available for a nominal fee if participants want to do a second painting.

There are no concerns about the safety of the larvae, according to Gould, who says that the paint does not harm the maggots. As an entomologist, she should know. Gould is a long-time supporter of the EF and for many years has held a silent auction as part of the Eastern Branch meeting, netting around $1,000 annually.

“I support the Entomological Foundation’s goal of promoting the teaching of science using insects in the classroom because insects are fun, fascinating, and very artistic (who knew?),” says Gould. She held a trial run of Maggot Matisse at her home in Massachusetts recently and said it was a great success. “It was so much fun! An aunt of one of the people who participated is buying one of the paintings with the proceeds going to the Foundation.”



When the evening concludes, another local artist, Stacey Turner will rinse off the maggots and take them to a nearby Annapolis elementary school for art projects with the kids.

“You can keep reusing the larva as long as you rinse them off and keep them cool.” says Gould. When asked why it was important to keep them cool, she replied with a smile, “it is harder to paint with flies.”

Anyone interested in joining the event can learn more on ArtFarm’s website and purchase tickets from the EF. All revenue generated from the events supports the EF and their mission of providing micro-grants to K-12 educators who use insects in the classroom. An earlier grant was provided to a nearby Annapolis arts magnet school, Bates Middle School. The project which has been dubbed “Wiley – the Bates Mosquito” will become a permanent arts installation at the middle school and is going to also be unveiled at the 2018 Eastern Branch meeting. The #BatesMosquito, which was launched through a Kickstarter campaign that included a large grant from the EF, integrates lesson plans about mosquito habitat and biology with a multimedia arts project that every student at the school has had an opportunity to contribute to.

Educators can learn more about the EF at and apply for their own funding grant hereMaggotMatisse-EB-March-2018

1 thought on “Anybody can paint with a brush. Can you paint with a maggot?

  1. Everyone should sign up. We had SO much fun.


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