When these ants go marching one by one, it’s less “hurrah” and more “Run for your lives!”

That is, until you realize the 12-foot-tall, 25-foot-long insects spilling over the ridge aren’t like the man-eating mutants of the 1954 sci-fi flick “Them!” They’re more akin to the fanciful insects in the animated family film “A Bug’s Life.”

The giant ants are part of “David Rogers’ Big Bugs,” an exhibition opening Monday at Desert Botanical Garden. It places dinosaur-sized insects amid the flora of the Sonoran Desert.

“The praying mantis, for instance, weighs 1,200 pounds. It’s almost 20 feet tall,” says Rogers, the New York artist and boatbuilder who created the sculptures.

Along with the mantis and ants, the show features a dragonfly, a spider and its web, a grasshopper, a lady bug, a damsel fly and an assassin bug. The dragonfly has a 17-foot wingspan.

Rogers renders the insects from dead trees, cut green saplings, dry branches and other forest materials.

“All of the woods — the black locust, the black walnut, the red cedar — are native to my home in Long Island. I find them myself, usually, either standing or fallen dead in the forest,” he says.

The sculptures create an instant shift in dimension and perception. Suddenly visitors to the garden are the tiny ones, seeing a glimpse of what the world is like for the creatures Rogers calls the “engineers,” “soldiers,” “weavers,” “hunters” and even “royals” beneath our feet.

“The immediate reaction is a sense of fun and play, and that’s really the (reaction) I designed the pieces for,” he says.

“Big Bugs” will be on display daily (except for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day) through Jan. 15, 2012, at Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix. Admission is $8-$18 per person age 3 and older. Supplemental activities, such as a bug-themed brunch with children’s crafts and entertainment, and a series of bug-themed outdoor movie nights, are planned for the weeks ahead. For information, call (480) 947-1225 or visit www.dbg.org

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6818 or azajac@evtrib.com

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