Friday, August 31, 2012

African Insects - A treasure Trove of Entomology

This past week we discussed how many insect species have been recorded so far, and how many there may in fact still be left to discover.  And in this biodiversity isn't just some other generic looking bug, no indeed. As I argued, insects are the place to look of you are interested in the remarkable elaboration of forms based on a basic "body plan."

...Well, hot of the presses of the New York Times website today, some reports from the field:  A group from Harvard, led by E.O. Wilson, went out to survey some of the insect of Mozambique. (Don't know where that is? Then please consult a map.)

It seems they came across over 3,00 species, recording 1,00 during the trip, and quadrupling the number of ants species known to occur there from 50 to 200. Not bad for a few weeks work. 

For example, they came across this amazing Orthopteran, the insect order of focus for us this week:


Antennae were ones of the things of class conversation touched on too. Check out the set this beetle has! I imagine it can pick up TV from Italy with them and maybe your laundry too!


You can enjoy the full slideshow HERE.   Be prepared to have your mind blown.

They are not only in Mozambique to survey new species, but also help restore a conservation area there post-civil war (so says the photo essay text)

The photographer, Piotr Naskrecki, does beautiful work and has a book out called 

The photo essay mentions how:
"To avoid killing his portrait subjects, one of the entomologists Piotr Naskrecki,  built an open-air studio of white fabric that the bugs were free to flee if they wanted. Some did, forcing Naskrecki to chase them down. Others stayed — perhaps out of curiosity. ‘‘They will look at you, they will judge you,’’ he says. ‘‘They were very suspicious of the camera, and they were very wary of me. I’m sure that none of these animals had ever seen a human. They did not know what to make of us.’’

Well that is what I call collecting insects ~


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Insectology at Oxbow, Part 5: Open Studio Night

With an buggy and busy two weeks the course is closing with an 'open studio' night, so at our Inskect Haus (otherwise known as the Klute paper-making studio) we prepared for the Ox-Bow and local community to come visit us...

We pulled a number of things together. The collections by all of the students were all on display, and there were quite a few mighty nice ones.  We also managed to put together a group insect collection among all of our individual ones for the small benefit auction that night. It fetched $150! Not bad for a bunch of bugs after all ~

Another group did a 40+ run of posters on the insects of Ox-Bow as lovely takeaways at our open studio:

And we also set up some scopes with insect specimens from the week, including diving beetles, a wasp-parasitized hawkmoth caterpillar (what is an one studio without one?) and a non-biting midge with its priceless toilet brush antennae ~

Some Small Science Collective zines on insects army ants, earwigs, fruit flies, and entomophagy were also available and grabbed up quickly:

And very popular was a video by Molly Hewitt and Lauren Taylor called "Blind Mate" - the insect version of Blind Date. Rich in biological details, it is too hilarious to describe in words, you just need to watch it yourself:

A commemorative poster for for everyone in the class - silkscreen image care of Christa Donner and typography by Qing Yang and collaborators - will be a nice reminder of the time ~


And a music mix appropriately themed, of course:

Overall it is a hopping & buzzing kind of time at the Insectology 2012 open studio ~~!


Monday, August 13, 2012

Insectology at Oxbow, Part 4: Insects & Art

One thing that Ox-Bow makes possible is amazing cross-fertilizing. I can't tell you how many of the wonderful insects we've found here have been brought to us by people in the ceramics studio, printmaking, and the kitchen staff too. In kind and in exchange, we seem to have spread our insect meme around to the studios. this started with Jeff Mack's "GlassHopper" in the first week, and has now spread.

I just came to find out that Kyle Ragsdale in the painting studios has been doing a lovely series of paintings (most completed that same day) of us with our nets in hand scrounging around in awe of insects, 

Meanwhile, Christa Donner has been doing as series of painted and silk-screened masks that Ox-Bowians have been wearing as part of a photo series of her's....

And then we've taken insects to other art students directly. One of the "Art in the Meadow" classes is for kids, and so we went over to share water bugs, stick insects, and the like:

This, of course, prompted joint efforts between us and the kids to net some nice insects flying around and about...


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Insectology at Oxbow, Part 3: Entomophagy!

As mentioned in the previous post, eating insects (kown as "entomophagy") was on the agenda for us in the Insectology course at Ox-Bow (and indeed a running theme on this blog).  The savoriness of entomophagy and its  potential contribution to sustainability have been among our interests.

 This last Thursday we took the some 60 or more frozen hoppers we had collected on the meadow for the past week to Eric May, the amazing Ox-Bow head chef and general multi-talent, to cook these guys up chapulines-style as he had eaten them himself in Oaxaca. 

We started by removing the wings (optional) and rinsing out the sand ~

Eric fried the grasshoppers in garlic-infused oil...

Then after draining applied his friend's custom habenero salt and a squeeze of fresh line juice - ping!

 And we "jumped" right in (ha-ha) ~

They were a hit - so crispy and tasty. Light, a sense of meadow grass-ness and the slight lilt of shrimp.  I only had a second to take this picture as the last three were grabbed up:

A culinary treat thanks to the insectologists of Ox-Bow and Eric!


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Insectology at Oxbow, Part 2: "GlassHoppers"

A nice thing about having an insect course at an art school in the woods in the fact that a master glass artist might be leading a class in the next building. You might get talking to him, his name might be Jeff Mack, and next thing you know he is interested in making an insect out of glass the next morning from whatever your students might have collected/dissected.

It just so happened Lauren and Liz had a nice grasshopper sitting around and another set out in "parts" that could quite serendipitously function as a visual guide to making an insect modularly:

Jeff worked fast on this first attempt at an arthropod - studying and sketching, and then working the glass for about 3 hours ~

The final metamorphosis of it as a remarkable glasshopper as none of us had seen before - equal parts mindblowing and lovely. 


Still, nothing beats witnessing a grasshopper making itself in the flesh, as this one was doing, molting an old skin for a new one right before our eyes ~


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Insectology at OxBow, Part 1

And I find myself lucky enough to be here at OxBow, on a lagoon and surrounding by large birch/pine covered dunes on the great Lake Michigan. The assignment: lead an intensive course on insects with a group of eleven wonderful/wanderfilled art students. 

Out in dem thar woods on the Crow's Nest trail....


peering at a caterpillar that was crawling in the studio lab...

and taking in the translucent green majesty of some sort of silk moth caterpillar that a student in the printmaking lab, Maxx, brought to us. I believe it might be a Polyphemus...

and in the lagoon  some "water scorpions" (Order: Hemiptera) were tooling about....

And here we all are working diligently to collect enough grasshoppers that we might be able to have a meal of them later in the week!

more to follow...