Friday 5: SciOnline Art Show Entries

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen my note earlier this week mentioning that I’d submitted photos for consideration for inclusion in the Science OnlineScience Art show (because I’m attending SciOnline next week – woooooooo!!!!), all photos that depict insect behaviors.  You’ve seen several of these before, but I’m going to present them all here together, and tell you a little bit about the behaviors that they represent.  I only included one terrestrial insect in the bunch:

Leave Me Alone

Pipevine swallowtail caterpillar, Battis philenor

Pipevine swallowtail caterpillar, Battis philenor

I’ve posted this one before, but this is the larva of the pipevine swallowtail, Battis philenor, a huge and beautiful swallowtail butterfly that feeds on (wait for it!) pipevine plants as a larva.  I poked this caterpillar just before I snapped this shot so that the yellow bits above its head would become visible.  Those little horns are the osmeteria, little knobs coated in stinky fluids that some caterpillars use to deter predators.  They’re spectacular in this species!  You can’t beat that yellow against the purple-black larva.

The rest of my entries were aquatic insects.  First up, another shot I’ve posted before:

Giant Water Bugs Hatching

Giant water bug, Lethocerus medius

Giant water bug, Lethocerus medius

This species of giant water bug, Lethocerus medius, tends to hatch at night so until the evening of this hatch, I hadn’t ever actually seen the process.  I was in the lab working on some research close to midnight when I looked over and saw all the “lids” of the eggs I was working with pop up – all at one time.  The bugs spent the next 45 minutes or so wiggling out of the eggs, doing everything in near synchrony.  Shortly after I snapped this shot, the bugs all tipped forward and row after row of tiny, new giant water bugs suddenly dropped into my hands, and then into the water.  It was one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever experienced – and I’m so happy I had my camera handy so I could document it!

SCUBA Beetle

Predaceous diving beetle, Thermonectus nigrofasciatus

Predaceous diving beetle, Thermonectus nigrofasciatus

This is one of my favorite aquatic beetles, the predaceous diving beetle Thermonectus nigrofasciatus.  It’s an awesome beetle for many reasons, but I like it in part because it uses a sort of SCUBA tank approach for breathing underwater.  The beetle swims to the surface (and these are powerful, graceful swimmers, unlike my next few entries!) and gathers an air bubble that it stores under its wings.  Then the beetle can swim around underwater, sit at the bottom and relax, eat, find mates – anything! – while breathing the oxygen in the bubble.  Once the air runs out, it needs to return to the surface to get more.  This big, beautiful girl was resting after an energetic swim about the container.  The sort of shimmery sheen on her body is a thin coating of air that surrounds most of her body.  Isn’t she beautiful?!  (And if you want to know how I know this is a girl, I direct you to my post Aquatic Insects that Suck for more information.)

Next, another aquatic beetle:

Snorkeling Beetle

Predaceous diving beetle larva

Predaceous diving beetle larva

This beetle is another predaceous diving beetle, just a little younger than the one pictured above, and a different species.  Like the adult beetles, the larvae live in water and rely on air from the surface.  However, the larvae don’t carry air around with them underwater.  Instead, they stick the long rearmost segment of the abdomen out of the water, allowing air to flow into the larva’s respiratory system.  It works rather like a person using a snorkel!  The larva can “hold its breath” for some time underwater as well, but now and again it will stick that tail up so it can gather some more air at the surface.  Super cool behavior!

And because it’s what I work on most, I give you a giant water bug breathing:

Breathe In, Breathe Out

Giant water bug, Abedus herberti

Giant water bug, Abedus herberti

I wrote a whole post on how this species breathes, so I’m not going to go into a lot of detail.  This giant water bug (Abedus herberti) is, however, rather similar to the adult beetle pictured above in that these bugs carry air under their wings and need to return to the surface periodically to renew it.  Like the adult beetle, this bug is able to extend the length of time they can remain underwater by taking advantage of a neat trick of physics with another behavior, but I’ll refer you to the longer post if you’d like to read more about it.

So those are my entries.  They’re not all perfect photos, but I chose them because they depict the kind of behavioral entomology that I do rather than their photographic merit.  I also think some of these photos represent behaviors that few other people have documented photographically.  I have no idea whether any of my submissions will be chosen for the final show, but I hope at least a few cool insect behaviors will be featured among all the other fantastic art that is submitted to this show.  And even if they’re not, I suspect I’m going to have a wildly good time at Science Online next week!  I’ll likely be tweeting and blogging (right here!) and giving updates on Facebook next Wednesday – Saturday.  Feel free to follow me online if you’re interested in hearing about the things I’ve learned about science communication online.  I couldn’t be more excited!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth
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Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Crafty

This is hanging on the outdoor classroom office wall at Prairie Ridge, the field station where I work:

Dragonfly nymph craft

Dragonfly nymph craft

Dragonfly nymph craft!  A green darner from the looks of it.  I’m kind of in love with it, so I think I’m going to have to make one for myself.  How hard can it be?  A few wooden beads, some fake pearls, ribbon, a little glue, and voila!  Instant dragonfly nymph art for your wall!  Who’s with me?

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Adventures with Autumn Arthropods

When I moved to North Carolina, I was excited to see a real fall.  The trees are changing colors and we’ve had some gloriously crisp nights, but I have to admit I expected it to be cooler at this point.  It’s getting to be late October, yet there are still days when I get so warm that I shed clothes down to the base layer.  I also expected most of the insects to be gone by now, but that hasn’t been the case at all!  The dragonfly season is largely over as I’ve seen only one lone green darner and one blue dasher at the pond over the last month, but there are otherwise lots of insect activity still.  Let me give you a brief overview of some of the highlights of the last month.

This is cheating a bit as this was the live butterfly exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, but I got to see my first butterfly emerge from its pupa in several years:

A beautiful owl butterfly!  It was shocking how fast that little guy wiggled out of its pupal case and puffed its wings out too – under 2 minutes from a shriveled butterfly to this.  Wow.  Nature is amazing.  Truly.  The macro capabilities of my iPhone without any adapters leave much to be desired, however.

I’ve seen more of these…

Chinese mantids over the past month than I’ve seen in my entire life!  This beauty was incredibly pregnant and I’m sure she laid a huge egg case out in the prairie somewhere after she was re-released back into the wild after her trip to BugFest.

I have two eighth grade volunteers who are doing a service learning project with me in the citizen science center in the museum where I work.  We promote a new citizen science project, or group of related projects, each week.  A few weeks ago, we promoted monarch butterfly projects and I was shocked that I was able to find so many of these out and about still:

What sort of self-respecting butterfly is still in the caterpillar phase in the middle of October?  Crazy!  I haven’t seen any larvae since then, but up until the last few days I’d seen many adults flying around.  Last Thursday I saw a good 50 or 60 of them in just a few hours!  Some were tagged with the little Monarch Watch tags (thanks to our trusty 10-year-old butterfly catcher/tagger – he is awesome at it!), and some had yet to have found themselves in the clutches of citizen scientists eager to report their findings.  Is seeing monarchs on October 19 strange?  I really don’t know yet.

Speaking of pollinators… I walked through the prairie yesterday (it was my weekend to work) and stood there for a moment, marveling at the incredible sound the bees, wasps, and flies were making as they gathered nectar and spread plant reproductive cells bits about.  Bumblebees still make me happy every time I see them, and probably always will:

Look at that cute little fuzzy butt!  Bumblebees are adorable.  I have been amazed at how very many pollinators, like the bumblebees, are still out, but I suppose I shouldn’t when vast swaths of the prairie look like this:

Wow!  There are a lot of opportunities for a pollinator to both dine and spread plant genetics around out there!  Those are frost asters, in case you were wondering.  I’m slowly learning my prairie plant species, so I feel the need to show off my latest bit of acquired plant knowledge.  :)

Speaking of reproduction… One of the most exciting of the natural events I witnessed in the past month was the rise of the stinkhorns after a series of soaking rains.  If this doesn’t remind you of a particular anatomical part, I don’t know what will:

Then there are these:

Those are actually commonly called dog phallus mushrooms.  It might be a little hard to see, but flies LOVE stinkhorns, and both of these fine specimens have flies on them.  It’s nice being in a place where things like this actually have a shot at growing.  Shortly before I moved away from Arizona, we had a big rain and a mushroom popped up in my backyard.  It was the first mushroom I’d seen growing in the wild for a few years and I was SO excited!  Now I can step outside on any given day and typically find 5-10 species.  It’s great!

But this blog isn’t about mushrooms.  It’s about insects.  There were a lot of insects at the North Carolina State Fair, where I helped out with the museum’s tent.  This fine specimen was in the garden exhibit:

Love the creative use of recycled materials!  There were also a ton of these around:

Adults using them outnumbered kids 3 to 1.  I found that very amusing, and happily took a photo of a pair of women who asked if I could get a shot of them as the butterfly and bee.  I love it when these sorts of things get used by adults more than kids.  I’ve even considered making one for a party sometime and setting up a little photo booth with it.  I think it would be heavily used!

For all the ant loving people out there, I got to see a really cool battle between an ant colony and a termite colony recently:

The ants won.  Handily.  I watched several termites get stung by the ants and it looked awful.  Poor little guys…

Finally, I was photographing some moss sporophytes yesterday when I caught movement out of the corner of my eye.  It was this lovely creature:

… crawling down a moss-covered tree trunk.  That’s the American dagger moth, Acronicta americana.  Awesome caterpillar!  But, I say it again: what sort of self-respecting moth is still in the caterpillar stage as of October 21?  I can only hope it was headed down the tree to find a nice, cozy place to pupate for the winter.

I suppose I should be grateful that it’s still warm enough to see butterflies and grasshopper and bumblebees out, but I do hope it cools down more soon.  I have a whole store of sweaters ready to go that I rarely got to wear in Arizona.  Come on, North Carolina: bring on the winter!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Big Bugs at the Desert Botanical Gardens

Way back in April or May I was invited to do an outreach event in Phoenix, one that would require my hauling live giant water bugs 100 miles and sweltering outside for two late summer evenings.  My participation was going to be part of an event held at the Desert Botanical Gardens (a FANTASTIC place!) to open their fall art exhibition.  So why did they want me there?  Because the sculptures were really big insects!  The museum was going to be open from 6-9PM two nights so that visitors could wander the gardens and view the Big Bugs exhibition before the exhibit was officially opened to the public.  As the visitors roamed about, they could learn about insects and other Sonoran Desert animals by stopping at various interpretive stations along the way.  I was going to be in charge of one of the interpretive stations, one featuring aquatic insects from Arizona.  So, the Friday before last, I packed up all the things I wanted to display and drove to Phoenix.

aquatic insect station

My aquatic insect station

The first night I was indoors.  In the same room where people were getting their dinners.  You know what people don’t like?  Being confronted with really big, live insects when they’re hungry and foraging for food!  I still got a fair number of visitors, but I was happy to be moved outside to a much better spot the second night.  I split my table in half.  Half was devoted to Arizona’s giant insects (real ones) in keeping with the theme of the art exhibit.  People could look at live giant water bugs and learn a bit about their parental care behaviors, their feeding behaviors, and how the bugs are eaten with gusto in some parts of the world.  I had a live adult dobsonfly for them to look at and talked about how it started out as a hellgrammite.  I had a chart that showed the relative sizes of some of the biggest insects in the world, including the largest insect ever, a giant griffenfly that roamed the earth over 300 million years ago.  The other half of the table was devoted to Arizona’s aquatic insects and featured many vials of insects from around the state, specimens of the most common aquatic insects in a box, and some bugs in plexiglass boxes the kids could pick up and look at more closely.  All in all, I think I talked to about 600 or 700 people over two nights and it was a lot of fun.

However, I didn’t have a chance to see the sculptures either night of the opening, and that was something I really wanted to do.  I was thankfully granted a pass to return the day after the event to see the exhibition myself.  I am so happy I went back because the sculptures were marvelous!  They were sculpted by an artist named David Rogers, who created his giant insect sculptures from found natural materials such as wood, bark, twigs, etc.  Several of his sculptures travel from place to place as part of a traveling exhibit, hence their presence at the Gardens.  I had seen the pictures of the sculptures on the artist’s website before, but I was very excited to have a chance to see them in person!

The first sculpture you see when you walk into the Gardens is Praying Mantis.  He looms over the small entrance garden.  Note that I was taking the photo standing at my full height of 5 feet, 4 inches and shooting up!  This is a BIG bug:

mantid

Mega mantid!

I loved Daddy Longlegs:

daddy longlegs

Humongous harvestman

You could see the top of this one from the road and I was very excited about the exhibit from the moment I drove in the first night and saw it.  Fun!  Two of my favorite insects were featured, the dragonfly:

dragonfly

Astronomical anisopteran

… and the damselfly:

damselfly

Supersized spreadwing

They were all great and I really enjoyed having the opportunity to see them, but I didn’t come across my favorite sculptures until I made my way all the way to the back of the Gardens.  I didn’t have a map with me and didn’t know where all the sculptures were, so I wandered around aimlessly hoping I would see all of them.  After taking photos of some really nice cacti, I walked past the plants and saw this:

ants from afar

Astounding ants!

Considering Them! is one of my all time favorite movies, I instantly fell in love with the ants.  I couldn’t help but note the similarities between the sculptures and the movie.  Giant ants.  Desert.  The giant bugs crawling over a hill.  I LOVED the ant sculptures!  They looked even more amazing close up:

ants up close

Amazing ants

I think what I really liked about the ants was the positioning of the bugs so that they looked like they were walking on a giant anthill.  The sculptures themselves were wonderful, but their arrangement was what really sold them for me.

The last sculpture I saw on my way out was this fabulous spider in its web:

spider

Super spider

Awesome!  Who doesn’t love giant insects?  (Well, probably a lot of people, but most of you reading this probably side with me.)

Between the great interactions with the garden staff and volunteers, the fun experience of talking to people in Phoenix about aquatic insects, and the chance to see the giant bug sculptures in one of my favorite places in Phoenix, the trip was a huge success!  I came away from the experience very happy and enthusiastic about being a part of my next big outreach event, the Arizona Insect Festival in Tucson on September 24.

Big Bugs runs at the Desert Botanical Gardens through January 1, 2012.  I highly encourage you to visit if you happen to be in the Phoenix area!  They’ve got a ton of great events planned in conjunction with the exhibit, including move nights, a masquerade, and several lectures.  Please visit the Big Bugs website for more information and the schedule of events!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © TheDragonflyWoman.com

Friday 5: Giant Water Bugs, As Depicted by 7 Year Olds

When I TAed for the Insect Discovery program at my university last semester, the kids worked their way through 4 stations and then got back together as a group to do drawings of insects at the end.  I posted some of my favorite drawings of imaginary insects the kids came up with several months ago, but some of the kids also did really excellent drawings of real insects they’d seen at the stations.  We used a water bug at one of the stations and the kids were fascinated by them, so they ended up in the drawings the kids did from time to time.  Today, I give you my five favorite giant water bug drawings done by 7-year-olds.  Prepare for total cuteness!

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We would often attempt to feed the giant water bugs with the kids, so most of the drawings included the food we gave them, mealworms.  This lovely drawing includes a rather fanciful habitat (oddly enough, we do not use pink and purple rocks in the bottom of our containers), but it does include two mealworms for the water bug to eat when it’s ready for a snack.  They’re conveniently floating above the water so that they won’t drown before the water bug has a chance to eat them.  Pretty considerate, don’t you think?

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This gem of a drawing shows the water bug AND his food in the water, but take a look at the jaws on this one!  Apparently we didn’t do such a great job of explaining the piercing-sucking mouthpart to this kid’s group…  This water bug is clearly about to rip the mealworm on the right side of the page to shreds before it devours it:

The kids were supposed to write down or include in their drawings where the bug lived, what it ate, and how it protected itself.  This one ‘bits” to “btat it,” which in adult English likely translates to “it bites to protect itself.”  It’s useful to be able to read 7-year-old when you look through Insect Discovery drawings.  :)

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In the next drawing, a cockroach-centipede looking giant water bug is about to attack his helpless prey, the mealworm at the right.  The mealworm is apparently sentient and cries out for help, but as there’s nothing in the drawing except the water bug and the mealworm, I fear he is about to meet his demise.

Poor little mealworm…

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This drawing came with a thank you letter, one in a pile of 25 or 30 that a teacher made her kids write after their visit.  He claims the water bug was his favorite insect, and I believe him because this is really a pretty good drawing for a kid to do a week or two after he saw the water bug!

We’ll ignore the taxonomic mistake (it’s a bug, not a wattr bettl, or “water beetle” in adult English) for now and give the kid a break.  Not exactly sure what the bubbles coming out of the bug’s mouth are though.  Most of the preceptors teaching the kids discussed how water bugs collect oxygen at their back ends and pull it into an air space under their wings.  I know they did because when I asked the kids about their water bug drawings, they’d usually say something like, “They breathe through their butts!”  Not entirely true, but close enough.  :)

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And last, I give you my favorite of the water bug drawings:

This kid clearly got the message that the water bugs can eat impressive things, including vertebrates like fish.  The drawing is spot on, with the water bug in a perfect sit-and-wait predator pose, aquatic plants drifting serenely in the water nearby, food about to swim toward it.  In essence: awesome!  I love this drawing.

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Really, is there anything cuter than looking at drawings by young children?  Browsing through the drawings and talking to the kids as they drew them was one of the best parts of the entire Insect Discovery experience.  I hope the incoming TA thinks so too!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © TheDragonflyWoman.com

Friday 5: Pretty Insect Photos

I love insect art!  I’ve already talked about some of the insect art pieces I own, so for today’s Friday 5 I’m focusing on books that feature gorgeous insect photography.  Any of these books would make an excellent coffee table book for guests to flip through as you visit and all of them are stunning.  I heartily recommend these 5!

An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles by Arthur Evans and Charles Bellamy

This was the first insect book I wanted solely for the photos.  Don’t get me wrong – Drs. Evans and Bellamy’s text is superb and the book is well worth reading!  When we had to choose an insect book to read in my one entomology course as an undergrad (yep, we did old school book reports in that class!), I went straight for this one.  However, I can’t deny that I initially wanted this book for the photographs.  It’s filled with page after page of gorgeous beetle specimens from around the world, highlighting many unique, bizarre, and beautiful beetles.  I got this book as a Christmas present from my dad about half a year before I went off to grad school to study insects, so it holds a special place in my heart.  It really is an excellent book.  Anyone with a passing interest in entomology should own a copy.

Living Jewels by Poul Beckman

Although it’s another beetle book, Living Jewels is definitely a work of art – written and designed by artists, so no scientists were harmed in the making of the book – and has far less scientific value than Inordinate Fondness.  On the other hand, this oversized book is filled with huge, larger than life beetle photos!  It’s pure eye candy – little text, little attempt to educate the readers about beetle biology.  I doubt if the author and his colleague know much about beetles themselves.  Still, if this book doesn’t make you appreciate the absolute beauty of beetles then nothing will!  I should mention that after the success of his first book (though it’s rather hard to find now…), Beckman put out a sequel, Living Jewels 2.  I personally think the print job on the second book is quite inferior to the first, darker with stark contrasts that make the photographs seem too harsh.  Of course, I bought it anyway, so it’s not all bad…  :)

Night Vision by Joseph Scheer

This is one of my all time favorite insect books!  It features a group of often overlooked insects, the moths, and gives them the limelight they deserve.  The images in the book aren’t exactly photographs; they were produced by scanning moth specimens on a very high-resolution scanner.  The results are amazing, almost too good to believe.  The resolution is so high and the images so crisp that they can be blown up to massive proportions (several feet across) and retain their sharpness!  I bought this book shortly after it was released (I think Amazon recommended it to me – thank you Amazon!) and I was stunned by the quality of the images.  I think everyone should look through this book at least once.  However, if you ever have a chance to see Scheer’s exhibit of huge format moth prints at an art museum, DON’T MISS IT!  It was at my university a few years back and it’s even more amazing than the book.  Didn’t realize that was even possible!

Pheromone by Christopher Marley

I have to admit that in spite of being an entomologist and an insect art lover, I was probably one of the last people to discover Marley’s work.  You may have seen his work featured in calendars, postcard books, and their ilk.  But his book is way better than any of those things!  Like Poul Beckman, Marley is an artist who works with insect specimens.  He travels around the world collecting insects for his pieces, preserves the specimens, and then artfully arranges them into spectacular displays.  What draws me to his work is the precision.  You so rarely see specimens so perfectly arranged, and he’s not even an entomologist!  The book contains a blend of photos of the insects he uses in his artwork as well as photos of the final pieces.  It’s a stunning volume and I really love it.  Maybe someday I’ll be able to afford one of the pieces featured in the book, but for now I’ll flip through the pages and dream of walls covered with beautiful, perfect insects…

The Smaller Majority by Piotr Naskrecki

While not entirely devoted to insects, this book definitely makes my top 5 list.  Naskrecki is a master macrophotographer as well as a biologist, and you get the best of both worlds in this masterpiece.  The photographs are amazing and the text makes for a great read.  Plus, if you don’t want to read a whole book on insects (maybe you have interests in other invertebrates or amphibians – gasp!), this book gives you a much wider range of subjects than any of the other books I’ve featured here.  Nothing I can say really does it justice though – see for yourself!  This book was at the top of my wish list for Christmas about 5 years ago (so I ask for, and receive, a lot of books – I only bought one of the books on this list for myself!) and I absolutely love it.   I highly recommend it!

These are my five favorite insect photo books.  Anyone else want to add others to the list?  If so, leave a comment below!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © 2011 DragonflyWoman.wordpress.com

Friday 5: Insect Inspired Artists I Love

Welcome to this week’s edition of Friday 5!  I’m getting this out a bit late today, but it couldn’t be helped.  I spent 11 hours working on revising a paper yesterday, then I spent 4 hours baking for a friend’s Ph.D. defense this morning.  I got about 4 hours of sleep and forgot all about finishing this post!  Oops!

I’m one of those lucky people whose career and main hobby happen to be the same thing.  I don’t really separate my work and my home life, so my passion for insects is clearly reflected in the things I own and the decor of my home.  There are insects EVERYWHERE!  I also really enjoy making things by hand and have a lot of crafty hobbies.  As a crafter, I really appreciate beautiful handmade things, particularly if they feature insects.  I buy a lot of insect art and I love supporting people who are inspired by insects.  Today’s edition of Friday 5 is about artists I love whose work is heavily inspired by insects.  In no particular order, I present 5 of my favorite insects artists!

Alex Wild, Insect Photographer Extraordinaire!

A lot of the people who read my blog regularly also read Alex Wild’s awesome Myrmecos blog, so you know what he can do.  If you’re not familiar with his work, you should be – Alex is a phenomenal insect photographer!  I’d consider myself an excellent photographer if I were 75% as good as he is with a camera.  Unlike the rest of the people on my list today, I don’t actually own any of Alex’s work yet.  When I eventually get around to buying a photo (and I will as soon as I have some spare cash and some more wall space), I think it’s going to be this one:

Alex Wild, honey pot ants

Honey pot ants by Alex Wild. You can view or purchase a print of this photo at http://www.alexanderwild.com/gallery/1455522#642040899_aQCzt-A-LB.

Love it!  The colors make me so happy.  And I don’t even like ants!  (I get stung a lot.  What can I say?)

Margaret Zinser, Glass Wizard

Margaret was a grad student in my department several years ago.  She’d just learned how to make lampworked beads when I met her, but she became a full time artist after completing her entomology master’s degree and now supports herself entirely on the sale of her exceptional work.  Margaret also has a house full of insects and her love for them has inspired her to create several lines of insect related glass beads.  I adore Margaret’s insect beads and feel lucky to own one of them myself:

Margaret Zinser bead

Beetle bead by Margaret Zinser. You can view or purchase Margaret's work at http://www.mzglass.com/.

This is one of the very first beetle beads she made and is downright rough compared to her current work.  Her recently introduced lines of butterflies and bees are gorgeous!  These beads require a ton of labor, so they’re expensive, but I think they’re worth it.  Someday I’ll be able to add another MZ Glass insect bead to my already large collection of her work, but I will have get a higher paying job first.

Catherine Reece, Insect Potter

The curator of the UofA entomology collection has two coffee mugs that I absolutely love, heavy handthrown mugs with a rich turquoise matte glaze.  I wanted one of my own so badly!  When the woman who made them showed up at a Fourth Avenue Street Fair one year, I was ecstatic.  I love Catherine Reece’s work!  A lot of her pottery pieces features bright, colorful, and whimsical insects.  Even better, she puts insects on things that people eat out of, so people pay good money for the privilege of eating out a cockroach bowl or drinking out of a mantid mug!  I buy a new piece or two every time she’s at the street fair, so now I have my own little collection of cherished coffee mugs:

Insect mugs by Catherine Reece

Insect mugs by Catherine Reece. View her currently available pieces on Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/shop/catherinereece

If I ever win the lottery, I’m replacing all of my dinnerware with Catherine Reece’s pottery.  Maybe I’ll get the cockroaches…

Brigette Zacharczenko, aka Weird  Bug Lady, Plush Insect Goodness

I am a total fabric addict!  I love sewing and I’m good at it, but I also buy a lot of fabric pieces and clothing handmade by other people because I can’t get enough.  I was thrilled to discover Brigette Zacharczenko’s work on Etsy!  If you haven’t seen her work, check it out.  Her plush insects are positively adorable and I love that some of her pieces feature animals that you wouldn’t ever see in plush form such as water fleas and water bears.  She also does a lot of custom work.  Behold, my custom plush giant water bug:

Brigette Zacharczenko's giant water bug plushie

My custom made giant water bug plushie by Brigette Zacharczenko's. Check out her other pieces at http://www.etsy.com/people/weirdbuglady.

My water bug is based on Lethocerus americanus and I love him!  He keeps watch over my desk, looking down on me menacingly from atop my scanner.  He’s huge and makes a great impromptu pillow.  I also use him as a prop for a lot of outreach events.  Stitch this bad boy onto a jacket and I can effectively demonstrate just how big some water bug prey is relative to the size of the bugs!  I am drawn to Brigette’s work for several reasons, but I think the fact that she is an entomology Ph.D. student with a crafty side like me appeals to me more than anything.  I admire her for taking the plunge and selling her fantastic creations!  (Aside: Weird Bug Lady is a great blog if you haven’t seen it!)

Foster Beigler, Printmaker

I love linoleum block prints.  There’s something so primal about their sharp lines and the somewhat rustic look of the final pieces.  I have a lot of block prints, but my favorite is this beetle by Foster Beigler:

Coleoptera by Foster Beigler

Coleoptera by Foster Beigler.

The thing I love most about her work is the size of her block prints.  I know you can’t really tell from the photo, but this beetle print is huge, about 2 feet by 3 feet!  A lot of printmakers stick to smaller pieces that max out at about 8×10 inches, so my beetle is impressive.  Insects feature heavily in Foster’s portfolio and she has done prints of a wide variety of species.  I still regret not buying her smaller dobsonfly print.  It was $70 I didn’t have at the time, but I’m still kicking myself for not buying it when I had the chance.  Where am I ever going to find another dobsonfly print?  If you want to see more of Foster’s work, you can check out her website.  However, please note that the few images she has made available on her website don’t do her work justice at all.   The collection of work on display when I bought my beetle far surpasses the few pieces you can see on her website.

I hope you enjoyed learning these artists!  I have no idea what to do next week, so it will be a total surprise.  Have a great weekend!

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