Friday 5: My Insect Art Collection

We all know that I love insects.  We also all know that I take my work home with me in a BIG way.  I’ve got bugs everywhere – some real, some not.  I buy a lot of insect stuff and display it around my home.  (You know you’re an entomologist when someone says they weren’t sure they were at the right house until they looked down and saw the insect door mat!)  I love to support insect artists.  Today I’m going to share 5 pieces of insect art I have displayed in my home.

Dung Beetles, artist(s) unknown

ding beetle sculpture

My dad has always been obsessed with minerals.  I practically grew up in a hole in the ground digging for smoky quartz.   When I was young, we went to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show religiously and I was thrilled to be able to go again when I moved back for grad school.  The first year, I planned my purchases (I need to have a plan or I’m overwhelmed by choices) and was ready to find the perfect sulfur specimen to add to my collection.  Instead, I walked away with the dung beetle sculpture pictured here.  I found it hidden in a booth of carved stone from Zimbabwe, back behind sculptures of mothers and children and quartz elephants.  I was beyond thrilled!  It’s metal (I LOVE metal sculptures!), came in two pieces (beetle + dung ball), and it was only $25.  The dealer was surprised that someone actually wanted it and said that Americans don’t appreciate dung beetles like Africans do.  He told me that they would be buried in elephant dung without their dung beetles, so the sculpture was an homage to a very important part of their lives.  My dung beetle is still my favorite sculpture – and now I have two!  Had to go back to the mineral show every year for 6 years to get it, but it was totally worth it.

Mayfly, William Wessel

mayfly sculpture

For several years, my art loving aunt from upstate New York spent a month in Scottsdale each January.  Every year we’d spend a long weekend in the Phoenix area going to art galleries, shopping, and eating really good food.  We have similar tastes in art and we fell in love with one particular gallery in Old Town Scottsdale.  It was full of brightly colored art of many different types: sculpture, painting, fiber, jewelry.  While my aunt debated whether to buy a $700 fiber piece, I perused the metal sculptures by William Wessel.  The gallery had a really great one, a three-foot high piece with two damselflies flying among cattails.  I coveted it, but it was $350, more than half what I was paid each month at the time.  I wandered the store pondering the fact that I was too poor to buy it when I came across three of Wessel’s little sculptures.  I was SO happy!  They were only $35, a much more reasonable price for someone with my tiny budget.  I had to choose between a mosquito, a damselfly, and a mayfly and walked away with the mayfly.  Really, how many people sculpt mayflies?  It makes my little sculpture so unique!

Coleoptera, Foster Beigler

beetle print

I featured this one on my Friday 5 about insect artists that I love, but I just have to show it again.  This is my favorite insect art piece I own!  It’s one of a kind, brightly colored, and it’s a linoleum block print, my favorite medium.  This was more expensive than most of the art pieces that I own and a huge pain to get home because I bought it at an Entomological Society of America meeting and couldn’t take it home on the plane.  When I worked out the details for having it shipped to me by the artist, she told me that she would put my name on it right then it so she didn’t accidentally sell it to someone else (as she had done more than once in the past), so I worried that it wouldn’t ever arrive at my house.  It eventually did, and then I spent $250 to have it framed.  It was all completely worth it in the end though!  It has the place of honor in my living room, the only thing on a big white wall that you see right when you walk in the front door.  Love it, love it, love it!

Mantid, Alex Yellich

mantid photo

Very few of you will likely ever hear of this artist.  Alex is one of my colleagues, a researcher at the University of Arizona.  He’s obsessed with insects and photography and spends nearly all his free time outdoors collecting or photographing bugs.  He’s my local photography expert, the person I go to when I have questions because he’s one of the few insect photographers I know that shoots Nikon.  And I love his photographs!  He had a little mini art show in the Department of Entomology office a few years back, and I bought the mantid photo shown here from him at the end of the show.  It’s displayed in a corner of my house with several other insect photos and it makes me smile every time I see it.  I’ve since bought a second photo (a stunning image of a dead tree in the Salton Sea – it’s so beautiful it brings tears to my eyes!) and I hope to buy some more in the future.  I wish Alex would at share his photos online (or, even better, sell them!) because he’s so good – and hardly anyone knows it.

Tawny Emperor, Melissa Buschow

tawny emperor print

Discovering the website Etsy was a bad, bad thing for me.  I like supporting artists and I like to buy insect art, and there are a whole lot of both on Etsy!  I spend way too much on Etsy…  This was one of the first things I bought, a woodcut print featuring a person holding a butterfly.  I can’t even explain why I like it so much, but there’s something about it that just works for me.  Maybe it’s the way the butterfly is being held, gently enough that you know that it’s still alive and will remain alive after it is released.  The print was a mere $18, but it’s always going to have a place on my walls.

Having bug art me so happy!  Insects are so beautiful and I want to share that beauty with others.  Supporting artists is a good thing too.  And buying insect art directly from the person who created it, so you can get the story behind the piece and learn all about the process, is a pure joy.  I highly recommend it!

Do any of the rest of you have insect art in your homes?  If so, I’d love to hear about what you have.  There’s even a handy-dandy comment section below to describe your awesome insect art.  I look forward to hearing what you’ve got!


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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!


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © 2011

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

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

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:

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

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!


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © 2010