Precious Purses:  Who is the Artist?

Precious Purses:  Who is the Artist?

Caddisflies are common insects of the order Trichopterae resembling butterflies. The larvae build protective tubes held together with silk, often incorporating grains of sand, bits of shell and twigs from their aquatic environment. Artist Hubert Duprat wondered what would happen if he upgraded their raw material with gold shavings, pearls and turquoise. The larvae obliged by creating beautiful art!

☼ In this collaborative project between the insects and the artist, the lines between the craftsman and the creator are blurred. Is the insect the true artist, or merely the executer of Duprat’s creative expression? 

#ScienceEveryday   

Watch: Caddis Fly Larva Art

More: http://www.cabinetmagazine.org/issues/25/duprat.php

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61 Responses to Precious Purses:  Who is the Artist?

  1. jackie says:


    Ew, gross….. Now that we’re past that…..


    This is so very cool.  Assuming the bugs had full selection of available materials all at once, they created some really interesting pieces- designed, if you will.

  2. Rajini Rao says:


    I have to agree that the cases are more appealing than the craftsman 🙂 It’s interesting how they make bands of pearls or turquoise rather than scatter them around haphazardly. 

  3. jackie says:


    Exactly.  (I’ve watched the video now).  I’m impressed


  4. Amazingly cool, I still cannot tell if the banding and patterns were organized by the artist providing different materials in intervals or . . .

  5. jackie says:


    I wondered the same thing Justen Robertson.  Is there some part of the larvae that requires extra “support”?

  6. Rajini Rao says:


    No, all the materials are available at the same time. The video shows the larvae choosing their material among a mess of gold foil, bars and stones. 

  7. Rajini Rao says:


    The more “natural” cases don’t show evidence of banding at specific regions, as far as I can tell: http://www.aquaticinsect.net/portfolio/234/

  8. Rajini Rao says:


    Roelf Renkema , I think scarab beetles would be lacquered or somehow crusted with precious metal.

  9. jackie says:


    On the Caddis fly’s natural casing is there some structural reinforcement that is not seen, that occurs at about that same location (the 2/3 point)?

  10. Rajini Rao says:


    The natural cases don’t seem to have specific points of reinforcement as some of them are more homogenous.


    Here are some natural casings: http://chamisa.freeshell.org/caddis.htm


    Apparently, they can be “perfect, 4-sided boxy case of bits of leaves and bark, or tiny bits of twigs. It may make a clumsy dome of large pebbles”


    It’s more likely that the artist (human) chose to showcase the prettier ones 🙂 Although the videos I watched do show the larvae being choosy.

  11. jackie says:


    So, there are artists among the Caddis Fly.  They simply needed a sponsor and venue.  giggle

  12. Rajini Rao says:


    Haha, I wonder if these are sold to collectors. I’d like to be their agent, seems like easy work.

  13. jackie says:


    At the very least they’re worth their weight in gold. 

  14. Rajini Rao says:


    According to +Pauline Yu on the ScienceSunday page, “Available for sale in the Portland area at Paxton Gate. They’re just as cool to see in person as they are in pictures. (Though it helps to know what they are, as from afar, they also look a little like well, the undigested remains of some small animal’s very expensive bling meal.)”

  15. Rajini Rao says:


    Rashid Moore , how could I have missed that wonderful pun for a header? Caddis Shack! 😀

  16. Kevin Clift says:


    These are much more beautiful, but by co-incidence I just read about another structure building insect that finds gold (and more): http://goo.gl/Nx8vN

  17. Rajini Rao says:


    You are Moore more like a precious brain box, Rashid Moore !


    Glad you liked it, Brad Esau !

  18. Rajini Rao says:


    Kevin Clift , it’s a clever idea to test termite mounds for high levels of minerals. Thanks for the link.

  19. Kevin Clift says:


    Well perhaps Roelf Renkema


    “There is quite a history of people looking at termite mounds to find gold,” he said.”In fact in Africa, some mounds have enough gold in them that people are panning them to get the gold out.”So the idea has sort of been around, it’s really about how we applied it to the Australian landscape.”


  20. I love it when science and art go together!

  21. Rajini Rao says:


    Interestingly, the artist who mediated these precious purses, Hubert Duprat, got the idea by watching people pan for gold in the streams where caddisflies build their cases. That’s what got him wondering if the gold nuggets every became (naturally or artificially) incorporated into their architecture.


  22. beautiful! Should tag for #bugseveryday  too 🙂

  23. Kevin Clift says:


    It is linked above if you need it.


  24. That’s amazing! Doubly so, since I’ve seen critters like that in our family’s summer cabin lake and I’ve always wondered what they are!

  25. Rajini Rao says:


    If you leave some beads and spangles lying near them, Heikki Arponen , you may be surprised on your next vacation 🙂


  26. Yeah I have to try that out next summer! 🙂


  27. Roelf Renkema lol 🙂


  28. Now thats wot i call cool

  29. Rajini Rao says:


    A crab festooned with pearls! Now that’s a discerning crustacean. That was a lovely clip, Daniel Estrada , thanks.


    Bower birds also adorn their nests with brightly colored bits of scrap. It has been proposed that they even “cultivate” beautiful flora around their nests, although they seem to be “accidental” gardeners.


    https://plus.google.com/u/0/114601143134471609087/posts/GvmyPKnmtrJ

  30. Rajini Rao says:


    I’ve seen Sir Attenborough’s clip..it is spectacular!


    I’m not getting the calendar link, though? 🙂

  31. Rajini Rao says:


    Ah, I took another look. That hobbit sized house with the reedy armchair looks delightful!

  32. Rajini Rao says:


    A creative combination: artfully natural.

  33. Rajini Rao says:


    I mentioned in a comment above that these are supposed to be available at Paxton Gate, although I didn’t find them in their online catalog: http://www.paxtongate.com/searchresult.aspx?CategoryID=27

  34. Rajini Rao says:


    OMG, look at these! Caddisfly cases for sale. Encrusted with gems. 


    http://goo.gl/4VRkd

  35. Rajini Rao says:


    Hi Feisal..the caddisfly is the artist here, don’t you agree? Mr. Duprat is the sponsor or agent 🙂


    The larva must have a sense of symmetry, because the natural case can be a perfect rectangular box. Once it puts in a pearl, it must want to continue adding pearls until that tier is done. Did you see the short video in the link? Quite remarkable.

  36. Rajini Rao says:


    The larvae spin silk to hold the case together. Silk can be quite strong and the cases must be pretty sturdy since some of them are entirely made of pebbles.

  37. habby hertz says:


    WOW!!! those must be some rich bugs


  38. This is awsome, I learnt something new! Should never under estimate the creativity of insects, birds and other animals. Thanks for sharing Rajini Rao 

  39. Rajini Rao says:


    Thanks, I agree whole heartedly Siromi Samarasinghe 🙂

  40. Norman M. says:


    Very organic, almost similar to the $80 coffee made from digested coffee beans… stepping out of our comfort zone.

  41. Deeksha Tare says:


    Wow! Awesome find Rajini Rao !! 🙂

  42. Satyr Icon says:


    That’s animal cruelty!


    You wouldn’t adorn a loved one in gold and gemstones and chocolate would you!?

  43. Rahul Joshi says:


    One crazy idea and one stunning craftsmanship!


  44. Are they making the choices?! Man has to evolve!!

  45. Gretchen S. says:


    Very neat! When I saw the patterns I wondered if he was putting in one material at a time, but the video showing it fish through other bits to get the pearl, and make sure the flat side was in, was fascinating.

  46. Daud Alzayer says:


    I wonder, do the insects put those jewels into ring patterns ontheir own, or is that acheived by manipulating thier supplies? Either way it’s cool.


    Makes me immagine a scifi concept; what if tiny genetically modified bugs were created to instinctually build microchips- that would be cool.

  47. Rajini Rao says:


    Daud Alzayer , we discussed your question in the comments. The short video clip in the post shows the caddisfly larva actually selecting a pearl out of many materials and adding it..so, the ring pattern is their own idea.


    Your idea about “microchip” building is pretty neat! As long as the resulting product is not buggy 🙂


  48. Amazing, definitely creativity has no limits.

  49. Nazeer Saheb says:


    Awasome pic definitely appreaciated the creativity

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