I’m not sure that I am on the right website or forum, but if I’m not, I’m sure someone will letting me know.
I’m an artist working in metal, enamels and stone and recently started a series making beetles. Along with researching them, I came to find out how many were threatened or endangered. I have decided to realign my series focusing in on ones that are endangered, and found the list of the ones protected by the Endangered Species Act, but know there are probably many more.
I’ve recently applied for a grant for a project to make sculptures of beetles that are set in vignettes or dioramas, along with information about what is endangering them and what we can do to help.
I attach a picture of the kind of thing I’m planning to do. Yes, the body is too wide and the legs and antenna aren’t quite right, but it is a prototype. I’m still working on my molds and this was a jewelry piece. It’s vitreous enamel on fine and sterling silver, and I’ve been working on processes to achieve iridescence with some success.
I’m not an entomologist, just an artist, but I do love beetles and care about what’s happening to them. If anyone could direct me to where I could learn more about them and the threats, I would really appreciate it.
I posted on BugGuide.net, but I have gotten no response there, so was emboldened to ask for assistance here. Thank you to anyone in advance who can give me some direction.
The Xerces Society might be a group to look into.
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is an international nonprofit organization that protects the natural world through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitats.
Our name (which is pronounced Zer-sees, or /ˈzɚˌsiz/) comes from the now-extinct Xerces blue butterfly (Glaucopsyche xerces), the first butterfly known to go extinct in North America as a result of human activities. The Xerces blue’s habitat was destroyed by development in the sand dunes of San Francisco, and the species was declared extinct by the 1940s.
I see that they have some species profiles for at-risk beetles: https://www.xerces.org/endangered-species/species-profiles/beetles
Welcome to the Forum! Your work looks lovely and it is such a nice concept for combining art and science.
Using the iNaturalist.org website’s Explore feature you can Filter observations for Beetles and Threatened either worldwide or for a specific location. For example, I used Filters in the Explore feature to just show observations of Beetle species designated as threatened in California. This search returned 431 observations to peruse:
Many iNat photos have a Creative Commons license. Depending on the specifics chosen for the user’s photo licensing, some images may be available for creative usages.
This is lovely, and I hope you’ll get that grant! Art doesn’t have to perfectly imitate nature, as I’m sure you know. As teellbee says, you can use the filters to find what you need. I hope you’ll set up an inaturalist account and really enjoy your time with us. Warning: It can be addictive.
Thank you so much! I have gone on the Xerces Society website and found some information there; particularly concerning the tiger beetles (which I’m obviously fond of). I try to see if I can delve in there a little more. I’m in Texas and have found that there are several here that are considered threatened or endangered.
THANK YOU! I have been looking around here but didn’t know about this function. This is the sort of thing I have been trying to find. I really want to do what I can to raise awareness, but lack the knowledge and information. Like I said, I started by being charmed by the beetles, but ended up wanting to help.
I’m hoping that when things return to normal I’ll be able to visit my Museum of Natural Science and get access to some of the specimens so I can more accurately represent them. It’s hard to get an idea about how they’re actually made from a photograph, but that’s what I’ve been relying on.
Thank you again.
It’s too late, Kitty12, I think I’m already hooked!
As far as imitating nature is concerned, I’ll never be able to truly do that due to the physical restraints of the materials. The legs for example; I have to make them larger than the bugs’ are because the metal isn’t strong enough to withstand much of an impact. You end up making compromises.
Hello. It might be interesting to talk to Louise Hibbert:
Your project sounds amazing and I wish I could see it in person! When I tell people that I’m into bugs, sometimes they ask me about the “insect collapse” or “insect apocalypse”. Rarely do they ask how they can help, as they generally assume that rescuing insects from extinction is beyond their capabilities. If they do ask, I tell them that the main threat to insects is ubiquitous use of pesticides in agriculture, and they can help by purchasing organic food when they buy their groceries rather than food that is grown with pesticides. Of course, there’s a lot more that people could do if they want to (reduce carbon emissions, fight deforestation, eat less beef, donate to conservation organizations, etc.), but switching to organic groceries is a simple and effective way they can make a difference.
Your post brought to mind an extinction of a different kind that I learned about thirty-some years ago when I visited a touring exhibit of Mayan museum pieces. There were many deeply moving elements to the exhibition but the display that most stuck with me was a journal entry by a Spaniard who participated in the destruction of “pagan” artifacts. He described exquisite sculptures of insects in gold, silver and gemstones with articulated wings, legs and antennae. All were broken up, melted down and shipped to Spain as ingots and bags of stones. I hope your project works out.
Thanks to all of you for your responses. In trying to do some research for this project, I started looking at how different conservation groups actually spend their money (in the case of non-profits, looking at their tax returns). If anyone knows of some that are actually taking proactive measures to try to effect change I would appreciate that information. It was really shocking to me how much of it goes to administration rather than actual projects.
Would you think that pesticides, climate change, deforestation/urban sprawl are the primarily reasons for these dramatic decreases in the insect population? It seems to me that in some cases it is a domino effect; example being the carrion beetles that don’t have the food resources they used to have. It seems to me that it may be something that has to be judged on a case by case basis, but you guys are the experts so I’m hoping to learn.
Yes, zygy, organic food is a good place to start for people who can afford it. If enough people started buying organic more farmers would want a piece of that market and then maybe the prices would come down. Or maybe try to grow some of your own food (Lord knows I’ve tried, without too much success!).
Pmeisenheimer: that’s just sad.
There can be (and is) waste and poorly administered conservation projects, but administration is an essential component of actual projects.
Unfortunately, I know too many for whom “cheaper” is the sum total of their calculus. I am pleased that some farmer’s markets have begun accepting food stamps.
muir: of course you’re correct, you have to have administration for organizations. No one would expect the personnel of organizations to work for free or be underpaid. It just seems as if some of them are a bit top-heavy. I’m looking for the ones that are well-organized and do good work and would love to know which ones you would recommend (I remember you sent the link for Xerces, so I’m assuming this may be one). I am a complete and total novice and I know almost everyone of you here know more than I do.
jasonhernandez74: That’s encouraging! Once folks realize that organic often tastes better and doesn’t have so many chemicals, it’s easier to effect change. I have found that good-tasting food in smaller amounts is more satisfying than junk food in larger ones.
Oo, tiger beetles, one of my favorite things. Very nice prototype. I can’t think of organizations that specialize but they’re a nice charismatic group. My favorite rare species is the Highlands Tiger Beetle, described by a friend of mine. They’re restricted to the Lakes Wales Ridge scrub uplands in FL and not much habitat is left. Tiny and mostly black, it may not be an easy subject for art.
One art comment: Although the legs are thin, a life-like pose looks better. Your sample has that pinned specimen leg positioning. If you depict their crouched pose, you can probably support the structure from below. (see https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/40441875)
And a taxonomy marketing comment: They’re Cicindelidae or Cicindelids. Tiger beetle enthusiasts never really accepted putting them in the Carabidae. There’s a good recent paper supporting the original family and I hope the iNat taxonomy will catch up sometime. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/syen.12440
Thanks for the feedback. I’ll be looking at all the living beetles that are on the Inaturalist pages for images in the future; it’s a resource I didn’t know about it until very recently.
Because I’m foolish and a little crazy, I’m trying to make actual 3-D pieces and with vitreous enamel it’s really tricky. The inside has to be enameled, too, otherwise the enamel will chip off easily. In addition, bug body and legs must be soldered together first and then soldered to the leaf before any enameling can happen. The underside has a hole to be able to introduce the enamel, and then I press the beetle down to get it closer to the leaf. Since it’s a piece of jewelry (a pendant) I can’t have things stick up to high or be things that could catch on clothes or hair. I have to make compromises.
Just looked at the Highlands Tiger Beetle; I think it’s cute. It looks really similar to the Miami Tiger Beetle. I’ve been working or iridescent effects and he would look pretty sharp with this kind of shimmer!
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