French Artist Gives Caddisfly Larvae Gold & Jewels to Build Their Protective Cases

by on February 22, 2013 at 7:59 am in Economics | Permalink

I say the division of labor is limited by the extent of the market:

Generally, the protective silk cases the caddisfly larvae build are decorated with gravel, sand, snail shells, twigs or other common debris but French artist Hubert Duprat gave them shinier materials. He introduced beads, pearls, turquoise, and 18-karat gold pieces into their environment and let them construct tiny gilded sculptures. Duprat has been collaborating with the larvae since the 1980s.

larvae

One link is here, via the excellent Mark Thorson, with further images and video, another link is here, more pictures and an interview with the artist.

Brian Donohue February 22, 2013 at 8:47 am

extremely cool.

anon February 22, 2013 at 11:03 am

Duprat has been collaborating with the larvae since the 1980s.

TGS

IVV February 22, 2013 at 9:16 am

It’s fascinating that they seem to have some aesthetic sense. Or is it that they are shepherded, somehow, into making their banded cases? I don’t think wild caddisflies add banding or anything in particular to their cases.

DW February 22, 2013 at 9:35 am

It is actually the aesthetic sense of the artist:

“Because I keep each type of material in a separate tank, it is possible, by monitoring the time a larva stays in a given tank, to get it to make a ring of a specific material. Also, by damaging the insect’s case (including the lining) in a specific area, it is possible to prompt the creature to repair its case by placing a specific material precisely where the damage was inflicted.”

kiwi dave February 22, 2013 at 9:40 am

There are animals with an aesthetic sense, such as the amazing bower birds of New Guinea: http://www.duskyswondersite.com/animals/bower-birds/

Gil February 22, 2013 at 11:28 am

I’ve seen some pretty cool looking natural cases, but I would be reluctant to infer an aesthetic sense from them. OTOH, I would be as uncomfortable denying it’s existence. What do we know of bugs?

IVV February 22, 2013 at 11:45 am

Well, we know spiders build webs with stripes and architectural elements, even if it’s not indicative of an artistic desire. I thought perhaps something similar might be going on here, where the caddisflies feel compelled to include some sort of marking in their gilded environment. But I guess not.

Willitts February 22, 2013 at 10:50 am

I suspect this collaborative effort does not end well for the caddis fly.

What does the fly larva get it exchange? You get to live in a house that you built with my materials, but only until you’re done, and then I get to sell the house at a huge profit. Exploitation! :)

Garth Wood February 22, 2013 at 10:54 am

“… then I get to sell the house at a huge profit. Exploitation!”

Wonderful, wonderful exploitation.  ;-)

dead serious February 22, 2013 at 11:09 am

“Duprat has been collaborating with the larvae since the 1980s.”

I’m in Financial Services and I feel the same way.

Willitts February 22, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Heh heh! Me too. Before that I collaborated with roaches in government law offices.

lords of lies February 22, 2013 at 11:31 am

rodin, the larvae, or the artist, are not.

Tom February 22, 2013 at 12:43 pm

If there’s anything more disgusting than close-up pictures of insects, I don’t know what it is.

Mark Thorson February 22, 2013 at 2:09 pm

I guess you won’t be buying one of these 3D printed houses.

http://www.dezeen.com/2013/02/13/protohouse-2-3d-printed-house-by-softkill-design/

John February 22, 2013 at 5:25 pm

There seems to be a certain irony that it’s a Frenchman that collecting on the labor of the larva which the French are, or so it seems, so socialist in temperament. Perhaps I’m looking at the picture wrong though and it’s really the bug that is the capitalist so only fair that the human artist collect the rewards and recognition. ;-)

Willitts February 22, 2013 at 6:28 pm

The artist owns the means of production and the insect does the labor. Labor is “capitalist” in the sense that you own your own labor services – unless you are enslaved like this insect. The insect gets a protective home, but so did slaves. Is it only slavery if the insect is bothered by the involuntary servitude?
Or are the resources collectively owned if the insect gets to use them? No. Ultimately the human gets to decide, so however content the insect is at any point in time, the human controls the means of production and can withhold them on a whim or employ a different insect.

The artist would be an entrepreneur in any case.

Lucas Reis February 22, 2013 at 10:29 pm

Does it mean Tyler Cowen reads 9gag? ; ) http://9gag.com/gag/6628675

Shane M February 23, 2013 at 6:06 am

Makes me want to put out colored straw for birds to build nests with.

Pavel Kohout February 23, 2013 at 9:53 am

Interesting. I’ve known caddisfly larvae since my childhood looking like this: http://www.abatar.cz/images/pohadkove_obrazky/ferda_mravenec_106.gif

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