23 February 2011

Caddis fly larvae jewelry

This isn't new material (it was first posted in Cabinet in 2007, via Neatorama), but it was new to me when I encountered it this week.
The images above illustrate the results of an unusual artistic collaboration between the French artist Hubert Duprat and a group of caddis fly larvae. A small winged insect belonging to the order Trichoptera and closely related to the butterfly, caddis flies live near streams and ponds and produce aquatic larvae that protect their developing bodies by manufacturing shea­ths, or cases, spun from silk and incorporating substances—grains of sand, particles of mineral or plant material, bits of fish bone or crustacean shell—readily available in their benthic ecosystem...

After collecting the larvae from their normal environments, he relocates them to his studio where he gently removes their own natural cases and then places them in aquaria that he fills with alternative materials from which they can begin to recreate their protective sheaths. He began with only gold spangles but has since also added the kinds of semi-precious and precious stones (including turquoise, opals, lapis lazuli and coral, as well as pearls, rubies, sapphires, and diamonds) seen here...
Nature of Neptune posted this video of the process in 2008:

I'll echo an old question:  Who is the artist?  Hubert Duprat, or the caddis fly larva?

Related:  a similar structure built by a one-celled animal.

Photos Jean-Luc Fournier.

Addendum: Also (sort of) related, this bejeweled beetle -
- explained, with many links, at Quigley's Cabinet.


  1. This reminds me of the bejeweled beetles my wife and I saw on our honeymoon in the Yucatan.

    The insect is called "maquech" in Spanish or "ma'kech" in Yucatec Mayan. Binominal nomenclature gives the name Zopherus chilensis. I'm not aware of any common English name.

    "According to the Mayan legend, a Maya princess fell in love with a man she would never be permitted to marry. So heartbroken was she that she wept night and day over her forbidden love. A shaman, hearing her cries and learning of her misery, transformed her into a glittering beetle, a piece of living jewelry. Her beloved pinned her to his breast and she spent her life close to the heart of the one she cherished."

    "Modern variations suggest that unrequitted love can be encouraged by giving the beetle the name of the one you desire and wearing her close to your heart. That closeness will eventually win her affection to you."

    my photo

    google images

    youtube video

  2. Thank you, nolandda. I'm planning to write up beetle wings used to decorate clothing, but the maquech are a different matter altogether. I vaguely remember bejeweled beetles crawling on chains on the dresses of Hollywood starlets decades ago; didn't know it is an ongoing thing in Mexico. I'll add this to my endless stack of bookmarks (gloom..)

    You should start blogging.

  3. Perhaps it would be more accurate to call Duprat the architect and the larvae the artisans...

  4. Your memories of celebrities wearing them are correct:

    It is said that Jackie Kennedy (1929-1994) received one, as did a Spokane woman named Carol Wright back in 1969 (see top left p. 14).

    Jackie Kennedy is said to have been given one with emeralds.

    Glad you like my contributions. I have a (boring to those not in my immediate circle) personal blog that is easily found and a more hidden one that I don't post too very often. It touches on political and religious issues that I don't want to be the first thing a potential employer learns about me from a Ggroogle search.

  5. Thank you for the link, nolandda. I've appended a brief addendum to the post.

  6. I have no answer for this.. but REALLY???


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