“Insects, worms and other small animals that carry out vital functions for life on earth have declined by 45 percent on average over 35 years, threatening human health, water quality and food supplies…”
-Steve Connor, “Vital invertebrates decline by 45 per cent, study finds,” independent.co.uk, July 2014
I remember those balmy summer nights playing tag with children from the neighborhood in my grandparents’ backyard. As dusk hit, the mosquitoes died out and the flickering of fireflies began. Hypnotized by the florescent lights, we cupped out our hands trying to capture their light. We made a game out of the capture and release with the insects. Picking up pails and plastic cup, the objects aided in seeing who could gather the most and make their vessel glow the brightest. When we were done we released the insect back into the sky and would watch the florescent light dissipate into the purple and orange hues of the sunset.
That is the memory I associate with insect. As a child, you are more aware of your surroundings especially in nature. With all of the hustle and bustle of life, work, family, friends, work, school, etc. it is easy to forget about the tiny creatures we often times see as annoyances. I never realized how steep the decrease in the population was until it was brought to my attention through this project. Many blame this decline on climate change, invasive species, and insects losing their habitats. This affects us all as we need insects to thrive to survive as humans. Insects serve has one of the fundamental processes in plant production and sustaining plants, and they are the food source to many smaller animals in the food chain.
I built an insect motel to house butterflies and bees, particularly the mason bee and the hibernating species among butterflies. The concept for my structure “float like butterfly, sting like a bee”. I chose this concept to demonstrate the delicateness of these insects and how their existence packs a hefty punch in how we continue to exist in this environment. The structure is mounted from the base onto a pole that is staked into the ground so the structure is 4 and half feet off the ground. This 360⁰ experience will allow you to check out the homes of mason bees in the hypnotizing “Spiral of Life”, see what creatures lurk in the “Twig Forest”, and hopefully peek at the sleeping butterflies in the “Butterfly Lodge”.
The “Spiral of Life” consists of beautiful white birch branch cross sections and other varieties of tree disks as decoration. The “Spiral of Life” houses the mason bee who may bores holes into trees for shelter but prefers preexisting holes, such as hallow twigs or beetle burrows. The mason bee favors deeper cavities, and in my research I found the optimal length for their habitats are 6-9 inches. The first four birch cross sections along the bottom of the spiral have
holes drilled 6 inches deep and ¾ inches wide, that are ideal for the mason bees to find shelter in. As the spiral reaches the center, the cross sections decrease in length and the holes drilled vary in depth as well to symbolize the length of time left for the insects and inevitably us as humans if the insect population keeps decreasing as dramatically as it has been. Each cavity is conveniently lined with a paper tube that can be replaced after each spring to ensure that disease and parasites cannot contaminate future bees shelters.
The “Butterfly Lodge” is a 14-inch-tall and 4-inch-wide structure constructed with stunning ash wood along with various tree barks on the interior. The lodge caters to hibernating butterflies, such as the Compton tortoiseshell or the Gray comma. You may even spot a Monarch making a pit stop in the lodge, as they migrate here in Wisconsin in May. The slats, linear slits on the front of the lodge, are approximately 3 inches long and ½ inches wide, which is optimal for the butterflies to fly inside. The pyramidal design of the slats once again reflects this decrease in insects and their inevitable end if something isn’t done. The interior of the lodge is lined with various barks from a variety of trees which with allow for the butterflies to cling to while they hibernate or rest. You may even spot a butterfly resting on the bark attached to front of the lodge.
The “Twig Forest” is constructed with various tree disks, curly willow branches, and various tree barks. This forest will allow other various insects and creatures to hibernate, nest, and possibly mate, while openly allow pedestrians to view them.
If you or your family is interested in purchasing an insect motel of your own, you can find plenty of affordable options on amazon.com and retailers of the alike. If you or your family is interested in making your own insect motel, you are welcome to follow my model or search “how to build insect motel” or simply “insect motels” and many sites provide simpler constructions with all the instructions and dimensions to assemble the motel.
In order to maintain this insect motel, the butterfly box will need to be opened and cleaned out (twigs and foliage may be placed inside as well) (key is provided for lock as well), the twigs in the twig forest may need to be replaced if they fall out or debris gets lodged in them, foliage and twigs may also be placed in the cavity above the butterfly lodge and twig forest, and the paper in the mason bee homes will all need to be replaced each spring.
I was asked to research the issue of the insect population declining, pick insects to build a habitat for, plan a design that was functioning for the insects yet intriguing in form, construct a crude model from cardboard, and then from 20 linear feet of lumber execute the design. My idea morphed and changed so many times through this project I wasn’t sure I was going to have a successful design. I started with separate spaces that existed together just like the design I executed, but what filled those spaces and the dimensions of those spaces changed several times. I took many lessons learned from previous projects into this project. Realizing I had to react to my material and situations was critical to this project. If something from the original design was not possible or didn’t work the way I thought, I quickly regrouped and adapted the design. Having a certain confidence was also needed to be successful in this project. Holding back in the design because you were uncertain about the material made for an unsuccessful piece. I believe that my plaster was not as successful as the final paper project or this project because I was scared being ambitious with the material because I had never worked with it before. I also realized how crucial it was to manage time and how much time needed to be put into the project. I spent an additional 6-8 hours in the lab outside of instruction, and I think that made a huge difference in the success of this piece.
I am so excited now that I know that these structures will be kept forever by the state. I was under the impression that we would be getting these back, but it makes me happy to know that I could potentially take my children and grandchildren to something I built, in the future. Your class was honestly amazing! Your passion and drive to push not only yourself forward but others as well is something I strive to have.
I learned so much from this class…forget about the project! Stepping back looking at bigger picture, caring about what I’m doing is the single handedly the most important thing I learned from this class. Especially in doing this project, I didn’t necessarily care about bugs at first, but after realizing what exactly I was doing, I instantly become connected to the piece. I want to care about all my art now. Not looking at the things I’m doing in my undergraduate years as assignments but looking at them as learning lessons and expanding my skill set. Thank you.
Keiren. “Insect Hotel • Nifty Homestead.” Nifty Homestead. N.p., 21 Oct. 2016. Web. 16 Dec. 2016.
University of Wisconsin Madison. “Spring Wild Bees of Wisconsin.” Spring Wild Bees of Wisconsin. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2016.
Masters, Madeline. “Butterfly House Information.” Animals – mom.me. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2016.
“Insect guides.” Home — wisconsinbutterflies.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2016.