The Insects of Jennifer Angus: Leaf Mimics

“Arranging Nature”, the insect art installation by Jennifer Angus has been drawing a lot of interest around the museum. Guests have been asking about what species of insects are used in this art exhibit. We’ve already covered cicadas and grasshoppers used in the exhibit, so now onto the really neat bugs: leaf mimic insects!

Leaf mimic insects exist in a vast array of colors and patterns and exhibit an extreme sort of camouflage. Camouflage is a type of crypsis (hiding) which allows a visible creature to blend into their environment and thus become difficult to see. Tigers have stripes that help to break up their overall form and modern soldiers wear a camouflage print that has the same effect. By utilizing colors similar to their environment, counter-shading, patterns, the eye of a human or predator is tricked

Phyllium giganteum: The walking leaf insect uses an incredible blend of color and shape crypsis. From Malaysia, this insect’s curious outline and green coloring render it mostly invisible among foliage. Males of this species are very rare and females can breed by parthenogenesis. This process allows a female to produce eggs or embryos that do not require fertilization by a male. These eggs will develop The resulting brood of insects will each be a clone of their mother.

Heteropteryx dilatata: The Thorny Stick comes to us from Malaysia.DSCN0128 Males and females of the species are very different in appearance.  The male is mottled brown and looks like a thorny stick, thus the name. The female is large with a wide green body and tiny wings that make her incapable of flight. In the wild, females of the species are very aggressive. They will hiss and thrash their legs at any creatures that approaches.

The Art of Camouflage: There are four main strategies of camouflage: cryptic (or blending), disruptive (or dazzle), mimicry, and countershading.

  • Cryptic camouflage involves colors and patterns that help an organism blend into their surroundings and become invisible to the eye. The dead leaf butterfly has the coloration and shape of a dead leaf and becomes nearly invisible on the forest floor. The walking leaf insect, mention above, utilizes shape and color to blend into foliage
  • Disruptive camouflage dazzles the eye by providing visual cues that override the characteristics of creature. The eyespots found on many butterfly and moth species create an image of large, circular eyes often similar to the eyes of predators. Octopus ink is another sort of disruption that catches the eye and disrupts smell and sight to allow the octopus to escape.
  • Mimicy camouflage allows one organism to present itself likeLeaf Mimic Insect another organism, often a dangerous or toxic creature. A species of snake from Asia, the False Cobra (Malpolon moilensis), mimics the hooded head of the Cobra to scare off predators. Learn more about mimicry in the butterflies of Florida in this post from our BioWorks Butterfly Garden blog.
  • Countershading mimicry utilizes coloration to override the normal cues of depth perception. This mimicry employs light coloration in places where dark colors are normally found and dark colors where light ones are normally found. In nature, most animals are lit from above by the sun and thus have a shadow on their undersides. The bright white bellies of many sharks or of salmon are shadowed so that in the wild the become nearly the same color as the darker top side of the animal. This same principle is used in camouflage makeup for the military where light colors are used in the normally shadowed parts of the face like around the eye and darker colors are used for the normally well lit, protruding parts of the face such as the nose. This swap of visual cues for depth perception tricks the eye into seeing a textured face as flat.


The Insects of Jennifer Angus: Grasshoppers

“Arranging Nature”, the insect art installation by Jennifer Angus has been drawing a lot of interest around the museum. Guests have been asking about what species of insects are used in this art exhibit. We recently covered cicadas and now we move on to grasshoppers!

Grasshoppers: Grasshoppers are insects from the suborder Caelifera which is Latin for “holding up the heavens”. These insects have powerful hind legs designed for leaping, short antenna, and generally have wings as adults. They have powerful jaws made to tear grasses, leaves

and cereal crops. Females are often larger in size than males of a species.

Locusts are several species of grasshoppers from the family Acrididae that can be found in huge swarms that will sometimes cause massive damage to food crops.

Sanaea intermedia: This grasshopper from Thailand has a yellow and brown fore-wing and a deep purple-blue hind wing that is accented with tiny white markings.

Phymates saxosus: Hailing from Madagascar, this grasshopper eats toxic plants and therefore is inedible to humans. This species has deep green fore-wing and a deep pink hind-wing.

Tropidacris dux: From Peru, these enormous grasshoppers are locally called the ‘Giant Brown Cricket’ and are known to be pests of bananna, mango and citrus. This species has brown fore-wings and showy orange hind-wings.

Lophacris cristata: Also from Peru and found into Brazil and Surinam, this grasshopper has brilliant pink hind wings.

Titanacris Albipes: This incredibly large and showy species of grasshopper has purple hind-wings and comes from French Guiana

Worldwide there are some 11,000 species of grasshoppers that have been identified with 660 of those species being native to North America. You can learn more about grasshoppers found in Florida at this link.


The Insects of Jennifer Angus: Cicadas

“Arranging Nature”, the insect art installation by Jennifer Angus has been drawing a lot of interest around the museum. Guests have been asking about what species of insects are used in this art exhibit. Over the next few days we’ll be covering the insects used for this exhibit in small groups. Let’s start with cicadas!

Cicadas: There are some 2,500 species of cicada that live in temperate to tropical climates around the world. These large insects have widely spaces eyes, often clean wings and leave behind shed skins that look like an empty version of the insect. The insect’s name derives from the Latin word cicada which means “buzzer”.

Pompoina imperatoria: A Malaysian cicada with clear wings. The largest cicada used in the exhibit and one of the largest in the world with a wingspan up to 6 inches.

Tosena albata: A cicada from Thailand with dark wings with a white stripe and two orange stripes that cross the insect’s body. This species is also known as a Bee Cicada.

Angamiana floridula: Also from Thailand, this cicada has dark forewings with a pale stripe and pale coloring near the body and a orange-brown hind wing.

Tosena splendida: A cicada from Thailand, this species has a black and white fore wing and a hindwing that is a lovely blue-green color.

Aythia spectabile: The smallest of the cicadas in the exhibit this species has clear wings with dark veins and markings.

Although these insects are from far away, there are 19 known species of cicada found in Florida. You can learn more about them and hear their songs at this link.


Jennifer Angus

Artist Jennifer Angus is installing her exhibit of insect art entitled “Arranging Nature” this week at MOSI in time for the opening on February 19th, 2011.

Jennifer Angus is a Canadian artist best known for her work featuring kaleidoscopic patterns composed of real insects. Some of her recent installations take inspiration from the Victorian era. For the past ten years, Jennifer has been creating installations composed of insects pinned directly to a wall in repeating patterns which reference both textiles and wallpaper. Jennifer says, “When viewers enter one of my installations, they are greeted with something they think they know, that is, a patterned wallpaper which could be in anyone's home. However, upon closer examination, they discover that it is entirely made up of insects! A tension is then created by the beauty one observes in the pattern and the apprehension we feel toward insects.”

Jennifer Angus, who teaches textile design at the University of Wisconsin, became an amateur entomologist in the course of creating her “Victorian Fancy” series of dollhouses and installations. She builds scenes of perfect domestic felicity, but all the patterns on the walls, floors and furniture are arrangements of beautiful insects, and all the characters in the dollhouses are insects, too — electric-green beetles from Thailand, locusts from French Guiana with spectacular wings of purple and blue, striped weevils, polka-dot weevils, leaf mimics, white cicadas and frog-legged beetles that look like their name. “I wanted to create a pattern that suggests a domestic space,” she said, “but of course the one thing people don’t want in their house is insects.”

-New York Times


Recyclosaurus Rex Gets a Facelift

DSCN0050Since 1993, MOSI’s Recyclosaurus Rex has been a Tampa landmark. Standing 20 feet tall and 40 feet long, this dino’s belly is filled with aluminum cans and plastic containers. He stands as a gigantic recycling reminder for thousands of commuters each day!

Recyclosaurus Rex is currently undergoing a facelift. Artist Terry Klaaren, the original designer of the giant orange dinosaur, is currently on a lift working on Rex. The MOSI mascot will be undergoing repairs to his structure, a re-wrapping with more construction fencing and will have his car headlight eyes replaced with gleaming new bulbs. Also his banner post is being re-designed so that MOSI staff can easily switch out Rex’s flags.

If you are driving down Fowler Avenue this week, make sure to take a peek at the work and wave at Mr. Klaaren.


Three Hours, Two Towers, and a Lifetime to Remember

Great tragedies are never easy to understand or comfortable to discuss. Galvanizing dates in history like the Challenger explosion and 9/11/01 stick with us and are the events by which we define generations. One way to explore the feelings connected to these tragedies is to utilize art as an outlet.

The Pasco County Board of County Commissioners donated 13 retired Fire Hydrants to Pasco county students. Students worked alone or in groups to design and paint these fire hydrants with artistic interpretations of 9/11. Each hydrant includes an artist statement which explains the concepts and creation of individual pieces. During the art creation process, another group of students recorded the work in video that will be used to create a documentary about this experience.

Three Hours, Two Towers, and a Lifetime to Remember exhibit is located in the 2nd Floor connecting corridor of the MOSI building and runs through Feb 12th. After leaving MOSI this exhibit will be moved to the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City.