Merging Insects, Art, Science and Fashion

The charming colors, fancy flight and soothing sounds of insects often inspire artists. Concern about the environment, fascination with nature, a love of gardening and the plight of our pollinators are all brought together by artist Karen Ingham and her collection of pollinator frocks. The frocks are designed by the artist and inspired by scientific information and imaging, incorporate studies of insect feeding behavior and utilize the advances in fabric and printing technology.

In addition to floral and vegetation patterns, the fabrics include electron microscope images of pollen grains to create “wearable gardens”. The fabrics can be coated with sugars as food for the pollinators. Some insects find the bright colors and tasty frocks attractive. The fabrics are being placed in varied habitats to test ability to attract pollinators.

As art or butterfly house apparel, perhaps these will capture the typical consumer? However, some features may appeal only to the most hard core entomologists. Many of the important pollinators are Hymenoptera (wasps and bees) that can deliver a painful sting. Flies are important pollinators that may be attracted to the sugars and colors. Flies can be annoying by landing on our skin or flying into our eyes or ears. This apparel is not for the entomophobic.

Despite potential drawbacks, the patterns and art are stunning. This art creates an opportunity to interest and inform the public about the importance and beauty of our insect pollinators. The value of insect pollinators to crop production is an estimated $150-$200 Billion per year. Without insect pollinators, many of our food crops would not exist.

Butterfly Visiting a Pollinator Frock
Image: http://www.kareningham.org.uk

Video about the Pollinator Frock, ecoteki insect art-wear fashion, is on YouTube:

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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9 Responses to Merging Insects, Art, Science and Fashion

  1. Jessica Gamblin says:

    I think this idea of pollinator frock is incredible. Since my major is retail management, this blog particularly interested me because I was curious to see how fashion can tie into the environment and insect life. I think that Karen Ingham is very intelligent to think of something like this to benefit the insects, and also rise awareness to the community. The scientist who worked on this really took every detail into perspective to really make the clothing look like a comfortable place for insects to pollinate. They deeply examined how insects see certain plants and made sure that they projected that image onto the clothing. Not only do the patterns appeal to the insect eye, but I think that the patterns on the clothing are every fashion forward and something that i could see my self wearing. However, I am not sure I would like bees and fly following me around all day. Regardless, I think that this is a great way to inform the public about how important insects and their pollination are. Hopefully other scientist can gain from this idea and come up with other ways to protect the population of insect pollinators.

  2. Amanda Glidden says:

    I found this to be very interesting. I never thought about clothing, or a frock for that matter, being used as a pollinator. I think that it is a great creation that can give the public a way to observe insects in a way they have not seen them before. I personally think it would be awesome to try out one of those frocks. Karen Ingram came up with a great idea. All of her patterns and frocks are beautiful pieces of art.

  3. Diane Bennett says:

    After reading this blog I was very interested in finding out more about clothes being used as pollinators. Before I read this I did not know people could wear clothing that has sugars that would attract these insects. I think they idea of this is great so people can see these insects up close without scaring them off. I also believe that if these insects were interested in the clothing, the people could end up getting hurt from the sting of the insects. Regardless of the fact that you could be stung, I think the idea is a great new invention.

  4. Maria Renteria says:

    This is really great! It’s kind of cool to think that clothes can fulfill more than just one purpose. But I wonder if a person would be able to wash that specific garment? I could also see that being made into a wallpaper!

  5. Hwa Yeun Nam says:

    I think the pollinator frock is amazing! This is first time I read about the pollinator frock. People can wear the clothes which can attract pollinators. I heard that tree or sky image can attract birds when they are flying but I’ve never heard about the pollinators. I think Karen Ingram is really smart and this is a great idea. I think this can help with the entomology study (about pollinators’ habitat) because you can see the insect really closely. I’m in wildlife major, so if I wear this clothes in my lab or in camp it could bother me because of files or bees but it will be cool that I could see insect right front of me. I think this is really cool idea and it is benefit for scientific study. If I have a chance to buy these clothes I am definitely going to buy these clothes. The prints of clothes are pretty, too!

  6. Ciana Tabb says:

    Pollinator Frock is a very unique clothing line. I wonder what gave Karen Ingham the inspiration to come up with the idea of a clothing line due to her interest in insects? Whatever it was turned out to be a success, Pollinator Frock is very creative.

  7. Madelyn Muskwe says:

    I think Karen Ingham has an interesting idea. I think it will open some peoples’ eyes to the beauty and function of insects and others might think it’s crazy. Most people try to get rid of insects not attract them. I would be hesitant to wear the clothing but would consider hanging it up outside and observing insects. I think her idea can be beneficial to Entomologists and a good potential gift for an insect lover.

  8. Sarah J. Kelly says:

    I think that the floral frocks are amazing. I realize that they are only in a prototype stage, but I wonder what other patterns will be produced from this. I also wonder if they can find a way to only attract specific species. It would be very nice if the sugars in the garments only attracted insects such as butterflies or moths. I also wonder how washable and durable the garments will be. I would think that the sugars would not be very wash resistant or that the pattern might not be the same to the insects after they are washed in regular detergent. I also wonder how much something like this would cost. They have a few problems to solve before they go to market, but I know that I will be looking out for a finalized produce sometime in the future.

  9. jjneal says:

    Remember, this is “art” not “clothing”. They are probably priced as “art objects” and not as “clothing”. It is unlikely that they would ever be for sale to people other than art collectors. However, the idea could inspire other artists.

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