Insects As Architects?

Leaf Miner Art

Leaf Miner’s Leaves
Artist: Susan Hoenig

The Monmouth Museum in Lincroft, NJ has a current exhibit: Animal Architects. The exhibit features the work of New Jersey Artists that depict modification of the environment by animals including insects. Some modification are made by building such as mud dauber art. Others are made by subtraction, such as the work of leaf miners.

Are insects architects? By definition, an architect is someone than plans. However, the typical insect structure has no planning. How do insects know how to build complex nests or even a perfectly round ant mound?  They don’t. The structures are built through a series of idiosyncratic behaviors in response to local stimuli.

Our leaf miner hatches from an egg and eats its way into the center of the leaf. If it senses the middle of the leaf, it will eat. If it contacts the upper or lower leaf surface, it will not eat. After it has consumed the material within reach of its mouthparts, the leaf miner moves forward. The mouthparts face forward extending the feeding site in the form of a linear tunnel. The width of its tunnel is determined by the size of its mouth parts and body.

A fully developed larva will chew an exit hole to the outside and drop to the ground to pupate. The leaf miner leaves its structure, its work of natural art in the leaf.  at no point was the design planned or designed, however, the designs created by insects can inspire human architects and artists to incorporate insect designs into their own plans.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired 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.
This entry was posted in Art, behavior, by jjneal, Insect Inspired. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Insects As Architects?

  1. Pingback: Insects As Architects? – Entomo Planet

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