Humans aren’t the only animals with yen for self-decoration. Caddisfly larvae protect themselves by constructing elaborate armors from gravel, sand, twigs, and other debris, which they “glue” together using excreted silk. The tiny moth-like insects scavenge whatever material is suitable from their environments, including anything you choose to give them. French artist Hubert Duprat was among the first to take advantage of the insects’ predilections by supplying them with gold flakes, opal, turquoise, rubies, and pearls. The resulting cases are intricate works of art that can be strung up like beads to create one-of-a-kind jewelry.

Hubert Duprat discusses the caddisfly 2:34 mins into the video.

BUG HOUSE

Caddisflies, also known as sedge-flies or rail-flies, are an order (Trichoptera) that comprises nearly 12,000 described species. Exclusively aquatic, their larvae are found in a variety of habitats such as streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, and vernal pools. Not all caddisfly larvae are underwater architects: some species construct nets, while free-living caddisflies retreat into structures only prior to pupation. Once fully developed, most pupal caddids chew through their cases, swim up to the water surface, and slough off their skins before emerging as fully formed adults.

Duprat views his work with caddisflies as an equal collaboration. “I am playing a bad trick on them,” he said in 2011.

Duprat views his work with caddisflies as an equal collaboration. By transposing the larvae into climate-controlled tanks and substituting litter and detritus with precious and semi-precious materials, Duprat blurs the boundaries spontaneity and purpose, art and nature. “I am playing a bad trick on them,” Duprat told the Independent in 2011. “I feel as if I am exploiting my workers,” he added. “It is their work as much as it is mine.”

Here in the United States, Kathy Kyle, founder of Wildscape started working with the caddisfly in 1995 when her then-husband, biologist Ben Stout, observed the critters in action. It took three years of trial and error for the couple to simulate the caddids’ stream ecosystem but Kyle is now able to ply her “pets” with gemstones, seashells, and even fossilized animal dung to produce one-of-a-kind necklaces, earrings, key chains, and zipper pulls.

[Via Bambu Batu]