Caddis fly larvae coaxed into building cocoons out of precious metals and gems


Update: Be sure to check out our first post about this from 2007!


This 2007 profile of Hubert Duprat's work with caddis fly larvae is a tiny, entomological miracle. The larvae build their cocoons with whatever material is at hand; Duprat forces them to build with gold and precious gems, making spectacular bio-organic jewelry.

Duprat, who was born in 1957, began working with caddis fly larvae in the early 1980s. An avid naturalist since childhood, he was aware of the caddis fly in its role as a favored bait for trout fishermen, but his idea for the project depicted here began, he has said, after observing prospectors panning for gold in the Ariège river in southwestern France. After collecting the larvae from their normal environments, he relocates them to his studio where he gently removes their own natural cases and then places them in aquaria that he fills with alternative materials from which they can begin to recreate their protective sheaths. He began with only gold spangles but has since also added the kinds of semi-precious and precious stones (including turquoise, opals, lapis lazuli and coral, as well as pearls, rubies, sapphires, and diamonds) seen here. The insects do not always incorporate all the available materials into their case designs, and certain larvae, Duprat notes, seem to have better facility with some materials than with others. Additionally, cases built by one insect and then discarded when it evolves into its fly state are sometimes recovered by other larvae, who may repurpose it by adding to or altering its size and form.

Artist Project / Trichopterae (via Neil Gaiman)

(Photos: Jean-Luc Fournier)