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)


    1. I always feel proud when I can respond to one of Antious’ comments without having to resort to google or wikipedia.  Alas, this was not one of those times.  

  1. So yeah, now you can have your gold jewelry made by enslaved bugs.  No further need to use whining human workers who might want a living wage n stuff.

      1. I was just about to say “it was funny but doesn’t look like trolling to me”. But then I thought, “maybe PhasmaFelis is trolling and i’ll look stupid for responding”… Trolling/meta trolling.

        Now I’m just confused. Mine’s a double. Thanks.

        1. Do not try to feed the troll — that’s impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth: there is no troll. Then you’ll see that it is not the troll that trolls, it is only yourself.

        2. I didn’t intend to troll, but maybe I got too snarky and trolled by mistake. Maybe I trolled myself. Shit, that’s heavy. I think I need to lie down.

          (Srs tho my forum vice is overreacting/being way snarkier than is actually justified, not trolling. I think. Hope.)

  2. >bio-organic jewelry

    I had to go over it a few times, but I think these are just objéts d’art.  there’s no mention in the link of them being jewelery, it just says stuff like “sculptural.”  these things are cool.

  3. I don’t know the answer to this, I’m just asking the question.

    Do the flies develop normally after doing this?  Do they grow into happy adult flies?

    Or is doing this, the touch of death, from Mr. Goldfinger (bwah bwah, bwah!).

    That is, is this just an artistic variation of pulling the wings off flies or standing above an anthill with a magnifying glass?

    1. No reason why they shouldn’t develop normally after this, they make their cases from far less savoury (and less inert) materials in the wild. It does rather depend on the goodwill of M. Duprat as to whether they actually end up as ‘happy adult flies’.

      He must have been doing this for an awful long time, I remember seeing a magazine article about it in the mid 90s.

  4. I misread this as “caddish fly larvae”, which made me ponder what prompted such etymological invectives. Was it the rather showy flaunting of their riches?

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