15 OCTOBER 2018
To Atelier Boelhouwer the relationship between flowers and insects is one of the most fascinating connections found in nature. Flowers evolved to serve insects and insects evolved to serve flowers simultaneously. Nowadays however, with all of us living in urban jungles made of concrete and stone, the presence of flowers has become something less natural in our cityscapes. This lack of flowering has resulted in a drastic insect population decline.
Making urban environments flower again, will stimulate our so important insect population and help them to flourish again. But how can you make a concrete base flower? How do you tell a bee that it can eat something it isn't used to? To answer these questions Matilde Boelhouwer developed Insectology: Food for Buzz, a series of artificial ongoing flowering flowers to serve as an emergency food source for the 'big 5 of pollination': bees, bumblebees, hoverflies, butterflies and moths.
Together with engineers and scientists these 5 colourful, man-made flowers have been developed to be self-sustaining and continuously producing natural objects that form the ultimate attractions to those of the big 5. Adjusted to the length of their tongues, faceted eyes and shape of preference, these flowers aim to take over all unused empty spots and therefore bringing back the buzzing and fluttering sounds of those small creatures we can't ever miss in our cityscape.
The flowers from Insectology: Food for Buzz were developed to be a multi-sensorial attracting emergency food source for our 5 most important pollinators. Every insect has its own preferences in colour, shape, depth of the food source and so on. When designing food for insects one must take a whole different approach to food, eating and behavior.
When you would compare a bees eye to our own eyes you would notice you would see everything in honeycomb shaped pixels, which results in a less detailed view. Colour vision ranges from green, blue, violet and yellow to even ultraviolet and bee purple, which is a mix of ultraviolet and yellow. To attract bees from afar, Matilde Boelhouwer worked with a colour contrast of violet and yellow and shaped it with 2 layers of small petals to create a strong silhouette.
Unlike bees, bumblebees feel more attracted to mirror symmetry in flowers. To mimic the flowers bumblebees are attracted to in the wild, I chose to work with only 3 flower petals. Together these petals form a very striking silhouette. Colourwise bumblebees have a great preference to purple, blue and green tones. Accompanied by yellow in the feeding area this colour contrast ensures the sugar water is easy to find.
Hoverflies have a particular short tongue, which results in a smaller range of possibilities when it comes to eating. For this reason, hoverflies search for flowers which are easy to access and have a shallow nectar source. This resulted in the biggest flower of the Insectology: Food for Buzz project. Sugar water is pumped into this dome shaped reservoir, filled to the top makes it accessible for hoverflies. The flower petals and reservoir size are designed in way so that this flower also attracts bees and butterflies.
Butterflies and moth have a slightly different tongue than those mentioned above, namely a proboscis. The most common European butterflies are equipped with a 2 to 5 centimeter proboscis. Because of this proboscis, butterflies typically need more time to eat, which results in choosing flowers which have a larger bottom petal functioning as a landing strip. Unlike the other pollinators, butterflies also see red colours and therefore prefer pink, orange and red flowers.
Moths are equipped with an even longer proboscis than butterflies, some even reach lengths of 20 centimeters. They eat when they’re still flying, so this long proboscis comes in handy. Moths navigate mostly on scent during nighttime, but can also navigate a little bit on lighter colours. Therefore I chose to design a flower which also attracts butterflies and is enhanced with special 3d dots so that moths can navigate to the food source as well.
More information? matildeboelhouwer.com
dr. M.C. M. Roos - Botanist & Biodiversity Specialist, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden
prof. dr. ir. JJA van Loon - Entomologist specialized in insect-plant relationships, Wageningen Univerisity and Research, Wageningen
Bram Otten - Engineer, Arnhem
Thimo Voorwinden - Engineer mechatronics, Amersfoort
Janneke van der Pol (arnhemsmeiske) - Wildlife photography, Arnhem