Image series: Incoming

Artist: Avawari
Technique: material collage, acrylic on wood

The music piece The insect in me(2010) has been specially produced for this series of images.

Incoming – Communication of Insects
Insects basically use three different modes of communication, chemical, auditory and visual.

Chemical communication among a species is mediated by fragrances (pheromones). “Odors” are sent and received as information; documented applications are i.e. to give warnings, to attract sex partners, to summon gatherings, to trigger a diversion, or leave trail markers.

Irritants, toxins, nectar and ambrosia are also part of the arsenal of weapons of mass communication (WMC) of insects, but those are mainly brought to bear in interactions with a other organisms.

The collage The Silkworm (Bombyx mori) is a tribute to the versatile, precise pheromone systems of insects in general, as well as to “his” in particular. The comb-like antennae of the male silkworm are smartly structured over several orders of magnitude and are covered with vast amounts of chemoreceptors. They perceive lowest concentrations (~ 1-60 molecules) of the female-sent messenger chemicals (Bombykol) with their microscopic sensory hairs.

Auditory communication is presented by African cicadas (Cicadidae), whose vibrating tymbals can produce more than 100 decibels. They reach these high sound levels by air sacs derived from the respiratory system (trachea) of invertebrates, which lie right below those special structures of the exoskeleton called tymbals, that make the whole body of the cicada a resonance chamber. The sound can be modulated by moving the abdomen towards or away from the substrate
This time it’s the males who are sending the signal. The females perceive the noises using lateral membranes. The result of successful communication is presented.

The firefly (phosphoaenus hemipterus) and the caterpillar of the puss moth (Cerula vinula) are two impressive, even contrasting examples of visual communication. While fireflies attract partners by actively burning metabolic fuel (ATP) and oxygen, the caterpillar repels potential predators passively through its high-contrast, almost strident appearance. The fireflies use complex variable flashing signals to communicate for example species membership between different species, as well as a number of matters within the species, of which the most elaborate seems to be courtship. The constant color of the puss moth caterpillar on the other hand communicates risk to a general environment, hoping for absence of a response.

We also smell and even speak. What makes us even more special are our technically acquired modes of communication. Via television and radio we are unidirectionally (passively) linked to global media networks, telephony and the Internet give us at least the theoretical possibility to communicate actively. These networks are constantly expanding technology, they evolve. What we make of it? All sorts of things. Really Everything?

I would like to encourage thorough consideration of the possibilities of communication (current, future, such as, underground as above ground) to thereafter use them wisely in the service of saving the world.


“African cicadas (cicadidae)”, acrylic-Collage on wood, 40 x 83,5 cm, 2010

“The silkworm (bombyx mori)”, acrylic-Collage on wood, 38 x 78 cm, 2010

“Caterpillar of the puss moth (cerula vinula)”, acrylic-Collage on wood, 60 x 60 cm, 2010

“The firefly (phosphoaenus hemipterus)”, acrylic-Collage on wood, 65 x 56 cm, 2010