Posted 11:38 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022

UWL entomologist says art is a powerful way for us to address the destruction of the planet  

Human destruction of the planet is growing. While scientific and media reports continue to outline categories of human-induced environmental damage, these efforts haven’t been enough to lead to substantial policy change to forestall our impact, says University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Entomologist Barrett Klein.

Klein says that in addition to science and media, art can serve as a potentially potent vehicle for communicating about the destruction of the planet.   

Klein and Tierney Brosius, a biologist at Augustana College in Rock Island, surveyed artwork featuring insects or insect bodily products used in works by 72 artists. The researchers wanted to know what type of environmental destruction was most commonly featured in the works and the type of insects that were most frequently used as subjects. They found:   

  • A bias favoring insect art addressing the topics of habitat destruction or climate change and an underrepresentation of art related to several other important categories of environmental destruction.   
  • Artists favored insects belonging to the order that includes bees, wasps, and ants, over all other orders of insects. Art addressing the vast array of other insect diversity was lacking.   

“Insects are diverse, abundant, ecologically and culturally important to us, and are suffering declines by our hand. These qualities, coupled with insects’ uncanny ability to evoke emotional extremes, marks them as uniquely powerful subjects for artists to convey messages about our relationship with the planet,” writes Klein.   

Read the article “Insects in Art during an Age of Environmental Turmoil” in the open access journal Insects.  

About Barrett

Barrett Klein is a professor of Biology at UW-La Crosse.

Barrett Klein is a professor of biology at UWL. He has received the university's Teaching Excellence Award. He studies insect behavior, sleep biology, and ways in which insects have affected humans throughout history. His research and insect expertise has been featured by media regionally and nationally. 

To learn more visit his website.