December 4, 2018 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
In an effort to offset the massive decline in the world’s insect population, Dutch design firm Atelier Boelhouwer has developed a series of 3D printed artificial flowers designed to serve as an emergency food source for the ‘big five of pollination’: bees, bumblebees, hoverflies, butterflies and moths.
Increases in urban development and environmental conditions such as pollution, habitat loss, pesticide overuse, and global warming have caused as steep decline in the world’s insect population.
Matilde Boelhouwer believes the boundaries are fading between art, design and sciences such as biology and food. Designers, she says, now have an obligation to consider new research and ideas in developing concepts that extend beyond the production of beautiful products.
Insectology: Food for Buzz is Boelhouwer’s concept for making urban environments bloom again.
In collaboration with a botanist and biodiversity specialist and an entomologist, the designer created five colorful self-sustaining and continuously producing artificial flowers to replace the missing natural ones in areas where it’s not possible to plant them.
Each flower is customized for a different insect species. A 3D printed stem supports the flower, whose center contains a small 3D printed container adjusted to the length of the intended insects’ mouths. The screen-printed polyester flower petals are specifically colored and patterned to attract a specific species of insect.
The flower’s central container collects rainwater then transports it down the stem, where it mixes with sugar inside a tank, then automatically pumps the mixture back up to feed the insects.
Boelhouwer hopes the flowers will help replace some missing pollination plants to bring back, as she says, “the buzzing and fluttering sounds of those small creatures we can’t ever miss in our cityscape.”
Photography: Janneke van der Pol.