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Anthrenus verbasci


Apropos the discussion on labelling. Here’s an object that directly suffers as a result of a labelling scheme on which it has never been consulted. It is a valuable part of nature’s waste recycling system without whom we would be surrounded by millions of years old mountains of keratin. In some areas of this building this helpful worker is carefully cared for, labelled, mounted and conserved. And yet in other areas it is ruthlessly hunted down and exterminated. Must seem Kafka-esque to it.

Carpet Beetle

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Dave permalink
    22/07/2009 11:55 am

    Hello Ansuman,

    I came across Anthrenus verbasci while researching the Museum’s biodiversity website. A seed on my windowsill sprouted legs! The thing I was most struck by was the way its appendages retract when it is disturbed and it looks quite lifeless… leave it undisturbed for a short while and it is reanimated. I kept it for a day or so in a box with a flower and some moist tissue (the adult beetles feed on pollen). We made a short film (now on youtube) and sometime in that process, the beetle acquired a name “Axminster”, which seemed appropriate for a carpet beetle. When we were finished I put it on a flower in a meadow and it wandered off seemingly none the worse for the experience. Have a look at the film if you can find it…


    what do you think of Kafka?? I found some of his imaginary worlds disturbing and have stopped reading him…

    • 23/07/2009 11:44 am

      Dear David,
      Thank you very much for the story of your delightful friend Axminster.
      I think my one is called Gregor.
      I highly recommend that you give Kafka another try. This one is quite disturbing I agree, not to say horrific, but it seems to me quite an accurate depiction of humanity’s relationship with these humble workers and dutiful family members.

      • Dave permalink
        24/07/2009 12:36 pm

        Hello Ansuman,

        I read “The metamorphosis” while on a holiday in Ireland, almost 10 years ago, on a soft day, watching raindrops run down the window. It’s one of those works of the imagination that you know would be better put aside after the first few sentences… nonetheless you read on. I found it’s imaginary world more disturbing even than “The Trial”. As life inclined toward the kafkaesque (a great word don’t you think, and splendidly oxymoronic as Kafka would almost certainly have disapproved of it!) I resolved not to read any more and haven’t read or re-read anything since. I was almost snared by the link to the online version but serendiptously distracted by the flying machine which I’m trying to build to flap across the herbarium…

        Why is the beetle called Gregor??


        By what

  2. 24/07/2009 1:22 pm

    You’re obviously a sensitive soul, David.
    Well, you know best which flypapers to avoid.

    The name of the beetle in ‘The Metamorphosis’ is Gregor Samsa. He is a tender soul who does his best to make himself understood and yet can never be fully appreciated by anyone around him, although his family do try. I think it is a tragic and beautiful story.

    I’m sure Kafka himself would have been even less likely to use the term ‘Ecology’ than he would ‘Kafkaesque’, but nevertheless, from a 21st century viewpoint, I find this story wonderfully evocative of humanity’s relationship with the non-human world. But I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it.

    I’m glad you’re revisiting the flapping flying machine. I think we should give that another try. Fixed wings are for gliders.

    And if you ever get round to it I wonder if you could have a go at designing a flexible foil ship’s propellor, modelled on fish tails. So much more efficient than rotating blades…

    • David Green permalink
      24/07/2009 3:22 pm

      Hello Ansuman,

      Of course, Gregor became the beetle… The ornithopter flaps around quite well now after some modification to its wings. The glider on the other hand is about as aerodynamic as a brick.

      Take care


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