'Love Motel For Insects' Opens for Business In RTP

Jul 17, 2014

There's a new establishment opening for one night only in Research Triangle Park. It's a Love Motel for Insects. Imagine several teepees lit up against the night sky - attracting area insects from far and wide.

Love Motel for Insects: Eining Variation
Credit Foto Mayer

It's a voyeuristic space. Once the ultraviolet light attracts the insects, people can look closely at them. Brandon Ballengée is the scientist/artist behind the project. An article in American Scientist Magazine provides some background:

Impressed with the biodiversity of the local tropical ecosystem during a trip to Costa Rica, Ballengée decided one evening to leave some bed-sheets and battery-powered flashlights on the forest floor to see what would happen. The results shocked him. Countless beetles, caddisflies, ants, lacewings, and other species appeared, and female moths left behind what Ballengée calls “paintings”: luminescent trails of pheromones released to attract mates. He found the experience so moving that he set out to bring this spectacle to the public.

Since his Costa Rica experiment, Ballengée has installed Love Motels in shopping malls in New Delhi, on a boat in Venice, beside Aztec ruins in Mexico, on London rooftops, in New York City’s Central Park, and in a range of ecosystems, including forests, mountainsides, bogs, and marshes. He admits that occasionally some visitors run away in fear when the insects begin arriving on the scene, but much more often, distress gives way to admiration, aversion gives way to awe.

The Love Motel for Insects is a part of RTP180: Art in the Triangle. Tonight's event is free, but organizers say that the 300 spaces are already taken. Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society is sponsoring the event.

The teepee-like structures are installed with black-ultraviolet/white fluorescent lights, wood, fabric, and invited insects. Each is 2.5 by 1.5 meters.
Credit Foto Mayer