Photographer Levon Biss’s project Extinct and Endangered: Insects in peril combines thousands of shots of insect specimens to create these startlingly clear images
11 January 2023
WE ARE all aware that our influence on Earth has driven widespread biodiversity loss, from the species that have already disappeared to those on the brink. Among these is a group that outnumbers most other animals, but that we tend to overlook: insects. Some of these are captured here in startling clarity by photographer Levon Biss (pictured below), as part of his project Extinct and Endangered: Insects in peril.
Biss created 40 vivid portraits of endangered and extinct insect species by combining thousands of shots of specimens from the American Museum of Natural History, New York. He used a photo-stacking technique in which the images, captured via microscope objective lenses on a bespoke photo rig (shown above), are brought together to produce final artworks with extreme levels of detail. The images are currently on display at the museum and feature in a book that shares the project’s name.
The image above shows a nine-spotted ladybird, numbers of which have been mysteriously declining since the 1980s, and a giant Patagonian bumblebee (pictured below).
The only bumblebee native to southern regions of South America, it has suffered from the introduction of domesticated European bumblebees to pollinate crops.
The image above shows the now-extinct Rocky Mountain locust, as well as a raspa silk moth (main image) and a lesser wasp moth (pictured below), both of which are threatened.
Biss says the decline in insect populations is alarming. “Insects provide the foundation of many ecosystems and if critical numbers are lost, then the knock-on effect is immediate and serious.”
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