Something about the previous post reminded me of a project by Elliott Malkin called Graffiti For Butterflies.
[Images: Graffiti For Butterflies by Elliott Malkin].
Graffiti For Butterflies attempts to “direct” monarch butterflies “along migratory routes in North America,” using “images of milkweed flowers to broadcast the location of food sources.”
Malkin applies sunblock to these images in order “to optimize the graffiti for butterfly vision.” He calls this Urban Interspecies Communication.
Overlooking the most basic question here – of whether or not this would actually work – the very idea that we might deliberately construct an alternative visual system inside our cities, legible only to other species, is totally fascinating. What devices of route-finding and navigation could we purposefully produce for non-humans?
Is there a burgeoning field of graphic design for other species? Post-human signage and symbology?
There are already olfactory labyrinths left behind by dogs, for instance, and there are accidental but extraordinarily complex sense-trails following us everywhere – from food scraps to automobile exhaust to whiffs of perfume on the subway – but what deliberate “graffiti,” otherwise undetectable by humans, could we create in order to help other species navigate the urban world?
Using special UV paints to mark artificial migration routes across the continent seems like an amazing way to begin the investigation.
6 thoughts on “Artificial Migration Routes for Monarch Butterflies”
Has Malkin considered what substituting a Butterfly Potemkin Village for real food might actually have on the well-being of the butterflies?
It seems to me that this type of activity could have serious unanticipated consequences.
This article reminded me of this story in Granta…
You can (with a little ingenuity) do this already – it always blew my mind that the human eye can see into the edge of the infrared if you filter out the rest of the visual spectrum, for example.
You can create IR visible graffiti, examine the complex bullseye patterns of flowers, and bask in a pink-tree’ed world.
And on the other side, people with artificial corneas can often see farther into the UV than the rest of us. Perhaps these signposts would not be completely unhuman after all.
You can (with a little ingenuity) do this already
Again and again in your articles I find the emphasis on 'imagine where this could lead' coupled with a generous overlooking of present-time impracticalities in the idea being discussed. It's really beautiful – and a nursery for new thinking. I always come out of bldgblog wider and more humorous than I went in.