Ten Thousand Beautiful Bugs in Your Eyes

New UT entomology project provides stunning public domain images

Wait, is this a bumblebee?
No, it's a moth that mimics bumblebees.
Wait, is this a bumblebee?
No, it's a moth that mimics bumblebees. (Public domain photo by Christopher Johnson)

We know, we know: Seems like everything’s for sale nowadays, everything’s got a goddamn price on its head, right? Nothing under the sun is open and free for the people, especially in these recently benighted, extreme-capitalism times?

Well, no. That’s not completely true.

It’s not completely true – and that’s due, in part, to the new Insects Unlocked project from the University of Texas at Austin.

You know those amazing photographs of insects and other arthropods that you see sometimes? The perfectly focused, extreme close-ups you’ve seen on, like, a National Geographic special on TV, or in a magazine somewhere, or almost anywhere on the interwebs – but maybe especially on Flickr and Tumblr and other such sites that have so rakishly disemvoweled their final “e” …?

Those images are amazing, aren’t they? Downright mind-blowing, even, some of them. And now such images – hundreds and hundreds of expert-level photographs of the arthropod world, taken by research scientists at student or professorial level – those images are available, gratis, for your viewing enjoyment … but also available for whatever the hell you want to use them for.

No, seriously.

I checked with Alex Wild, world-class photographer and also UT Austin’s curator of entomology, the instigator of the project, and he confirmed this. All the images are in the public domain. Anyone can use them free-of-charge. Hell, even for-profit corporations can use – and are using – them free of charge.

(You want to learn more about this in person? There’s a public unveiling for the project this Thursday night at the Brackenridge Field Laboratory on Lake Austin Boulevard, where UT’s Alejandro Santillana will let you know what’s what in the world of entomological imagery.)

See, citizen? It’s not always a bug-eat-bug world out there, is it?

To be sure, there really isn’t any such thing as a free lunch. And so the microphotography imaging system now used for the Insects Unlocked project was paid for via crowdsourcing – a UT-specific Kickstarter sort of platform called Hornraiser – and didn’t just materialize ex nihilo one fine afternoon.

But the crowdsourcing was successful; and now there’s the equipment; and here come all those vivid images. And if that’s the sort of thing you’d like to spend time perusing – or especially if it’s your sort of thing to use them in educational presentations, or to take such visuals and design compelling variations and permutations thereof (what we call “artwork,” right?) – then, well, we’ve happily done our journo part in telling you about this project.

And we look forward to seeing what wonders you might create in the years ahead.

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Insects Unlocked, Alex Wild, UT Insect Collection, Hornraiser, Alejandro Santillana

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