Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

Mechanical Jewels, Clockwork Insects

I’m a huge fan of artistic expressions which gets inspiration from the natural world, which is why I was absolutely floored by these beautiful clockwork insects created at Insect Lab by Mike Libby. These clocks are made from actual dead bugs; tiny clockwork gears and spings are worked around the shiny carapaces of beetles, the furry exoskeletons of tarantulae, and the delicate wings of butterflies.


The inspiration for creating these tiny frankenbugs came when Mike found a dead intact beetle one day. After locating an old wristwatch, and thinking about the simplistic, precise movements of both clock and beetle, he decided to combine the two.

After some time dissecting the beetle and outfitting it with watch parts and gears, I had a convincing little cybernetic sculpture. I soon made many more with other found insects and have been exploring and developing the theme ever since.

The insects come from all over the world, from dead bug dealers, as well as personally collected by the artist. He also accepts commissions where people give him their own found bugs. The clockwork parts come from antique pocketwatches and wristwatches, and he also uses electrical components from olf circuitboards. All comes from outdated or “dead” technology. Take note that these are pieces of art and not everyday watches; they are meant to be displayed in cases. They are suprisingly cheap considering the time and attention to detail required to create them.

Check out more pictures of his work under the fold….

i-55ebba2ab9935b65016639317df896f8-cicada clockwork.jpg

i-943c9ed528ca2b0718d6c45630a9caca-clockwork butterfly.jpg

i-443cd919b80b77d6a2e984a25671ed37-bug 3.jpg

Hat tip darkman.


  1. #1 Homie Bear
    October 27, 2007

    Wow those are amazing and beautiful. I wonder how my wife would like one for Christmas? Probably not so much!
    One of the other sci-bloggers, I forget which now, posted a few weeks ago about dragonflies that may or may not be robotic spies created by the CIA. Seems more plausible now!

  2. #2 Coturnix
    October 27, 2007

    So, if you find one of these in a field one day, what are you supposed to think about the Blind Watchmaker? That He likes to mix simple mechanical gears with the complex organic structures?

  3. #3 Ichthyic
    October 28, 2007

    I have a friend who is quite the beetle enthusiast, and I was thinking what a great gift this would be, but balked at the prices; some upwards of a thousand bucks!

    very nice, but, ouch!

  4. #4 Shelley Batts
    October 28, 2007

    Hmm, the ones I saw were more like $250 range, so there are some cheaper ones. Not that that is *cheap,* but considering the time it must take to fix and glue all those little gears….

  5. #5 Bram R
    October 29, 2007

    I have a book to recommend. It’s sort of a coffee-table book, so it can be just flipped through:

    The Museum at Purgatory, by Nick Bantock

    Same guy who wrote Griffin & Sabine.

  6. #6 The Flying Trilobite
    November 3, 2007

    In my undergraduate-ish semi-professional fine artist’s opinion, I will say that these pieces are a post-modern derivative relating to, but not intentionally referencing the social consciousness space pregnant with FRICKIN’ AWESOME.

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