Art made of Aedeagus

Well, sort of. An artist down under has created an exhibit of insect penises.  (Or, to use the proper name for insect intromittent organs, aedeagi.)

"Dr Freud could not have conjured a more disturbing fantasy. Yet all these male members are real. These are insect penises – magnified, modelled, photographed or rendered in glass and resin.

Creepy, beautiful and seemingly wildly impractical for the job, their diversity suggests that sometimes, Dr Freud, a cigar is most definitely not just a cigar.

All have been created by Sydney artist Maria Fernanda Cardoso….Cardoso is also creating what she calls her Museum of Copulatory Organs – or MoCO – for the Sydney Biennale this year. 

photo of artistI love it when art and science meet up! You can see a gallery of Cardoso's sculpures on her website.

If you aren’t an entomologist, you may not understand our obsession with genitalia. It's not because we are all pervs.   Or perhaps more accurately, it's not just because we are all pervs.   Insects made us interested in gonads.

There are lots of very similar looking insects.  Sometimes the only way to tell similar looking insects apart is to look at the naughty bits.  Because species are defined by reproductive isolation, similar looking outsides may hide radically different-looking innards.

For at least 100 years, entomologists have been hunched over insect nether parts, trying to figure out what species they were looking at. To make things more complex, male insect parts are stored inside the body. Since there is …..shrinkage….after death, the squidgy bits are commonly removed from specimens and stored in in tiny vials full of preservative.

The study of insect genitalia is so important, all sorts of devices have been invented and devised for just that purpose.  For example, the phalloblaster.  Some clever Aussies invented a device to…Err. Apply pressure in the proper spot?  This allows expansion of the male genitalia to see important details.

“The Phalloblaster inflates the genitalia with a stream of pressurised alcohol to create the same shape as when the insect was alive.” The alcohol dehydrates and hardens the structure, so that once the process is over the genetalia remain inflated rather like miniature balloons. It makes them easier to study.”

Of course, this device is properly called the vesica everter.  But who the hell would call it that when you can say PHALLOBLASTER?  Visit this page to see a post-mortem insect “erection” in action.

If you would like to look at more photos of bug dongs, you can check out this article on bumpy beetle penises


Bug_girl has a PhD in Entomology, and is a pointy-headed former academic living in Ohio. She is obsessed with insects, but otherwise perfectly normal. Really! If you want a daily stream of cool info about bugs, follow her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

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  1. One of my ham radio friends many years go studied insect genitalia by coating them with gold and imaging them with an electron microscope.  We all had to wonder why, and his particular interest was the telling one species from another reason.

  2. I want some jewelry! And thank you Bug Girl for making my Saturday work night a little more awesome.

  3. Aedeagus.   Cool word.    I could see it as the name of a death metal band or it would make an excellent epithet for Godzilla's latest rival (ie Godzilla vs Aedeagus).   You could just imagine what this creature's main weapon would be…

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