The clothes designed as a lifeline for flying visitors to our gardens

Neil Jones neil at
Wed Mar 2 05:24:09 EST 2011

  The clothes designed as a lifeline for flying visitors to our gardens

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YOU might usually wear clothing to keep insects away from you in summer.

But one Welsh academic has designed a range of garments specifically 
designed to attract bees and butterflies.

Dr Karen Ingham of Swansea Metropolitan University aims to highlight the 
plight of bees, butterflies and moths which are in decline in Wales and 
across the world with her Pollinator Frocks range.

Each item of her clothing is covered with prints of petals and pollen 
which have been enhanced by a microscope and coated with an iridescent 
sheen -- replicating the way that insects would view the flowers.

The fabrics have also been treated with substances which imitate nectars 
such as sucrose, fructose and xantham gum.

Dr Ingham said her eco-fashion attracts some of the world's most 
endangered pollinators including the marsh fritillary butterfly, which 
has become extinct over much of its former range.

Wales holds about 50% of the surviving populations in the UK.

Current estimates suggest that there are about 190 populations in Wales, 
108 in England, 10 in Northern Ireland and about 50 in Scotland.

Dr Ingham, an artist and a reader in art, science and technology 
interactions, said: "While the dire predicament of the world's bees has 
been widely publicised, the situation facing other pollinating insects 
is not as well known.

"Pollinators play a vital role in food production and are tied to the 
health and biodiversity of our flora.

"As these insects disappear, so do the dependent plants, meadows and 
landscapes which they pollinate.

"The marsh fritillary is critically endangered worldwide because the 
wildflowers the caterpillars feed on, devil's bit scabious, have largely 
disappeared because of intensive farming, pesticides and development.

"But West Wales is a haven for them."

Food sources required by the fritillary -- knapweed, thistles, 
dandelion, and ragged robin -- are also in rapid decline generally.

"The marsh fritillary represents the kind of problems faced by most of 
the world's insect pollinators and this is illustrated in the Fritillary 
Frock," Dr Ingham said.

"I want to show how pollinators rely on plants and how the plants rely 
on them.

"For the first time in the world's history more people are living in 
cities than in rural areas

"I have made these clothes to encourage urban, fashion-conscious young 
people who may not have much engagement with the countryside to find out 
about the pollination problems.

"I want to raise public awareness with clothing that merges art, science 
and technology."

She said intensively mowing lawns has a detrimental effect on bees, 
hover flies and butterflies and is the basis of her Daywear for 
Butterflies frock.

"The best way to help the pollinators is to protect their natural 
habitats and to radically reconsider the way we design and utilise our 
urban spaces to allow feeding and habitat corridors," she said.

"Some people have made out the dresses will encourage swarms of bees but 
that is not the case. A bee landing on one and stinging someone is no 
more likely than if they landed on any floral dress," she claimed.

Pollinator Frocks have been tested in New Zealand's Pukekura Botanic 
Parklands and Dr Ingham is to showcase a dozen of them at the National 
Botanic Garden of Wales in Carmarthenshire, this summer.

She said a limited collection of the frocks will be sold on Ebay -- with 
10% of profits going to charities including Plantlife.

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