The Asian Ladybeetle: Embodying Kinship

22.10.2019 (Tue)
Leading: Bartosz Mroczkowski, Gabriela Karolczak

Our meeting with the Asian ladybug (Harmonia axyridis) took place on 22 October 2019 at 5:00 p.m. in Arsenał Municipal Gallery. Together with a group of women who took part in the workshops, we attempted to come into contact with the newly arrived insect, whose presence was first recorded in Poland in Wielkopolska in 2006. The Asian ladybug was first artificially introduced in Europe in the twentieth century. The species was used as a biological weapon against aphids. However, the initial enthusiasm associated with using the ladybug in farming quickly gave way to anxiety. The Asian ladybug successfully controlled aphids, but the population of the ladybug quickly increased, influencing how the insect moved between ecosystems. Because of this, the non-human and non-native other has gained the status of an “invasive species,” i.e. one whose presence may negatively affect local fauna. The Asian ladybug varies greatly in color, especially as regards the number of spots on the elytra and the color of the elytra itself (yellow, orange, red, black). People are afraid of the new species because it often invades homes to prepare for overwintering. Asian ladybugs gather together in groups in various narrow and warm places, such as, for example, the gaps around the windows. The internet is full of stories about the alleged dangers associated with coming into contact with the insect, especially when it bites someone.

During the workshop, we first explored the area during the time when the insect was preparing for hibernation, i.e. at the turn of September and October. Walking around Poznań, we were looking for the possible dwelling places of the Asian ladybug in order to learn about the ecosystem in which this beetle lives and understand how the ladybird functions. We found and documented Asian ladybugs gathered together in groups and thus created visual materials that we later used during the workshop. Using Donna Haraway’s notion of kinship,1 we tried to embody within ourselves the beetle that has recently moved to live with us in Poznań. According to Haraway, kinship is not only based on blood ties, or genetic affinity, but it also refers to relations between various species which co-exist. In this context, Haraway very often uses the example of a bond between humans and dogs, i.e. species that have significantly transformed in relation with one another over the course of time. Inspired by Haraway, we wanted to make kin with the Asian ladybug.

The goal of the workshops at Arsenał Municipal Gallery was to intensify the bodily sensation of the presence of the non-human other in the urban ecosystem. Thus, the event was meant to allow participants to consciously enter into relations with the newly arrived beetle. Using visual and textual materials, techniques for expanding bodily awareness and a special performative object, we took the first steps to make kin with the Asian ladybug. We started the workshop with the presentation of recordings and photos taken during the research trip in Poznań. We analyzed the visual materials together, which helped us understand, and thus embody, the movements and the physiology of the Asian ladybug. We also analyzed the discourses which surround the relations between the newly arrived beetle and humans in order to understand the problems related to the concept of biodiversity. We learned about the narratives which talk about the problems associated with the coexistence of human and non-human species2 and the possible solutions which are not limited to the thoughtless extermination of the other.3

During and as part of the workshop, we also created a performative object, which we jokingly called a “ladybug simulator” or a “ladybeetle simulator.” The colors of the device were the colors of the Asian ladybug. In the back wall of the “simulator” there was a gap through which light shone inside. On the opposite side, there was a hole with a fabric flap for your head to go through. The performative object was supposed to allow people to experience how the Asian ladybug moves and functions. Once you put your head inside, you could actually experience the sensations associated with winter hibernation, such as warmth, silence, limited exposure to sunlight, and the cosines of a narrow gap.

During the workshop, we also used practices aimed at increasing bodily awareness and mindfulness in movement. We explored breathing techniques that help you feel the movements of the rib cage. We combined these techniques with visualizations, imagining that additional limbs grow out of the rib cage. It helped us better understand how the ladybug moves, considering that it has three pairs of legs. Then, we practiced initiating movement of the arms from the shoulder blade in order to embody how the beetle moves its wings hidden under the elytra.4 We also explored the method of evolutionary movement which enabled us to explore ranges of motion typical for various stages of evolution. Thus, we were able to experience the relationships between various types of corporeality, including reptilian, insect, mammalian and botanical corporeality. The techniques, methods, and activities that we explored during the workshop made us aware of the importance of interspecies relationships, conceived of as kinship, and inscribed in the concept of biodiversity.

[1] D. Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, Duke University Press Books, Durham 2016.

[2], [dostęp: 14.11.2019].

[3] [dostęp: 14.11.2019].

[4] [dostęp: 15.11.2019].