Pandora Box Series

The Pandora Box Series looks at invasive, threatened, declining and interesting species of animals both large and small. See more details of these pieces on Susan’s Instagram page.

“Pandora Box – Honey Locust Tree”

The Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) is a deciduous tree in the family Fabaceae. It is native to North America and grows mostly in the moist soil of river valleys. The development of thorn-less cultivars (Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis) has resulted in its present use as nursery trees, which are now considered weed trees, particularly in the U.S. midwest. Having been planted worldwide it is considered an aggressive invasive species.

The Honey Locust legume seed pods house edible pulp, which was used as food and in traditional medicine by Native Americans. It can also be used to make tea. In the past the hard thorns of younger trees were used as nails and the dense rot-resistant wood was used to fashion treenails for shipbuilding. It is thought that the thorns evolved to resist browsing by Pleistocene megafauna. There are several insects that carry the tree’s name. Two in particular are the 1/8” green honey locust plant bug (Diaphnocoris chlorionis) which is found only on the honey locust and the honeylocust borer (Agrilus difficilis), of the metallic jewel beetle species.

“Pandora Box: Honey Locust Tree (Gleditsia triacanthos), 49.5” x 48” with frame (interior 47” x 45.5”). Tapestry woven tunic and insects, wooden frame construction, drawing & painting. Materials: black walnut hand dyed linen, rami, hemp and wool, silk covered stainless steel, rayon, silk, pine lumber, acrylic paints, conservation sprayed thorns and branches of the honey locust, and Velcro.

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Pandora Box – Black-billed Gull

The Black-billed Gull is a species of gull in the Laridae family also known as, Buller’s Gull or tarapuka (Maori)-endangered. It is only found in New Zealand, mostly on inland, freshwater, braided rivers and lakes. It frequents the coast only in winter. Because of the rapid decline in numbers, over three generations and mostly due to predation by introduced mammals, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has rated the species as “Endangered.”  Changes in habitat and the use of pesticides and herbicides also contribute to the species’ decline, which is estimated to be near 80%. The New Zealand Department of Conservation listed the gull as Nationally Critical in 2013. It is the most threatened, and rarest, gull species in the world. 

“Pandora Box: Black-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus bulleri),” 17” x 49.5” x 9,” Lid (hanging) – 15.5” x 48,” tapestry tunic 12” x 37,” folded as shown. Alpaca warp and weft, gull feathers, moth cocoon, found skulls. Hand-made pine wood box carved and stained. Hand-made hemp rope handles.

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Pandora Box – North American Porcupine – Danger Man

North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) is one of 58 species of porcupines. It ranges from northern Mexico, where it has been on the endangered list since 1994, through most of the U.S. and Canada, where it has been of least concern. However, in a few states, Maryland and Vermont, for example, attention has been given to its decline and it has been listed as a species in need of conservation. Man’s introduction of Fishers, the porcupine’s main predator, to control populations in lumbering areas is one of the primary concerns. By-products of this introduction have been a serious effect on the population of snow show rabbits in the north and a shift in the balance of the food chain.

Some interesting facts about the porcupine include:

  • They are largest native rodent other than the beaver. Size from 2 to 3 feet. Weight from 7 to 39 lbs.
  • An adult has about 30,000 quills that cover most of its body other than belly, face and feet.
  • The only native North American mammal with antibiotics in its skin that prevent infection when they are stuck with their own quills.
  • They, along with skunks and wolverines, are the only North American mammals colored black and white as a danger warning to others.
  • They have a strong odor generated by a patch of skin where modified quills broadcast the smell when agitated.
  • In winter, they eat mainly conifer needles and certain tree bark. In the Catskill Mountains, for example, for every 1000 trees they will eat from only one or two linden trees (their favorite food) and one big toothed aspen.

“Pandora Box – North American Porcupine – Danger Man,” Box – 42” x 24” x 6,” Tunic- 36” x 18” folded. Materials: Box- Poplar plywood, hickory pole, carved and stained, Tunic- kid mohair warp and weft, tapestry woven with approximately 4000 porcupine quills, added as woven.

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“Pandora Box – Japanese Beetle – Invasive”

The Japanese Beetle (Popillia japonica) is a serious pest that damages several hundred species of plants including trees, flowers and fruits. They eat the flesh of the leaf, leaving the veins, resulting in beautiful but destructive lace like leaves. First discovered in a nursery in Riverton, New Jersey in 1916, and believed to have arrived in a shipment of iris bulbs, they are now found in 30 states. Japanese Beetles are native to Japan where they do little damage due to control by native predators.

“Pandora Box – Japanese Beetle – Invasive,” 20” x 34.5” x 4.5” (closed), 24.5” x 20” x 34.5,” (open), 2018. Handmade Box: Davey board, Asahi book cloth, Bugra paper, gold leaf, handmade papers, plexi tube, velcro. Woven tapestry tunic: nettle family warp, nettle family yarn, silk, cotton & wool weft. Cotton lining. Three dimensional beetles: silk wrapped stainless steel, silk, cotton & wool weft. Bottom collage – gold & silver paper, book cover fiber, & tapestry.

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“Pandora Box – European Hornet – Invasive”

The European Hornet (Vespa crabro) is native to central and western Europe. In North America it was first found in New York in the mid 1800s. It has now spread to many states from Maine and southeast Canada to Louisiana and Florida and west to the Dakotas. Nests are typically located in a cavity such as a hollow tree or wall void, unlike the freely suspended football-shaped nests of native wasps. Unwarranted fear has led to the destruction of nests and to the decline of the species. In Germany the European Hornet has had legal protection since 1987.

“Pandora Box – European Hornet – Invasive,” 24” x 10.5” x 10.5” (closed), 24” x 31.5” x 10.5” (open), 2018. Tunic: tapestry woven, cotton warp, linen paper, hemp & ramie weft with supplemental warp hornets of silk wrapped stainless steel, wool, ramie weft with crochet ramie wings. Nest: linen paper spool made of ropes sewn together. Handmade box: Davey board, Iris book cloth, Canson papers, found wood, velcro.

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“Pandora Box – Blue Jay in Decline”

In the northeast, Blue Jays experienced a 25% decline between 1989 and 2013. The strongest losses followed the intense West Nile virus epidemics.  Since the virus was discovered more than 300 species of birds have been affected. Crows and Jays frequently die from the disease, other birds usually survive. Neurological signs of infected birds include loss of coordination, head tilt, tremors, weakness and lethargy. Most Corvids die within three weeks. There has been a recent rebound in the Jay population and some believe that they may now be immune. Their population is being monitored, but as it stands today, they are not eligible for a vulnerable classification and only remain stable.

“Pandora Box – Blue Jay In Decline,” 17” x 15” x 8” (closed), 20” x 40” x 17” (open), 2018. Tunic: wool warp, silk, cotton & wool weft, found blue jay feathers. Nest: chicken wire, ramie eggs & Corvid bird skull. Handmade box: Davey board, Asahi bookcloth, handmade papers, plexi rod, colored pencil drawing, velcro.

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“Pandora Box Series – 9 Spot Lady Bug”

The Nine Spotted Lady Bug is the official insect of New York state. Once plentiful, it has declined to the stage of rare. So rare in fact that a program was instituted to encourage children interested in insects to report sightings. The reasons for the decline are questioned, but certainly suggested that invasive lady bugs introduced by man from other regions and countries contribute to competition for habitat and food. Chemicals used in crop production and changing climates add to the struggle. Once so plentiful that all children knew a rhyme. Now we say,

Lady Bug, Lady Bug don’t fly away
Your numbers are decreasing day by day
We miss your presence and want you to stay
So we are planning and working to find a way
To increase your numbers day by day

“Pandora Box – 9 Spot Lady Bug.”

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“Pandora Box – American Burying Beetle”

The American Burying Beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) was added to the federal Endangered Species List in 1989 because it had declined so drastically in numbers and range. Historical records show that it once lived in 35 states. Natural populations now live in only four (Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nebraska and Rhode Island), but efforts to reintroduce the species have been undertaken in two additional states (Ohio, Massachusetts).  

Burying beetles are unusual in several ways. Both male and female take part in raising the young. Upon finding a carcass they move it to soft soil by lying on their backs and moving it with their feet. They then pluck and bury it and then mate. The female lays her eggs in an adjacent tunnel and when the larvae emerge the adults feed and tend the young until they crawl into the soil to pupate or develop. Average life span is twelve months.

It is believed that several changes have added to the near extinction of this beetle: widespread use of pesticides; smaller populations of their prey (small birds and mammals); changes in land use; the decline of large predators which open carrion to smaller scavengers; and even the extinction of the once plentiful passenger pigeons (which was the ideal sized prey for the American Burying Beetle). Carrion beetles are important in that they recycle carcasses and return nutrients to the soil, indicators of environmental health.

“Pandora Box – American Burying Beetle,” 13” x 13.5” x 20” (closed), 34” x 19” x 20” (open), 2019. Tunic: wool warp, alpaca, wool, silk & silk wrapped stainless steel weft. Cotton lining. Word banners: cotton warp, wool and ramie weft. Drawer contents: cut & folded brown paper. Tapestry woven beetles: silk wrapped stainless steel warp, wool and silk weft. Carcass: wool warp, alpaca weft. Bird skull. Handmade box: Davey board, Canson papers, Iris book cloth, black locust thorns.

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“Pandora Box – Beller’s Ground Beetle – Vulnerable”

Beller’s Ground Beetle (Agonum bellerii) thrives on floating, undisturbed vegetative mats in bogs, often including sundews (Drosera). They are historically known from approximately seven sphagnum bogs in northern Oregon, western Washington and southwestern British Colombia. Threats to this species include: habitat destruction and degradation from urban development; logging; water-level alteration; peat mining; pesticide application; and livestock grazing and trampling. The Beller’s Ground Beetle is short winged and flightless. Invertebrates living on sundews may be an important food resource, along with a diet of seeds and plant material.

“Beller’s Ground Beetle – Vulnerable,” 12.5” x 14” x 5″ (closed), 12.5” x 14” x 19” (open), 2019. Tunic: cotton warp, paper moiré, metallic yarn, silk wrapped stainless steel & wool weft. Cotton lining. Bog: cotton warp, paper moiré yarn & metallic ribbon edge. Sundew: silk wrapped stainless steel warp, nylon yarn weft & crystal beads. Beetles: silk wrapped stainless steel warp, metallic yarn & wool weft. Handmade box: Davey board, handmade paper, Asahi book cloth, plexi rod, Honey Locust thorns & velcro.

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Pandora Box – Carrion Beetles”

Carrion beetles provide an important service to our environment by removing and processing decaying carcasses and preventing infestation of fly larvae and disease. The American Burying Beetle is the largest of our native carrion beetles and the most endangered.

“Pandora Box Series – Carrion Beetles,” 24” x 18.25” x 6.5” (closed), 30.25” x 18.25” x 24.75” (open), 2019. Tunic: cotton warp, linen, wool, silk, metallic & novelty yarn weft. Insect tape: cotton warp, linen, wool, silk, metallic & novelty yarn weft. Handmade box: Davey board, handmade papers, nylon thread, plexi rod, Honey locust thorns, velcro & found skulls.

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“Pandora Box – Monarch Butterfly”

The Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is one of the most recognizable and well-studied butterflies in North America. They are seriously in decline because of several factors: habitat loss; climate change; farming practices; widespread use of pesticides; and genetically altered crops. All contribute to the lack of native plants upon which the Monarchs feed, Milkweed being the most important, as it allows the Monarch to be poisonous to predators. The Monarch wintering sites are also under threat because their preferred trees are harvested for lumber.

Monarchs must migrate every year because larval food plants only grow in the north but they cannot withstand freezing weather. They need to winter in milder climates. If they live east of the Rockies, they migrate to Mexico and hibernate in the Oyamel fir trees. If they live west of the Rockies they migrate to locations in and around Pacific Grove , California and hibernate in the eucalyptus trees. Amazingly, generation to generation, they use the very same trees each and every year. They exhibit the most highly evolved migration pattern of any know species of butterfly or moth and are the only insect that migrates 2,500 miles.

“Pandora Box – Monarch,” 27.5” x 21” x 5” (closed),60” x 5” (opened flat), 60” x 26” (opened with three units). Tunics: cotton warp, wool weft, cotton bias tape & small metal discs. Caterpillars: silk wrapped stainless steel warp, cotton wool & silk weft. Butterflies: silk wrapped stainless steel & rami warp, wool & silk weft. Milkweed pods: cotton & wool crochet with specialty yarn & metal seeds. Box: book board, book cloth, special papers, hickory thorns, Velcro, pencil drawings & braided cord.

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