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Artist's tricked-out 'cybugs' creating a buzz

Artist Mike Libby customizes real insect specimens with antique watch parts and other technological components to make a statement about the confluence of nature and tech.

butterfly with gears
Mike Libby

For insect-phobes, the only thing scarier than a big, hairy tarantula would be a big, hairy tarantula tricked out with brass gears and looking like it had crawled straight out of a sci-fi horror fest. But rest assured, this spider won't bite--or crawl over your face in the middle of the night. Nor will any of Mike Libby's other cybugs.

Libby, a Portland, Maine, artist, customizes real insect specimens with antique watch parts and other technological components, and the results are generally more cool than creepy. He has shown his work around the country, most recently at the Smithsonian Craft Show in Washington, D.C., which ended Sunday.

The artist, who holds a degree in sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design, says his Insect Lab began after he found a dead, intact beetle. He thought the bug looked and operated like a little mechanical device, and decided to combine the two in a statement about the similarities and contradictions between nature and technology.

Libby works with the range of creepy crawlers--beetles, spiders, butterflies, bees, grasshoppers. When he doesn't find them nearby, he gets his "safe, non-endangered" insects from around the world, including Africa, China, New Guinea, and Brazil.

If you're not too terrified of creatures with antennae and stingers, click through the gallery below to see some of Libby's insect innovations.