From Wired, by Erin Biba:
On The Simpsons, the effects of nuclear contamination are conspicuous and comedic. In nature, though, they’re often subtle — and sometimes strangely beautiful. Scientific illustrator Cornelia Hesse-Honegger details these minute mutations in the so-called true bugs she collects near nuclear facilities and areas of chemical contamination. True bugs don’t travel far, and they “suck the liquid from the plants they live on,” she says. “So if the plant is contaminated, they take a lot of radioactivity into their bodies.”
Conventional wisdom holds that nuclear power stations don’t leak enough radiation to create malformed organisms. But in some locations, Hesse-Honegger discovered mutations — curtailed feelers, misshapen legs, asymmetrical wings — in as many as 30 percent of the bugs she gathered. That’s 10 times the overall rate of about 3 percent for insects found in the wild. “For me, the mutated bugs were like prototypes of a future nature,” she says. A selection of Hesse-Honegger’s work will be shown this fall in Berlin.
Latin name: Panorpidae
Painted: Zürich, Switzerland
Frame size: 42 x 29.7 cm
Year painted: 1988
Technique: Water color
Both wings on the right side of this scorpionfly are deformed, and its abdomen is blown up. This scorpionfly is from Reuental, Canton Aargau, near the Leibstadt Nuclear Power Plant.