Nautilus

Manhattan’s God of Insects

The corpse-colored door hides in plain sight among SoHo’s posh boutiques. I pass by it at first, missing the “107 Spring” address plaque in tarnished brass. Peering at the buzzer to verify the tenants, I spot the name Stevens. Written below in all caps and in Baskerville font, I spot the word entomology.

Through the safety glass, a dark lanky figure appears at the top of a steep staircase. As he comes closer, I can see he’s wearing camouflage cargo shorts, an octopus-emblazoned T-shirt, and strappy hiking sandals. This is Lawrence Forcella, or Lorenzo, who has invited me to this sequestered spot in Lower Manhattan. His stylishly bald head, beard, fat silver earrings, and charisma evoke a modern-day genie—an apropos reference given his daily feats. I say this because after he greets me, we go upstairs to the 400-square-foot room where Lorenzo and a handful of artisans breathe life into dead bugs.

moth mosaic: Lawrence Forcella considers this 40” X 40” display one of his finest works.Courtesy of Lawrence Forcella

“We process thousands of insects a year,” he says as we walk past giant shadowboxes  filled with “alive-ish” specimens in the former apartment. This shrine to biodiversity has an inherent ick factor. Gentle taxidermists—insect morticians who unfurl the insects’ wings and reposition feeble antennae as if to gain clearer radio reception—display butterflies, centipedes, and katydids. In one day they get more intimate with exoskeletal body bits than you and I would in a lifetime.

The department is owned by, and catty-corner to, the Evolution Store—a Victorian naturalist’s Shangri-La. Want to buy a fly’s life cycle suspended in resin? No problem. In need of an African penis gourd? Pick a size. The clientele ranges from magazine photographers and preppy 8-year-olds spending birthday money on a human skull to Japanese businessmen brusquely pointing at bugs and purchasing the entire lot. And if Lorenzo oversees his team well, nature enthusiasts like filmmaker James Cameron will shell

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