06/10/2014 06:20 pm ET Updated Jun 10, 2014

How Are They Keeping Rats Off Kara Walker’s Sugar Sculptures?

Andrew Burton via Getty Images

Kara Walker’s 75-foot-long, 35-foot-tall sculpture made of 160,000 pounds of sugar rests in the expansive, soon-to-be-razed Domino Sugar Refinery, surrounded by 15 five-foot-tall statues of boys coated in molasses and brown sugar. The rafters are still encrusted with the sweet crystal, and molasses sticks to the walls, slowly dribbling down to the floor. Of all the questions asked of the gleaming sphinx, from the intricacies of the artist’s message to the systems of labor behind its crafting, the most practical one is perhaps also the most mysterious: Where are all the sugar-seeking pests?

The towering sphinx is made of sugar and water churned in a cement mixer to produce a gooey adhesive that sticks to a styrofoam core, with no additional coating to preserve it. The sculptures are also left uncovered overnight, as one volunteer told Hyperallergic, and the team did not spray insecticides on the works or on the surrounding ground. The lack of pests, then, seems to stem more from the factory’s status as a construction site.