28 July 2005

Bagworm in the wind

I came upon this creature today during my usual after lunch walk and luckily I had my camera with me. It was suspended from a young sycamore tree, blowing back and forth in the wind attached to an almost invisible silk thread.

It is the caterpillar of a bagworm moth (Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis). After one of these caterpillars hatches in the spring, it builds itself a case from bits and pieces of leaves and twigs attached together with the silk it produces. It then carries its case with it as it moves around feeding on tree leaves. It eventually pupates inside the case. While the males are small winged moths, the females are wingless, legless and wormlike.

They are quite fascinating creatures. Disappointingly, however, almost all the information I could locate about them on the Internet was more or less about how destructive the caterpillars are to trees. Is that all the entomologists care about?

Even assuming that a given species is a major consumer of an important crop, can we be sure it is worth controlling, both in terms of dollars and in terms of insecticidal pollution of the environment? What price for an apple perfect in every detail, a back yard wholly free of mosquitos? ... I am as much in favor of alleviating hunger and sickness as anyone else. But I do think we are much too ready to tack the label "pest" on almost any insect that comes along.

Howard Ensign Evans, Life on a Little-Known Planet, 1968.

There are more pictures of bagworms at BugGuide.Net.


h0g said...

Hi there,

Came across your blog today and really enjoyed reading it. I really like your pictures and also the way you use maps and diagrams.

Your interest in insect life reminds my of my father who recently passed away. I remember one project of his where he photographed ants in the most amazing detail. He was fascinated by insect life (amongst many other things.)

Have a great day, Pete.

soul searcher said...

quite stunning. most people don't recognize the "little things" in nature like this as they rush on their way to work. this insect looks so different from us that it seems like an extraterrestial.

daisies song said...

i have been tracking the growth of my flowers in the yard and in a lot of my close ups of flowers i tried to get the insects in them, if you are curious what i have taken, email me pumpkinjac1@conknet.com and i will be glad to share them

Anonymous said...

Okay, yeah. It's kinda a cool worm. I might like it more if bagworms weren't responsible for killing three full grown black walnut trees in my back yard in a single season, as well as killing and severely damaging several other trees. I'm just as glad I don't see them that often.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I love the bagworm. It is indeed fascinating. They construct this wonderful protection and set about doing their job.
As for them ruining precious resources... I'm sure the human population is doing a far greater job at that and who is to say it isn't time for the trees and plants they damage to die? Nature works well with the circle of life as long as we keep our hands off!

Thanks for cheering natural.