Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It's in the Bag



So, how cool is this!?
A caterpillar that carries his own silk spindle-shaped stocking, decorated with leaf clippings he’s gathered, easily overlooked amidst the oak branches. He moves deftly along, leaf by leaf, feeding and resting--ducking quickly inside and closing the opening if disturbed.


Bagworms are the larval stage of a generally unseen moth, hanging in camouflaged houses – covered with everything from sticks and berries to needles and grains of sand.

Lacy black filigree against a pale white face peek out at me, and six grasping legs emerge from the safety of their shelter. The long, soft and tender wrinkled body behind stays within—only stretching to reach what he cannot grasp.











Soon he will fasten his stocking securely to the branch, tie down the opening and pupate. If male, he will emerge as a winged adult moth. The wingless females remain inside their silk enclosure, and after mating, leave eggs behind for spring.

Certainly, this little character, camped out on an oak branch stuffed neatly in a vase on my kitchen table wins this year’s “cool creature award.”
He’s definitely got it in the bag!

Thyridopteryx sp. on silk

Bagworm house of oak leaves


Thyridopteryx sp.
Can you see the bristles on his abdominal appendages?
They keep the bag from slipping off.


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22 comments:

Denise said...

How absolutely amazing! nature leaves us speechless at times.

KGMom said...

Oh that is cool. I love all your sneaky little photos--as though you and said bagworm are playing "now you see me, now you don't"!

Lynne said...

JEEZ Nina! How do you spot these things? The complexity and diversity of life astounds me.

Wren said...

Amazing - I've seen bagworms before, but none with such an elaborate disguise. Very cool photos.

Mary said...

Nina - you are incredible. To be there, to notice, like clockwork!

Do I remember that you work in a library? You should be a field trip leader instead.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Great photos of the bag worm. I just hate how they eat up my spruce trees. I have never seen them on anything other than a pine or spruce. Very interesting.

Pam said...

Nina you are amazing. That little creature is something else - a bug fashion statement in fact! So interesting!

zhakee said...

Wow, what an interesting series of images. Reminds me of a caddis fly larvae.

Ruth said...

What an interesting set of pictures. I have never heard of this moth.

Pat - An Arkansas Stamper said...

You find the most amazingly wonderful things to photograph and describe. Thank you!

Susan Gets Native said...

Okay, you got me on that one. I don't think WE have that here!
We have those little guys who dangle from pine trees, covering themselves in tiny pine needles. And their name escapes me at the moment...

nina said...

That's them--and I've always walked right past--they've never been out putting on a show like this.

Maybe Isabelle can find one! :-)

Rambling Woods said...

Nina..you get the most amazing photos and I was tickled pink when I found a katydid today. Thank you for all the education that I am getting.

Reader Wil said...

Nina, how interesting and how patiently you must have been watching the little guy making his house. Thank you for showing this!

nina said...

Many times when I find something on my walk, I try to bring it "home" with me. The lighting in the middle of the day is too harsh for clear photos and often they "clam up" while I'm standing there.
A piece of their host plant usually does pretty well for a day or 2 in a small vase. And, most are content to stay right on their twig as long as it says fresh.
That way, I get far more chances to capture them in action. And learn much more in the process!

nonizamboni said...

Absolutely amazing chronicle of this miracle! I wonder how many times I've walked right past this 'bunch of leaves & sticks'-wow!
Thanks for sharing.

Robin Easton said...

This is absolutely ingenious, brilliant and intelligent. What great a disguise and protection. Nature is absolutely astounding. If we open our eyes we will see things that are so far beyond any Star Wars creatures that it would blow our minds. We would also realize the intelligence of other species. We would honor and respect their highly sophisticated survival skills. And we would begin to question if humans really are the most intelligent species on Earth….or if perhaps ALL life is highly intelligent. Great….no, amazing photos and post!!!

lavinka said...

Poor plant....

Kathiesbirds said...

Nina, this is all so new to me. I did not know about these worms. How amazing! And you documented it all scientifically while bringing out the beauty and poetry with your words.

Julie Zickefoose said...

I like the knitted cuff around the top of his sleeve.

That's a great tip about bringing creatures home on their host plant for better photo ops. So many times when I'm afield I have only my long lens so must back far off. I can get pretty good results, but nothing like you can when you bring things home. And I can see you taking them back to just the right host plant when their modeling is finished.

I've never seen a bagworm on an oak. Thanks for that. I'll be watching now. I trust you have that classic, Caterpillars of Eastern North America by David L. Wagner?

Sparverius said...

Very cool series of images! I love it.

nina said...

Rambling woods--yay for your katydid! A summer would not be complete without them.

Julie--I took him back outside at just the right time, actually. He was cruising more than usual, and I was afraid that if I left him indoors, he'd attach himself to my refrigerator for the winter while I was at work.
The branch was empty when I arrived home--and I didn't see him on the tree anywhere.

I've not seen that caterpillar guide, though I know BugGuide.net references it a lot. I'll keep my eyes open for it.