While visiting the Attwater Prairie Chicken Refuge, I found this bit of complexity at the intersection of two trails.
Lincoln Logs hadn’t come to mind in years, but that’s exactly what the construction resembled: an oddly designed but well-built home made of tiny logs. In fact, it is a home: one belonging to a member of the Psychidae, or bagworm family.
Bagworm moth caterpillars weave silk cocoons around themselves, and then reinforce the silk with bits of twigs, leaves, or stems. The construction materials determine the final appearance of the houses, which also are called ‘cases.’
Bagworm moth cases can be attached nearly anywhere; this one dangled from a substantial sunflower stalk. Oddly, the cases more closely resemble RVs than suburban homes; the caterpillars are mobile, carrying the case with them as they hunt for food. They feed from a hole in the top of the case, and expel waste from a smaller hole in its bottom.
Growing bagworms expand their home by adding more twigs, leaves, or stems. Emerging from the top of the case to collect building material, they cut it to size before attaching it to the top of the case.
Both males and females spend most of their lives living inside their cases as caterpillars. After pupation, females remain in the case, while males leave to seek females with which to mate. After mating, females lay their eggs in the old bag. Once the larvae have hatched, they leave the case, seeking a suitable spot to build their own home.
Whether Einstein ever found himself contemplating a bagworm case, I can’t say, but his words ring true as I contemplate this one:
The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.