No Building Permit Required

 

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.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Spring, On The Wing

A Halloween pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) clasps the tip of a plant known as rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium) on the Nash prairie

 

Today I saw the dragon-fly
Come from the wells where he did lie.
An inner impulse rent the veil
Of his old husk: from head to tail
Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.
He dried his wings: like gauze they grew;
Thro’ crofts and pastures wet with dew
A living flash of light he flew.
                                “The Dragon-Fly” ~ Alfred Lord Tennyson (1833)

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

A Close Encounter Of The Lady Bug Kind

Spotless Lady Beetle (Cycloneda sanguinea)

Even as I puddled along at twenty miles an hour, the tiny spot of red, shining in the midst of a landscape turned sere by time and frost, compelled my attention.

Assuming I’d come across a last flower of summer, I stopped and walked across the ditch, where I discovered not a flower, but an insect commonly known as a lady bug. Both spotless and shy, he seemed unwilling to pose for a portrait, and scurried into the depths of the plant on which I’d found him.

For ten minutes we played hide-and-seek, until he emerged onto a leaf for a bit of a rest.

Then, he was off again. Why he preferred running to flying I don’t know, but he was both speedy and determined: never pausing again as long as I watched.

At last, turning to face me before one last run for cover, he showed off the markings that identified him as a male (a white cleft above the head and a white face), then disappeared.

Despite years of lady bug watching, collecting, admiring, and enjoying, I never had looked beyond their colorful wing covers. Next time, given better photographic skills or a more cooperative lady beetle, I may achieve a crisper image. But for now, I have a face to put with that distinctive red body, and it’s a face that even a human can love.

 

Comments always are welcome.