Bagworm

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Whatever is a bag worm, do I hear you enquire?  Indeed, I didn't know myself (despite having often seen them ) until quite recently when I discovered one of these interesting creatures dragging its home laboriously behind itself across our gravelly path.  Fascinated,  I watched its action as it ventured, half out of its cocoon,  to grab the next couple of stones with its strong front legs,  and then with the rest of its body pull its twig-decorated shelter behind it.

Saunders Case Moths (Metura elongatus) for that is their real name, spend most of their lives in these cleverly constructed cocoons.  Even mating takes place (with difficulty) inside the cocoon.

The caterpillars can 'extend' their homes as they grow bigger themselves, by adding twigs woven in with their own silk, an onerous task. They move around by using three pairs of legs to pull themselves and their cocoon along.  It's a very slow process. When they are ready to pupate, they attach themselves to a handy tree or post  by silk threads, as shown in my first photo.

The female,  who lives all her life in her cocoon ( no emancipation in this species) lays many eggs and dies within the case. She doesn’t develop wings.

The male moths, however, emerge from their cocoons in orange and black suits complete with wings, ready to search for a mate and begin the cycle all over again.

Until recently, a metal power pole on a roundabout in our town hosted scores of these case moths or bagworms.  It seems they were very appreciative of the plants growing below, which rapidly showed signs of ill-health thanks to the caterpillars’ ministrations. After the moths departed, the cases hung and swayed in the breezes, slowly disintegrating over time, their occupants long gone.

 

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Because I know so little about these creatures, I resorted to an information sheet from the Queensland Government to fill in some of the details.

32 thoughts on “Bagworm

  1. Wow! That’s a bit like the caddisfly that builds little homes out of whatever is available. I used to see their little floating “houses” in our pond.

  2. I’d heard of them but I’ve never seen a photo. Their story is fascinating, although I can’t say I’m sorry there aren’t any here. The photos made me think of caterpillars wearing Halloween costumes – scary!

    • Luckily they don’t cause any damage in my garden, Kris, although they may do in large numbers. The only time I’ve ever seen a lot of them is on that power pole.

  3. Quite the most elaborate camouflage project. We have here too and i count myself lucky to find them as they blend so well into their surrounds.

  4. My goodness, what an incredible creature – such camouflage! I take it they are not a threat to your brassica crop? I used to love looking for caddisfly larvae in streams with our children when they were little but I think your bagworm would have trumped the lot, much bigger and so fascinating.

    • Hi Lis, I don’t really know what they eat, but nothing has eaten my broccoli. I suppose if there were enough of them they might be a problem, but I’ve only seen the two I’ve photographed in my garden.

  5. Surely this qualifies as another weird creepy australian thingy ……
    Bonnie the american living in provence

    • Strange, Bonnie, but not so creepy. It’s quite harmless, and as I’ve only seen a couple in the garden, not injurious to plant life. Yet.

    • Oh, perhaps I should have been more specific. Or does that mean excellent camouflage? I found it quite a fascinating creature.

  6. Hi Jane

    I am in Australia with Andy and 2 friends and we are in Tamworth now, Thurs 11 Oct 1140, it would be lovely to say hello in person if you are around this afternoon….we would be near Mudgee at around about 1500 today…just a longshot but you never know! Contact mobile number is 0481354693….

    Very best
    Alison

    • What a shame we couldn’t quite make that connection Alison, but at least we had a quick chat! Enjoy the rest of your Aussie holiday!

  7. GREAT POST! I don’t have a problem with these critters now, but many years ago they would get on grandpas Junipers. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Lonnie, I think the plants that the bag worms on the metal pole munched were a kind of conifer. Perhaps that’s their favourite. Thanks for the follow btw.

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