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Posted: Tuesday 3rd July 2018 by bbowtblog

caddis fly larvaCased caddis fly larva by Charles Linton

"whether it is the first bird you hear calling in a day, the first poppy you see in the summer, or the first of a species you see in your life, I hope none of these are taken for granted"

CharlesWritten by Charles Linton

Volunteer Wildlife Trainee (Education), Berkshire

 

 

While walking through the woods at Woolley Firs Environmental Education Centre with a class of 4 year olds, one girl stopped to look at a caterpillar crawling along next to the path. She pointed it out and said that it was the first caterpillar she had ever seen in her entire life!

It made me a little jealous. Seeing a caterpillar is always wonderful, but I sadly don’t remember the excitement of seeing my first one.

I do, however, remember my first caddis fly larva because I saw one for the first time earlier this year. Having not previously had much experience of pond or river work, I always enjoy chances to go pond dipping.

It was with one school who were visiting the Nature Discovery Centre for a ‘Water Worlds’ day that I saw my first one. The children were conducting 'kick samples' in the stream and eagerly searching in their white trays to see what they had found: lots of midge larvae, water hoglice, damselfly and dragonfly nymphs, and one curious crawling cluster of stones...

cased caddis fly larva

I recognised it from ID guides, but almost didn’t believe it was a cased caddis fly larva, because I’d not seen one before. The children were highly intrigued by these little creatures (it's hard not to be), but I think I might have been just as excited, if not more so.

We have since seen many more caddis fly larvae in the stream and the ponds at the Nature Discovery Centre, and they truly are amazing.

Caddis flies are related to moths and the adults have little hairs all over their wings (their scientific name, trichoptera, means hairy wings).

adult caddis fly

Their aquatic larvae have two forms - caseless and cased larvae.

Caseless caddis fly larvae, as their name implies, do not have cases. They are either carnivores, crawling around on the hunt for other creatures to eat, or detritivores who spin silk strands between rocks on the river/stream bed in which to catch floating decaying matter.

The cased forms, cleverly build a home by using silk to stick together material (stones, bits of twigs, leaves) around their body, creating their very own camouflaged shelter!

Although they are small, these larvae are industrious and are able to create amazing structures from the material they find in their habitat. (There are artists who have put cased caddis-fly larvae into tanks along with bead and gold pieces so the larvae form sparkling cases.)

cased caddis fly larva

The larvae are a sign of healthy water systems, so it is great to have them in the pond. I am glad to have seen them for the first time and every subsequent time.

In nature, there are many species you come by every day, others you don’t see so frequently. But whether it is the first bird you hear calling in a day, the first poppy you see in the summer, or the first of a species you see in your life, I hope none of these are taken for granted. And may your future bring many new personal firsts to discover and get excited about!  

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Have a go at pond dipping and see what you can find

 

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