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This Old House: Insect Edition

We have already established that humans are not the only animals with a flair for floral decoration (see Floral Decor is for the Birds...and Crabs), but our fellow inhabitants of the animal kingdom are also quite skilled builders. Many have marveled at the beaver's dam and the termites' towers; I propose we add the bagworm moth caterpillar to the all-star list.


These insects, found worldwide, are viewed as a pest by many humans because of the damage they can do when feeding on a plant. (Caterpillars be caterpillars, after all.) They also, however, should be admired for their clever shelter-building. If you ever happen upon what looks like a tiny log cabin perched on or hanging from a leaf, I am sorry to say you haven't found proof of the fairy realm...you have found yourself the amazing abode of a bagworm moth caterpillar! Their homes are not only custom and made from locally sourced plant material, they are also mobile; little log cabin RVs that keep you safe and warm (and away from the prying eyes of predators) and allow you to pack up the whole place and change neighborhoods when needed.


Even cooler, these tiny builders will alter the style of their home to make use of nearby materials, ensuring that their safe haven is well camouflaged from predators. In addition, there is no need to worry about outgrowing one's home. If this caterpillar needs more space, it simply spins an additional layer at the top of the structure and attaches some more plant matter to the sticky silk--addition achieved on time and under budget! And what if the neighborhood runs out of good food options? Again, not to worry. These homes are portable and can be dragged to a new leaf and attached where better dining options are found. Believe it or not, as cool as this tiny builder is, it still does not capture my title for most unique protection from predators. That honor goes to Papilo cresphontes, also known as the bird poop caterpillar. Curious to know more? Look it up, and let me know if you agree!








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