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Bagworm

Many of us may have noticed a little brown speck of ‘dirt’ stuck to the walls in our homes. It looks like a blot on an otherwise clean wall or should I say on our house-keeping skills? Often, it is promptly removed and disposed. If you were the procrastinating type perhaps you noticed that the speck has moved and it is no longer in the same place on the wall. If you happen to be curious, you would have figured out just what that moving brown speck of is!

One of more commonly seen bagworms - seen on the walls both inside and outside of homes.

One of the more commonly seen ‘specks’- seen on the walls both inside and outside of homes. This one belongs to family Tineidae and referred to as case worms.

 

We are talking about what is popularly referred to as bagworms. What are bagworms? They are a small family of moths belonging to family Psychidae. This family comprises of over 1300 species of the 1.3 lakh species or so moths in the world.

There is something unique about this family of moths. The larva, soon after emerging from the egg, builds a little case. For this purpose it uses the silk that it produces and material available in their environment – could be lichen, tree bark, twigs, sand, leaves etc. It can be seen with just a bit of its body protruding out when it is moving about.

A bagworm using debris to decorate itself !

A bagworm using debris to decorate itself !

 

Once its growth as a larva is complete, it will pupate within the ‘bag’ it had built as a larva. The males of most species have wings like other moths and will fly away. However, the adult females often lack wings and look like the larva itself! The males are very short lived. They even lack mouthparts and don’t eat as adults. So the males have to locate females as soon as they can and mate with one. They do this by following the pheromones produced by the females. Eventually, they mate and the females lay eggs within the ‘bag’ and die. The females too live just long enough to mate and lay eggs. Like the males, the females do not eat as adults. And, this entire process continues generation after generation.

In the outdoors, one can find a variety of ‘bags’ built by these little creatures. Some of them are really amazing feats of engineering, while some others look clumsy to help them camouflage beautifully with their environment. Below are some such ‘bags’.

Twigs are used to make this 'bag'. This is also a fairly common sight in places with some shrubbery.

Twigs are used to make this ‘bag’. This is also a fairly common sight in places with some shrubbery.

 

This structure looks more like a broken 'twig' ! It is amusing to watch this twig move about.

This structure looks more like a broken ‘twig’ ! It is amusing to watch this twig move about.

 

What looks like pieces of bark have been stuck together by this bagworm. What is even better is that it looks like an extension of the tree - excellent camouflage indeed !

Pieces of bark have been stuck together by this bagworm. What is even better is that it looks like an extension of the tree.

 

A 'bag' constructed using sections of leaves !

A ‘bag’ constructed using sections of leaves !

 

Two examples for usage of twigs - one neatly stacked and the other seemingly disorganised.

Two examples for use of twigs – one neatly stacked and the other seemingly disorganised. Both serving the purpose indeed.

 

But this takes the cake  for the engineering. Hollow twigs cut to the right length and organised into a tapering spiral!

But this takes the cake for its engineering. Hollow twigs cut to the right length and organised into a tapering spiral!

 

So, the next time you see one of these aggregations of material – be it twigs, leaves, bark, etc., – give it another look. Lo and behold you may have discovered another beautiful piece of engineering – a bagworm!

See more images of Bagworms

  • Bharat Hegde

    Very Inofrmative. Thanks for the post!

  • Radha

    Wow! What a fabulous little world we live in :)
    Superb images, thank you for sharing, Karthik.

  • Kesava Murthy

    Thats a great documentation. I have seen this before even one during our NTP session.

    How do they cut the twigs ??

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Thanks Kesava. Bagworms have mandibles like do all other lepidopteran larvae. So, they must be using their mandibles for this purpose besides eating.

  • Uma Bharath

    Thank you for one more stunning eye-opener post. High time we humans learnt to build like the bagworm? Blown away by the beauty and perfection of the bagworm’s engineering, specially the spiral in the last photograph.

  • madhusmita datta

    The last one is really a beautiful structure! It is amazing that a tiny worm can do this.

  • vidya

    Very interesting article with useful information about this insect. Some of the forms that are shown in the pics above are quite new to me and haven’t ever seen them in the wild. Would love to keep an eye out for them next time when I’m in the field. Thanks for sharing these Karthik!!

  • http://framesofnature.com/ Santhosh Krishnamoorthy

    have been seeing many of them around my house…also had noticed a small worm kind of thing occasionally sticking out of it…., never knew what they were…., now I know…. :-) , thanks for sharing this Karthik…..

  • Mohammed Rafiq

    It was interesting and bagful of information on the bag worm. Saw some in the past but could not really get to the bottom, now the next time I see this wonder will keenly observe the engineering marvel that it builds around it.

  • Ramya

    This is intriguing. I have seen the kind in the first pic, in my house (testimony to my housekeeping skills!!) and have seen them move too. I’d always wondered what they were.

    Thanks for sharing Karthik. Like Kesava commented, wonder how they cut the twigs.

  • Ramya

    Ah…just saw your reply to Kesava on how they probably cut the twigs. Thanks again!

  • meera huddar

    Thanks to you i will respect this worm and not dust it off to prove my cleanliness to others :)

  • Dilan Mandanna

    Wow! it’s very interesting and great document of this amazing creature.

  • Kedar Bhide

    Thanks Karthik for this , i remember trying to identify one during my pest control days in clients house, and with very half-hearted literature survey just forcefully put it as Teneola walasinghami, a plaster bagworm to put it in a report , but now i know from your article , that it is Phereocea sps. They. in homes, are known to feed on spider web, wool or jute based carpets, wall-pieces etc.

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Thanks Kedar for sharing additional information about these creatures.

  • Aishwarya

    Great post as always Karthik. Reminds me of the information you gave me when showed you pic of these

  • Uma K

    Wow! The variety of bagworm bags is astounding! What fabulous photographs! Thanks for a wonderful post yet again, Karthik!

  • Srikanth vk

    Very interesting and informative as always. Thanks for sharing.

  • GT

    Very informative and great pics as always….how did you photograph the bag worm pic karthik ?…. the last pic is the best among the lot….

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Thanks GT. Photographing bagworms is not difficult. They don’t move very fast, so it should be fairly easy.

  • Deepa Mohan

    I’ve observed several of these and been amazed. I’ve taken a video of one such bagworm moving on a rock…as you say, it was extremely well-camouflaged. Here it is:

    http://youtu.be/uM-3cOTQ9MQ

  • Mittal Gala

    Amazing series of pictures and interesting narration. Thanks so much for posting this :)

  • Acharya Chandrakantha

    Thanx for sharing wonderful piece of informative article.

  • Amrita Tripathy

    what an interesting work these worms do..! Thank you so much for posting this.. i was not aware till day about this critter..

    Nice snaps. :)

  • Poornima Kannan

    Awesome post Guruji

  • pkspks

    Nice. Always wondered what they were. All over the place when I was a kid. Never noticed bags made of twigs. Awesome. :)

  • Rohan Chakravarty

    absolutely wonderful documentation. this blog is a treasure trove!

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Thanks Rohan.

  • Devesh Mahishi

    So sir will once constructed bag remains for generations??

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Hi !

      I don’t think it is used by subsequent generations. When the eggs laid by the female moth hatch and caterpillars emerge, they go out and build a new ‘bag’ for themselves.

  • Vinay Narayana Swamy

    Wow. Had never seen these. Have to keep a watchout for these.

  • Pallavi Singh

    I have in the last few days observed three bagworms – bag made of twigs – near a patch of Frangipani trees in my neighbourhood. The one that I saw two days back was on the ground…wasn’t moving. I thought the worm could be pupating inside so I did not disturb it. The one I saw today was moving with the bag…it was very interesting to see it move laboriously. I was thinking Frangipani could be the host plant for this moth because I always found it in it’s vicinity, but if the female lays eggs inside the bag itself, then perhaps there is no connection with Frangipani. Could the larva have a preference for a particular type of plant as food?

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Well, the larvae have to feed on something. I am not sure if the larvae feed on Frangipani.Many moths are polyphagous. Besides, we know so little about all these fascinating creatures in our vicinity.

  • Nahar Muhammed

    Amazing stuff ! After reading this blog of yours, i am keen to spot the ‘bagworms’ and wish it happens quickly !!!

    Thank you so much for enlightening me on this !!!

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Thanks Nahar. You will find them easily. Just look around.