The Amazing Technicolored Coat of the Caddisfly

technicolor mutantPhoto:
Image: heatherkh (taken underwater so is not the sharpest of images.)

Your first response may well be ‘Is that thing REAL?!’ and no one would blame you in the slightest. However, while this luridly multicolored insectoid monstrosity may at first appear to be an elaborately designed model, rest assured that the little fellow is very real – right down to the stylish purple beret.

What we have here is a larvae of one of the many varieties of Caddisfly, nearing maturity and readying himself for the plunge from technicolor cocoon into the wide world. Caddisflies are small relatives of moths and butterflies (of the order Trichoptera to be precise) that are generally found near rivers, streams, lakes, springs and other aqueous environments.

Adult CaddisflyPhoto:
Image: Charles Lam

What makes them unique is the fact that the underwater-dwelling larvae of certain species have elevated the common practice of building a protective cocoon into an artform, incorporating pebbles, gravel, sand and other pieces of detritus into their intricate constructions. In the north-western US, where Caddisflies are common, the often brightly coloured cases have earned Caddisfly larvae the nickname ‘periwinkles’.

Which is appropriate as these little fellows are certainly jewels of the insect world. Especially this guy:

Image: Science Punk

Next time you’re out for a country stroll and find yourself digging in a pond, be sure to keep a look out for these colorful critters.

*Painted image on front page by Christine Elder

Sources 1, 2, 3