|Image from University of Michigan|
On the other hand, as larvae, they are strangely shaped, grub-like, and quite ugly. On the Ohio Endangered Species list, there are three Caddisflies (Order Trichoptera, the species are Chimarra socia, Oecetis eddlestoni, and Brachycentrus numerosus). “Trichoptera” means “Hairy Wing,” not to be confused with their sister order, the Lepidoptera (“scaly wing”).
As larvae, Caddisflies inhabit streams and rivers all over the world, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the listed species had a much-reduced habitat range. Most of the life cycle is spent as a larva, usually at least a year. Many species attach bits of detritus to their bodies, such as in the picture, to act as a protective shell. The shape and material of the shell can even be used to classify the animals. To grow into big, strong adults, young Caddisflies will eat most anything they can catch. In fact, some even secrete a silky thread, like their caterpillar cousins. However, the Caddisflies use it to form a net and catch yummy detritus flowing by their home.
Most of that was off the top of my head, after spending the summer studying the small streams (technically known as Primary Headwaters) in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I know much less about them as adults. In fact, before doing some late night collecting for my Invertebrate Zoology course this fall, I couldn’t have told you what the adults even looked like. Of course, now I know they look like small, unexciting moths that hold their wings so they form a peak over their body1. Their mouthparts aren’t as exciting as butterflies’ or moths’, and about all they can do is suck up liquids. This doesn’t matter terribly much, because they have at most a month to have sex, lay eggs, and die.
Now, why are these three endangered, as opposed to the approximately 250 other species of Caddisflies found in Ohio? I’m not terribly sure. I’ve got guesses though. These might only be found in a few counties in Ohio2. They may also be endangered because the small stream habitats in which they are found are at risk from development, pollution, or the like.
That’s where Ohio is ahead of the game… to an extent. Because the Cuyahoga River burned in 1969, just in the midst of an environmental awakening3, state and federal Environmental Protection Agencies came into existence. Ohio developed some pretty good river assessment protocols. However, in 1999, they realized that small streams leading into the larger streams need to get cleaned as well. Therefore, they set up Primary Headwater Habitat conservation efforts that look at the quality of small streams, which are similar to the ones that our squirmy friends spend their childhood.
Oh, by the way, I noticed that I haven’t gotten a single comment in five weeks. If you feel like you have anything to say at all, good, bad or indifferent, please comment. Especially if I’ve gotten something wrong. I’d really like this blog to be as accurate as possible.
1I’m sure I’ve seen tons of them before that, I just couldn’t have told you it was a caddisfly.
2Phantom Midge, I don’t know how you found that out for Rheopelopia acra, but that was impressive.
3That wasn’t the first time it caught fire. It was just the one that got noticed.