Barbecued Bagworm Moths

The caterpilllar uses silk, twigs, lichens and other bits of debris to form the case
The caterpilllar uses silk, twigs, lichens and other bits of debris to form the case

I had another interesting encounter with a bagworm moth.  You know, those debris covered caterpillars that we all at one time thought were cocoons or pupal cases.  Turns out they often are still in the feeding stage.

Still feeding, you can see the head sticking out from the case
Still feeding, you can see the head sticking out from the case

Bagworm Moths are in the Psychidae family of moths and most only feed in the larval stage.  I often have found them stuck on the aluminum posts that hold up the carport/patio cover. I always assumed that they were in the pupal stage and attributed the disappearance of it to an encounter with a hungry lizard or bird.

bagworm hanging on the side of the bbq
bagworm hanging on the side of the bbq

Well, as I gazed out the kitchen window that overlooks the patio I saw something walking on the barbecue.  Not all that unusual, the lizards routinely use it as a segue to keep out of the reach of nosey dogs.  However, this creature was substantially smaller and moved in an unusual fashion.

I headed out, camera in hand to find a bagworm moth caterpillar creeping along. I snapped a few photos and this short video and left it to fend for itself.

The next day, the bagworm was still on the barbecue.  Was it waiting for me to rustle up some veggieburgers?  I watched it again and it seemed to be feeding.  That’s when it dawned on me.  Many bagworm moths eat lichens.  Lichens attach to a variety of different substrates and I suppose my barbecue is prime real estate, as it doesn’t get used all that often.

When it turned it upside down it retracted completely inside the case
When it turned it upside down it retracted completely inside the case

The bagworm was gone the next day, perhaps moving on to better feeding grounds, or a comfortable place to change into an adult, or maybe it had an encounter with a hungry lizard or bird. 😉

Just another caterpillar
Just another caterpillar

Additional benefits of bagworms are they are a host for parasitoid wasps and tachinid flies. As we need these important pollinators, don’t be too quick to eliminate our bagworm friends from the food chain.

References:

USDA Forest Service
University of Nebraska IANR

University of Florida Entomology Dept.

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