Look under a rock or at the bottom of a pond or stream for a while and you may catch movement of what appears to be rocks, sticks, or leaves. These could be the larvae of caddisfly!

Caddisfly adult – Ryan Hodnett, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Caddisfly adults often have antennae longer than their body and fly with hairy wings they hold like a tent over their back when resting. In their few days to few weeks as adults, female caddisflies lay eggs in gelatinous masses. When the larvae emerge, many species of caddisfly build a portable case using silk they secrete from glands around their mouth plus sticks, vegetation, stones, or other bits of their environment. Other caddisfly larvae use their silk to make nets to filter food from the water or as a belay line so they won’t be washed downstream.

Different styles of caddisfly cases

After four molts of their entire exoskeleton, the larva creates a silken cocoon as they mature from larva to pupa. For two to three weeks the pupa wriggles inside the cocoon, thus creating a small current with dissolved oxygen as they transform into an adult. The caddisfly adult, now with sturdy mandibles, cuts away the cocoon and floats to the water’s surface. And the cycle continues!

Learn more by reading the poem “Aquatic Fashion” and other pond poems in the book Song of the Water Boatman by Joyce Sidman.

Create your own caddisfly inspired aquatic fashion with camouflage cuffs. Wriggle your “caddisfly larvae” hand around to explore, net food, and hold on in the strong currents!

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