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Trichoptera
CADDISFLIES
Life   Insecta

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Kinds
Overview
Trichoptera consists of about 7000 species of insects known as "caddisflies" that are found in freshwater environments. Trichopterans are distinguished from other insects by their characterisitically hairy wings and long antennae. Some are plant eaters and others are meat eaters. Like moths, caddisflies are strongly attracted to light. They are ecologically important because they feed on debris, cleaning out the freshwater systems in which they live. Also, they are an important food source for fish, and they are often used as bait by fishermen. -- (Britannica.com)

Click here for Caddisfly checklist in the Great Smoky Mountains.


Identification
Trichoptera are small to medium sized insects that are similar to moths in appearance. The wings are membranous, hairy (and sometimes have scales), and are held over the body in a rooflike fashion when at rest. The antennae are long and slender. Only a few trichopterans are brightly colored; most have dull coloration. -- (Borror et al., 1989)

Phylogeny

Taxonomic Category Scientific Name Common Name
Phylum Arthropoda Arthropods
Class Insecta Insects
Order Trichoptera Caddisfly


Photographs

Trichopteran "Arctopsyche"

Copyright Skip Hodges.

Trichopteran "Helicopsyche" cases

Copyright Skip Hodges.

Species: Limnephilus lunatus

Copyright The Virtual Field Guide.

Species: Limnephilus lunatus

Copyright The Virtual Field Guide.


Geographic distribution
Caddisflies are worldwide in distribution and, like most insects, they are concentrated in warm rather than cold areas.

Natural history
Caddisfly larvae are very similar to caterpillars in appearance. Their abdominal segments bear gills, making caddisflies aquatic insects. The larvae occur in ponds, lakes, stream, and other bodies of water. Some are case makers, others build nets when submerged, and a some are free-living. Case making larvae use silk to fuse together leaves, twigs, sand, and pebbles to make cases in which they live. They feed on plants. Net making larvae spend most of their time near underwater silk nets and feed off materials that are trapped in the nets. The free-living larvae are predaceous.

The larvae fasten their cases to objects in the water when they have completed their growth and pupate in the cases. The fully developed pupa chews its way out of the case, emerges from the water, and crawls onto some object like a rock or stick. Then it developes into an adult.

Adult caddislflies are generally weak fliers. The eggs are laid in masses or strings of several hundred, and whether laid in or near the water, the female usually attaches them to some sort of object like a stone. The young hatch within a few days of deposition. Interestingly, caddisflies spend most of their lives as larvae, maturing primarily in order to reproduce. Larvae take about a year to develop into adults, but the adults only live about a month.

Caddisflies are ecologically important mainly because they occupy a special niche in the food chain. They are preyed upon by fish and other aquatic organisms. -- (Borror et al., 1989)


How to encounter
Caddisflies are usually found near water. Check near ponds and streams, and even the underside of bridges. Sweeping in vegetation in these areas is a good way to collect them. Lights are probably the best way to collect them, and blue lights seem to be more attractive than other colors. -- (Borror et al., 1989)

Links to other sites
Caddisflies are usually found near water. Check near ponds and streams, and even the underside of bridges. Sweeping in vegetation in these areas is a good way to collect them. Lights are probably the best way to collect them, and blue lights seem to be more attractive than other colors. -- (Borror et al., 1989)

References
  • Borror, Donald J., Norman F. Johnson, and Charles A. Triplehorn. An Introduction to the Study of Insects. Philadelphia: Saunders College Publishing. 1989. 6th ed.

Acknowledgements
Stephen Boyd, Scentific Illustration Major, University of Georgia, Athens.

Thanks to Sabina Gupta, Denise Lim, and Dr. John Pickering for technical and web support in developing this page.

Special Thanks to: The Virtual Field Guide, Skip Hodges, Clemson University, and David Walker.


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Following modified from University of Guelph
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Order - TRICHOPTERA
(Greek, thrix = hair; pteron = wing)
Common Name: caddisflies
Distribution: Cosmopolitan

Description
Caddisflies are very closely related to butterflies and moths, and they look a lot like small moths with hairy wings held roof-like over the body.

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Following modified from NC State University
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