Judy's case moth


My friend Judy sent me a photo of an unexpected bit of nature attached to her house. 'It's a cocoon', she said, 'isn't that cool' - knowing that I would be suitably thrilled too.

'It's a case moth', I emailed her. 'Keep an eye on it. You might catch it moving around, or with its head sticking out.' But Judy was not impressed. She doesn't like moths, was hoping it would turn out to be a beautiful butterfly.

Metura elongatus,  photographed by Arthur Bartholomew,
part of a collection of zoological illustrations from Colonial Victoria

The cases of case moths are spun out of silk, and leaves, sticks and other materials are attached for camouflage. (Judy's case moth is obviously seriously challenged in relation to camouflage!)

There are several species, and which species Judy's belongs to is not known for sure, although it is probably Saunders' Case Moth, which is native to Australia. (Saunders' Case Moths like to use twigs). Even for an expert - which I'm not - it's hard to identify the various species. That's because even though each species has its own distinctive case, individual case moths use whatever materials they can find. This could be partly for convenience, but could also be a ploy to confuse interested humans.

Case moths spend most of their lives as caterpillars, about one or two years. During this time they never leave their cases. They drag them around when they feed and can close them up when they feel threatened. Even after they've turned into adult moths, females stay in their cases but males leave to search for females.

This post is dedicated to Judy, in an attempt to persuade her that moths are fascinating and important and complicated, even common ones like case moths.

Saunders' Case Moth caterpillar in its case.
Source: Museum Victoria

Comments

  1. Yes, one must be intrigued and awed by nature's inventiveness. I see them sometimes in my garden. How thrilled and amazed I was when I saw the moving stick case the first time.

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    1. I remember the first time I noticed a case moth. I was a child, fascinated, and got a shock when it moved.

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  2. There is wildlife and there is wildlife. I'm happy to have all kinds of critters in the garden but I draw the line at skunks and rabbits. You are right about the moth being "camouflage challenged" - needs some remedial camo training!

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    1. Rabbits are an introduced species here, not found in my suburban garden thank goodness, but they terrorize veggie growers who live outside cities. Since they're not in my garden, I am able to appreciate their cuteness.

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  3. Very interesting! Especially that the adult moths hang onto those cases. Nothing like that in my part of the world.

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    1. I'm kinda used to them because I've seen them all my life, but I realize they are extraordinary.

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  4. Something I think I have only ever seen once. Disconcerting to see a tiny bundle of bits wandering off!

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    1. disconcerting is a good word for it.

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  5. Moths are great pollinators! I hope Judy lets the moth cases remain in her garden - even if somewhat less colorful than some butterflies, they're essential to a healthy garden. Last week was National Pollinator Week here in the US. I was traveling but had the chance to see some wonderful pollinator gardens while I was in Virginia and Maryland.

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    1. I hope I've influenced her so she'll let them stay in her garden. I think people tend to think just of bees as pollinators, whereas lots of other insects and birds are also important for pollination. I look forward to seeing the pollinator gardens in your blog.

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  6. Were you able to convince Judy that moths are fascinating? Why doesn't she like them? There are some fascinating videos on Youtube about case moths.

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    1. Hi Denise, thanks for the suggestion. I'll check out Youtube, and suggest Judy does too. I don't really understand why she doesn't like moths. I guess people are prejudiced in favour of some animals, and against others. I remember my mother used to hate ants, I think because occasionally they would come into the kitchen.

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  7. I have a sister-in-law who seldom ventures outside. She misses everything that blooms and all the critter sightings. Like you, I am fascinated by most of the critters in my neck o' the woods.

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