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Spiral cocoons -- need help with ID

 
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rjlittlefield
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Joined: 01 Aug 2006
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Location: Richland, Washington State, USA

PostPosted: Wed Dec 26, 2007 11:19 pm    Post subject: Spiral cocoons -- need help with ID Reply with quote

Natural appearance:


Cut open with razor blade:


The photo setup:


Sure, I know this forum is not BugGuide, but I already tried there (months ago) and didn't get any help Sad . Besides, the images that I'm posting here are much higher quality than what I did for them. Cool

I don't know much more about these beasts than what you see in these pictures.

Small spiral cocoons, typical 2-1/2 turns forming a cone, now rigidly fastened to the substrate with silk. Covered with sand on the outside, white silk on the inside. Contains the shell of some pupa, which apparently has exited about 1/2 turn from the pointed end of the cone.

I have seen these things in two places. First was on the leaves of some sumac bushes, in sagebrush country in north central Washington, just south of Canada. Second is in my back yard garden, in small numbers on and around the leaves of some strawberry plants, and in the aggregations you see here, inside a garden shed about 5 feet above ground level. I did not study very closely, but I recall that the ones on leaves seemed to contain small caterpillars and were not fastened down rigidly.

So, I presume that what we have is the tube of some sort of "bagworm" type critter that carries its bag around as a caterpillar, then fastens it down to pupate inside.

But I would just love to get a solid ID.

Anybody know these things?

--Rik

PS. Yes, what's shown is a piece of the shed. No, I did not rip apart the shed just to get these pictures. It was 25+ years old, and thoroughly decrepit when it got replaced this summer. This one piece is all that's left, except that the neighbor salvaged most of the sheet metal for a wood drying box that he was building. Smile

Technical: Canon 300D, 80 mm f/4 Olympus bellows macro lens at f/5.6, stacked at 0.010", illumination as shown except that second fiber head does not appear in this photo.
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Ken Ramos



Joined: 27 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2007 5:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You know I am not sure but since these were found in an old shed, they just might be spiders. I searched around for a while looking mostly for insects that have cocoons and not cocoons themselves and ran across a few species of spiders, small ones, that build a silken cocoon along with grains of sand but I can't say for sure this is what you have but I would suspect so. On another note, the cocoon I posted here a while back, Cocoon , I was able to ID as a Polyphemus moth cocoon. Good thing you suggested leaving it out of doors too. It should hatch open around April if all goes well. Very Happy
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jmlphoto



Joined: 10 Aug 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2007 10:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ive seen wasps and bees that make there cocoons/eggs cases out of sand/dirt/something sticky. found a pretty ##### large one not too long ago it was an old one though.
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MacroLuv



Joined: 28 Aug 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 9:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rik, did you find it near the water?
Could be a Caddisfly of some sort. Think
They are known as "underwater architects" making portable cases using silk along with substrate materials such as small fragments of rock, sand, small pieces of twig, aquatic plants, or sometimes silk alone. Many use the retreats or cases throughout their larval life, adding to, or enlarging them as they grow. These may look very much like bagworm cases, which are constructed by various moth species that are not aquatic.
See wikipedia.
Aquatic Entomology:Trichoptera and Lepidoptera with special reference to Texas
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rjlittlefield
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 12:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gee, I was hoping that somebody would immediately recognize this unusual form. Apparently I should not be too embarrassed by the fact that I don't either!

Caddisflies and spiders can be ruled out by the environment and the form of the bug. I can't rule out hymenoptera, though I also can't recall ever reading of a hymenoptera larva carrying around a case.

I'll see if I can tease out one or two of the pupal shells. It might give some extra clues, though it might also be misleading. Several years ago I harvested a bunch of cased critters from tumbleweed (like here, image #2, the candle-like things). What eventually came out was about half moths, half wasps -- presumably the original makers and their parasitoids.

--Rik
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Ken Ramos



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PostPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 3:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well Rik, this is a real puzzler for sure. Think I kind of figured one of our "bug" people would have figured this out by now. I have searched wasps, more spiders, and anything else I could think of that would hide in a shed and call it home but have yet to come up with "diddlie!" Laughing
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Ken 2014
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Gordon C. Snelling



Joined: 13 Aug 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 6:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Almost certainly a moth of some kind. Best bet would be to collect some active ones next time you see them and rear them out. Very cool find.
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Planapo



Joined: 07 Nov 2006
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Location: Germany, in the United States of Europe

PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2007 6:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Eye-pleasing photographic documentation, Rik!

Well of course, I don´t know your Lepidoptera fauna over there, but from over here I know of a rare moth that builds such a kind of helical sack covered with sand grains. As far as I know its, at present Rolling Eyes Wink, valid name is Apterona helicoidella (VALLOT, 1827) (Lepidoptera: Psychidae). One of the synonyms of this genus used in older lit. is Cochliotheca.

And a quick search on google for Apterona in North America found me the name "Snailcase bagworm, Apterona helix" (see http://lamar.colostate.edu/~gec/ms.htm and http://bugguide.net/node/view/156648#207682).

Although, due to negative experience, I recommend to be sceptical when using reference to internet material from people whose reliability one can´t evaluate, even from .edu domains, I´d say you now have a strong toehold Very Happy.

Best wishes,
Betty
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rjlittlefield
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2007 9:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Betty, you have come through again with flying colors! This looks like a "strong toehold" indeed! Thank you, thank you!! Applause Applause Very Happy

--Rik
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Tony T



Joined: 22 Dec 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2007 9:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent detective work. Only 1 sp. listed in the most recent NA catalogue: A. helix, so I'm quite certain that is it.
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Planapo



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PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2007 9:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Always a pleasure to be at your service! Wink Very Happy Very Happy

--Betty
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rjlittlefield
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2007 9:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

And there's a lot of good textual information found by searching for Apterona Washington.

http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublications/eb1485/eb1485.html issued by the Washington State University looks like a good starting point. Their range distribution map shows (in 1988) known infestations within 50 miles of both places where I have seen the beast.

That paper notes the fascinating snippet that this moth "is parthenogenetic, which means a female can reproduce without fertilization by the male". It also notes that "Within a couple of weeks the ADULT female appears, looking more like an amorphous sack than a typical moth." Another ref from Michigan State University (here) says "males not known for this species".

It's interesting to note that the third picture at the BugGuide link shows a perfectly normal looking moth, which is a bit of a head-scratcher. But digging down reveals buried in the comments for that picture that this is a different species, "Not related to the bagworm cases."

--Rik

Edit May 20, 2015: The links given above have rotted. Current links are http://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/snailcase-bagworm and https://pubs.wsu.edu/ItemDetail.aspx?ProductID=13611.


Last edited by rjlittlefield on Wed May 20, 2015 12:50 am; edited 1 time in total
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beetleman



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PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2007 9:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It looks like a species worth further study Rik. Betty is pretty amazing with her knowledge. The excellent photos help also Wink
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Gordon C. Snelling



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PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2007 5:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good job Betty.
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Ken Ramos



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PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2007 8:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well that was pretty neat. Very Happy Congrats and a tip o' the hat to Rik for providing the puzzle and to Betty for being such a terrific sleuth. Wink That caterpillar thing was pretty good too but I just can't imagine having ones face fall off in the dirt. Let alone ending up on a pin in front of Riks camera and ping pong ball set up. Think
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Ken 2014
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