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Bagworm moths are a special type of case bearing moth species, belonging to the family Psychidae. They are found all over the world, and especially in North America and Africa. Of these, two subspecies from the Oiketicinae subfamily are particularly famous in North America. The Oiketicus abbotii or the Abbot's bagworm moth is found in the states of Louisiana and Florida. The Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis or the evergreen bagworm is common across the eastern parts of the U.S. (Gulf of Mexico, Nebraska, New England, Texas.). Bagworm moths go through seven development stages (also called instars) of bagworm moth life cycle, to transform into a fully formed adult. This is also a creature that eats mostly during the larval stage. Adults do not feed, and live for a short time to mate (male) and lay eggs (female).
They also feed on the foliage of their host tree or plant, including evergreens like coniferous trees. In fact, bagworm moth infestation is often a concern with botanists, as this Lepidoptera species is inclined to strip the host off its entire foliage, through two generations, over two consecutive years. So botanists may resort to bagworm moth control through manual removal of bags from host plants. If the infestation is at the initial larva-stage, chemical insecticides may also be used as a form of bagworm moth treatment.
A bagworm moth is an insect.
This species belongs to the Insecta class.
There are millions of bagworm moths spread around the world (North America, Africa, Europe). Also, a female moth of this Lepidoptera species lays anywhere between 500-1000 eggs, once in her lifetime.
A bagworm can be found in areas that are rich in vegetation, on plants, shrubs and trees. Some species prefer the leaves of a particular types of host plants or trees for their food, like evergreens, arborvitae or other coniferous trees. Some species can also survive on a variety of plants. They are commonly found in wooded areas, rainforests, and farms. They can even grow in your own backyard, especially if you house some of their favorite plants or trees!
Bagworm moths are common across parts of North America (Florida, Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana, Nebraska, New England, Texas), Africa (Madagascar) and Europe (Croatia).
As is typical with many moths, they go through seven development stages of life cycle (called instars), as they transform from eggs to adults.
During the larval stage, bagworms go about collecting twigs and other organic plant matter, and use this with their own silken residue to form a bag-like case (thus, their name). Bagworms also attach themselves to this bag, and carry it around with them like a mobile home.
A bagworm moth caterpillar larva looks for foliage to feed. Once they find a host plant, they attach themselves to it with the case, making it like a bagworm moth caterpillar house. They also feed off the host tree leaves as the primary source of food. Once it is sufficiently grown, it withdraws into its silken cocoon until it is ready to transform into a fully formed adult. Adults do not eat, and only exist long enough to mate (males) and lay eggs (females).
Note: Females can lay a clutch of 500 – 1000 eggs within their bagworm moth house bag. Once the larvae emerge, they are unlikely to travel too far from the host plant. So when bagworms attach to a shrub or tree, they are likely to remain on it for at least two generations, spanning two consecutive years.
They are solitary insects who love their host tree. In some cases, they may also attach their bags to a rock before they withdraw into a bagworm moth cocoon for the pupa stage.
Bagworms live for less than a year. Females lay eggs in fall (September - October), and the eggs hatch into larvae at the beginning of the next summer (May - June). A caterpillar weaves its cocoon using silk, and strengthens it using twigs and other plant matter. It also feeds on foliage during this time. By the following fall, the caterpillar would have completed its pupa state and transformed into an adult moth ready to mate.
Adults live for a very short time, between two days (male bagworm moth) and two weeks (female bagworm moth).
Once the caterpillar has gorged on sufficient foliage, it withdraws into its silk cocoon/ bag for the pupa stage. As it transforms into an adult male, it leaves the bag and looks for an adult female to mate with.
Meanwhile, caterpillars who transform into adult females wait in their bag, and lay eggs during fall (September – October, and also in their bag). They release a pheromone during this time to attract adult males. When this catches the attention of an adult male, he will enter the bag from the posterior end, and insert his abdomen to mate and fertilize the eggs. At this point, the female stops releasing the pheromone so she no longer attracts other males. Once mating is complete, the adult male leaves the bag and dies within a short time. The female either drops to the ground and dies, or stays in the bag to die and eventually gets mummified. Finally, the eggs hatch into larvae at the beginning of the next summer (May – June), and start the whole process again.
Note: there are mild differences in the life and reproduction cycle among subspecies. For instance, there are some eggs that hatch before fertilization.
The conservation status of the Psychidae bagworm species is Least Concern.
Bagworm moths in the family Psychidae are characterized by their case-like “bags”, made from twigs and other plant matter. They carry these bags on their back like a mobile home. Females are wingless and sometimes difficult to identify but they also live in their bag. So adult moths that have attached bags are often female. On the other hand, males are a sooty black in color with thick body hair. They come out of the bag and immediately start looking for a female to mate with.
The cuteness of bagworms is incredibly subtle, as you often see them as small grey cases made of twigs. This is their cocoon, woven out of their silk residue. They attach these cases to a host plant, or to rocks.
Also, the adults seem to be sacrificing creatures who do not eat, and only live long enough to mate (adult male) and lay eggs (adult female). This is also a species detested by botanists as bagworm moth larvae feeding cycle may well cost the host plant/tree all its foliage!
A bagworm moth is a solitary creature committed to its bag. They only communicate during reproduction, through olfactory senses. During this time, the females release a pheromone to attract males. Once the mating is complete, the female stops hormone production and the male goes away.
With a bag size ranging between 1 – 6 in (2.54 – 15.24 cm) in length, bagworms are half the size of the largest butterfly, Queen Alexandra's Birdwing.
Moths are known to fly at a speed of 54 mph (86 kph). This may be even lesser in bagworm moths if they find a host plant and a mate within close range.
The weight of a bagworm moth is variable, depending on the twigs-collection of the larvae that make up its bag. Also a female can lay between 500-1000 hard-shelled eggs in her bag. They typically weigh less than 4 oz (100g).
Both sexes are simply known as bagworm moths.
It is called a larva as it hatches from its egg. It grows into a feeding caterpillar by the time it is ready to spin its own silk cocoon. (This Lepidoptera species goes through seven development stages, starting from an egg, to a full grown adult moth.)
Bagworm moths are herbivores, surviving on a food diet of leaves and lichen (organisms made of algae). During their larval phase, they love chomp on the leafage of their host plant or tree. They are particularly partial to evergreen and deciduous trees, like juniper and arborvitae.
One surprising truth about this Lepidoptera species, is their complete lack of hunger when they grow into adult moths. In fact, adults have short lives, and survive just to mate and produce children.
Botanists are always on the lookout for this moth, as they can cause severe damage to their host trees. It is hence fitting that this tiny pest becomes a prey to bigger rodents like the white-footed mouse. Moreover, parasitic wasps and sparrows are other predators of bagworms.
Bagworms are not dangerous to humans as they are herbivores. But they can cause notable damage to their host plant. In fact, they can be particularly dangerous to orange trees in Florida, and Acacia shrubs in Africa.
Moreover, this “danger” is in the form of economic loss, as they eat up all the foliage during their larval phase. This can also be amplified the subsequent year, as the eggs laid within their bag hatch into larvae, and gorge on the remaining leaves of the host plant for their food. So yes, it can be said that this is a species that can be dangerous to its host for two consecutive generations spread over two years. They are a bane to many a botanist and often considered as a “pest” due to this reason.
No, they would not make good pets. They survive by attaching to a host plant, and feeding off their foliage during the larval phase. They have very short lives during the adult phase (two days to two weeks).
The North American Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis bagworm moth has the common name evergreen bagworm. It is also known as the eastern bagworm, as it is found along the eastern part of the U.S. In this Lepidoptera species, the female adult moth dies before she lays her eggs. In fact, the Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis bagworm larvae directly emerge from the (dead) mother’s body!
They get their name from the twig-filled “bag” they carry around their back. This bag is woven during the pupal stage using its own silken residue.
They are called so because they feed of evergreen plants and trees (like coniferous trees) during the larva stage. Ironically, the host plant no longer remains evergreen, as the larvae will quickly eat out all its foliage. In fact, botanists consider these moths as “pests” and destructive to evergreens. The Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis bagworm is perhaps the most famous bagworm.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other arthropods from our puss moth facts and hag moth facts pages.
You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable bagworm moth coloring pages.
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