Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I pass a billboard at the corner of Houston & Lafayette each morning that displays the time and temp in the lower right hand corner. Each day, I check for the time and each day, I find myself visibly scowling as I see the temperature has yet to surpass 20° or 25°. February really is the cruelest month.

Anyway, while facing the cold over the weekend and performing all the regular Saturday errands that render most of us New Yorkers into pack mules (hauling bags back from Trader Joes, or Bed Bath & Beyond or wherever it is we need to buy something bulky and find ourselves wondering what would it be like to actually have a car), I noticed this bagworm hanging from a Hackberry (Celtis).

Bagworm is a common name for Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis, a moth that overwinters in these descending 'bags' built by tiny silken hairs that wrap around twigs and leaves from the host tree. Bagworms are ubiquitous defoliators of junipers and other evergreens, but also afflict hackberries, honey locusts and other deciduous trees. If you encounter them in your garden you should pluck them off and dispose of them. As you can tell from the angle of the shots and the grainy quality of the photos, this particular chrysalis was far beyond my reach.

Despite their destructive habit, they are pretty amazing insects. If you see one up close, you would probably discount it as a tangle of leaves or a remnant of a bird's nest.

Here are some drawings from my alma mater that illustrate the bag itself and the larva constructing a new bag.

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