A case-building caddis, what a gem of an insect!
The images above illustrate the results of an unusual artistic collaboration between the French artist Hubert Duprat and a group of caddisfly larvae. A small winged insect belonging to the order Trichoptera and closely related to the butterfly, caddisflies live near streams and ponds and produce aquatic larvae that protect their developing bodies by manufacturing cases from silk and incorporating substances—grains of sand, particles of mineral or plant material, bits of fish bone or crustacean shell—readily available in their environment. The larvae are remarkably adaptable: if other suitable materials are introduced into their environment, they will often incorporate those as well.
Duprat began working with caddisfly larvae in the early 1980s. An avid naturalist since childhood, he was aware of the caddis in its role as a favoured fly for trout fishermen, but his idea for the project depicted here began after he observed prospectors panning for gold in the Ariège river in southwestern France. After collecting the larvae from their normal environments, he relocates them to his studio where he removed their own natural cases and then places them in aquaria that he fills with alternative materials from which they can begin to recreate their protective sheaths.
He began with only gold but has since also added the kinds of semi-precious and precious stones including turquoise, opals, lapis lazuli and coral, as well as pearls, rubies, sapphires, and diamonds. The insects do not always incorporate all the available materials into their case designs, and certain larvae, Duprat notes, seem to have better facility with some materials than with others. Images courtesy of Cabinet magazine.
And how are you case-building caddis imitations?