Caddisfly hatching (and parrot lagniappe)

This video was just posted yesterday, and it’s amazing—like the alien coming out of the guy’s stomach. It’s a caddisfly. These aren’t what entomologists call “flies,” which are in the order Diptera; rather, they’re in the order Trichoptera. As for what is happening here, I’ll let Matthew (who sent me the video) explain:

Its a hemimetabolous insect, so they just go through a series of moults, the final being the most dramatic. They are nymphs, this is the imago. Same as in dragonflies. And who worked it out and described it first? Swammerdam.

Jan Swammerdam is one of Matthew’s science heroes, and figures largely in Matthew’s first book, The Egg and Sperm Race.

Here are the YouTube notes:

Yep! Little Black Caddisflies hatch on nice days even in winter. This one is about 4mm long, so hatches in minutes compared to larger aquatic insects which can take up to an hour to eclose.

Now think of the evolution required to built such a complex developmental program (which of course includes behavior):

Here’s a African gray parrot named Einstein (Psittacus erithacus), celebrating her 30th birthday at the Knoxville Zoo:


  1. Chris B
    Posted March 1, 2018 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Caddisflies are holometabolous. The order Trichoptera is considered closely related to Lepidopotera (butterflies and moths) The larvae spin a form of silk and use it to make protective “houses” incorporating bits of their environmental substrates, like plant detritus or sand.

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 1, 2018 at 2:15 pm | Permalink


  3. glen1davidson
    Posted March 1, 2018 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    That parrot is way more entertaining than E=mc^2 is.

    Glen Davidson

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 2, 2018 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      … for the first couple of microgrammes.
      [counts on fingers] Oh, there’s a handy dandy table on Wiki. Bursting charge for a hand grenade is a couple of hundred grammes, so anything more than about ten nanogrammes Total Conversion would require serious spare underwear.
      (I’ve had to re-det a duff 200 gram charge of “Dr Nobel’s Linctus For Excessively Tight Cave” ; fortunately, wetsuits are in some senses waterproof.)

  4. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted March 1, 2018 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    Cool! I remember fondly spending hours at the rivers that lie between Flagstaff and Sedona AZ. There, the clear water is full of several different species of caddisfly larvae, including webspinners, which snare their food with a web. But most species would make a traveling home and live in it, like a hermit crab in its borrowed shell. The most amazing ones were the Helicopsyche which made a home with sand grains, and had an amazing resemblance to a snail shell:

  5. busterggi
    Posted March 1, 2018 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Caddisfly ‘houses’ are amazing and African Grays are featured primates.

  6. Leigh Jackson
    Posted March 1, 2018 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    I’m no biologist. Just amazed. What is it like to be a caddisfly? Is it like something?

  7. rom
    Posted March 1, 2018 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    I presume we are talking about river moths?

    They are a real nuisance when driving on the highway next to the Columbia.

    Never turn on the you windshield (screen) wipers.

    Incidentally worked for thirty years at the smelter on the other side.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 1, 2018 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      Columbia River fly fishers are a bit nuts LINK :-

      “If you can stand clouds of river moths crawling in your ears, eyes, nose and mouth without twitching, you are a true Columbia River fly fisherman.

      In what is more than a typical summer, hot weather and high water made for perfect conditions for the river moths, as locals call the prolific hatch of caddis flies.
      This year, the hatch seems more intense than normal but it has also translated into some excellent fishing in the stretch of water between Castlegar and the U.S. border.

      For those of us who still wade, evening is the perfect time as huge trout come into the shallows to gorge themselves on the caddis buffet. As you cast, the moths insinuate themselves into every oriface, while you stand there stock still slowly twisting in line anticipating a take from one of Columbia’s best fighting fish”

      the link has more

      • rom
        Posted March 1, 2018 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

        Thank you Commissar Fisher. 😉

  8. Michael Fisher
    Posted March 1, 2018 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    A little bit more about a different “Einstein” Congo African Grey Parrot [ Psittacus erithacus ] from HIS website. He was hatched 15th June ’97 in Texas & his servants [Marcia & Jeff – who he thinks of as parrots it seems] were unsure of his sex until recently. Taken from HIS FAQs PAGE note that they refer to him as “her” sometimes – I assume the FAQs were edited at different times as the struggled with Einstein’s identity! 🙂

    How do you teach Einstein to talk?

    We use no tapes or CD’s when training Einstein. We simply talk to him. We talk to Einstein like a member of the family. If we are home, he is out of his cage. He is either perched on us or a nearby perch. A bird learns speech from other birds. Not tapes, TV, etc. We are his other “birds”. However, he does react to sounds on the TV. For example, when a telephone rings on TV, he sometimes will say, “Hello”.

    I have two methods when teaching Einstein things to say. For songs, I dance. Yes, I know it’s silly, but here is the reason. Birds will display for each other in the wild. They do tricks and spread their feathers out and do all kind of crazy things. Well, I do the same thing. When I taught him “Who Let the Dogs Out,” I sang the song while bouncing my head and upper body just like the group that recorded the song. For teaching “Shake your Bootie”… well, you can only imagine what I shook! 🙂

    When I taught him how to count. I gave him white index cards with the number written on each one. I’d let him take it from me in her beak, and he would bite the card and drop it. Then, I would go to the next number and so on. I do not know why he skips “2” and “7.” We are working on that, but I think he has decided they are not worthy of learning! I’ve done the same thing with colors. I’d give him a blue toy, and I say, “BLUE,” he takes it from me and drops it. He can say, “red,” “blue,” “green,” “purple,” and “orange”. Most all words he has learned on his own. He learns by listening to us.

    Also, when Einstein is learning a new word, the new word is usually not perfect. However, I know she is working on learning something new. So I listen. When he says the new sound, I try to figure out what it is. Just as if he were, a 2 year old child learning to talk. For example: “squirrel” was not perfect the first time out of her beak. The first sound we heard was “squ,” then it was “squel,” then I figured out he was trying to say “squirrel,” so I started saying squirrel often. I also associated a sound to it as a squirrel would make. He loved it! Now, he will ask, “What’s a squirrel?” and we answer with a “chik-chik-chik” sound.

    Many people have commented about how clearly Einstein speaks. We have always talked very clearly and never used “baby talk.” I believe that has made a difference. Texans speak slower too! That might be another reason! We also have to be careful what we say, and we DO NOT use curse words or fowl language in our household…

    And this is the really interesting question from the FAQ. I question the use of the term “understand”! We can attend to his responses to auditory & visual stimuli from his fellow ‘parrots’ [Marcia & Jim] & also their conversations & discuss it without the term “understand”, but we can never know what HE is attending to in total [clever Hans etc]. Also reports from Marcia/Jim are biased.

    Does Einstein understand what he says?

    Yes, he understands much of what he says. For example, he may notice me collecting garbage and he’ll say, “Take out the garbage!” Or, when he says, “Wanna come see you.” He really does want to get picked up. He will ask for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner at the applicable time of the day.

    He has also asked for a drink of water. He says “Good Morning” only in the morning and “Night” only at night. He might see me go in and out the door and will ask “Gonna go outside?” Often, I know he knows what he is saying. However, when he talks randomly, I think he is just doing what birds like to do, and that’s… make noise. Whether it’s chirps or words. I think he is just vocalizing what comes naturally – what he has learned.

    Dr. Irene Pepperberg wrote the book, “The Alex Studies: Cognitive and Communicative Abilities of Grey Parrots” and she continues to do research animal intelligence. Go to The Alex Foundation for more information.”

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted March 1, 2018 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

      I wonder if kakapos can be taught to talk?

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted March 1, 2018 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

        I’m not a kakapologist, but Sirocco the kakapo [in video below] seems to be almost monosyllabic – the Charlie Watts of the parrot world. The male courtship is a booming call in season** to attract females to their lekking court so I don’t think kakapos have invested in a wide lexicon of vocals – in a rock band they’d be the drummers smashing the kit & blowing it up at the end [a Keith Moon trick].
        ** “In season” seems to be a few months every FIVE years for pity sake!

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted March 2, 2018 at 12:39 am | Permalink

          I didn’t think that they’d be much interested (if one can use that word)in mimicry. They are sui generis. However Charlie Watts’ resemblance to a kakapo is uncanny, and his nose serves as a beak.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted March 2, 2018 at 1:00 am | Permalink

            🙂 He avoids wearing green to reduce the chance of the uncanny resemblance being widely noticed. Sui Generis was great on bass until that unfortunate ‘incident’ cut short her career, but she’s being let out soon.

            • Jenny Haniver
              Posted March 2, 2018 at 1:29 am | Permalink

              Even if he doesn’t wear green, as soon as he opens his mouth and vocalizes, it’s a giveaway, he’s a kakapo.

              • Jenny Haniver
                Posted March 2, 2018 at 1:41 am | Permalink

                By the way, is “kakapologist” your coinage? It certainly should be the official designation for those who study and care for kakapos. It’s a word bursting with puns. I see that the name “kakapo” comes from the Maori, meaning “night kaka.” I don’t know Maori, but I’d doubt that our “kaka” and their “kaka” are cognate (or calques?) in any way; however, to someone for whom “kaka” hearkens back to the Greek, the punning begins. Then one has “kaka” + “apologist,” so kakapologist can not only designate one who studies kakapos, but an apologist for kaka, or even an apologist for kakapos.

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted March 2, 2018 at 1:59 am | Permalink

                Yes, my coinage. I saw “apologist” jutting out of there & was unjustly proud of that bit of serendipity.

                The “kaka” Greek origin I didn’t know – though I do have “cack”, “cac” & “kak” from Latin & the Irish-English of my youth [cack-handed]. Manx has it too, though I don’t know how they spell it & a Dutch friend understood the term immediately I recall.

              • Jenny Haniver
                Posted March 2, 2018 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

                Not unjustly proud, but justly. It’s the kind of complex wordplay that not only tickles the funny bone but stimulates and challenges the language areas of the brain, makes one think about language in a productive way as well as being amusing – (word)play in the best sense of the word for homo ludens!

                Kakka — ancient Greek for excrement, but checking the wonderful book by Carl Darling Buck, “A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages,” I find that this is a broader (proto)Indo=European word (a ‘nursery word’ as in baby talk), found in one form or another in many IE languages, and not necessarily derived from Greek or Latin.

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