River life

Have you ever seen a caddisfly larva? I know, bugs, everyone stops reading, but bear with me.

Caddisflies are an important part of many healthy river ecosystems. Their larvae are aquatic, and fish find them delicious. When not being eaten, the larvae are busy doing their thing, which may consist of eating algae, or plant material, or other creatures…basically eating. That’s what larvae do.

It’s tough being a soft juicy larva. Things want to eat you. Many caddisflies deal with this in a truly awesome way. The larvae make silk, and they collect debris from their surroundings and bind it together into a shell of sorts. Here is a nice picture of one. That little head sticking out? That an a few legs are all you see of the larva. The rest is in the home it has built of grains of sand and bits of wood.

I’ve been thinking about caddisflies lately. My daughter and I sat next to a river yesterday and watched dozens of larvae crawling their slow way across the bottom. This river, or this area of it, had a silty bottom, and the larvae had built their homes mainly of small soft bits of wood and bark, rather than pebbles. Had they been put down in a patch of diamond chips, they would have built their homes of those. They adapt. They use whatever is around them, and every single one lives in a slightly different home. Even those living in the exact same stream.

When I started writing this, I was working toward some fabulous caddisfly/writer metaphor conclusion, probably with fireworks and marching bands. Let’s not do that. I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.

But the next time you’re by a river, consider sitting on the bank and seeing what you can see.

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