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Northern Caddisfly (Pycnopsyche sp.)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Northern Caddisfly

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Northern Caddisflies are a group of highly beneficial insects that split their time between water, land, and air.

Updated: 01/04/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Though Northern Caddisflies resemble moths, they are not related. A Caddisfly has a life cycle more similar to dragonflies. Female Caddisflies lay their fertilized eggs either directly in water, or just above the water line on some kind of vegetation. Creeks, streams, lagoons, ponds, and lakes make great habitats. Eggs hatch and the worm-like larvae live underwater for sometimes as long as a year. They have feathery gills that allow them to breathe. They build little cases or 'homes' for themselves that they bring with them everywhere they go and eventually use them when it is time to pupate. In the meantime, they feed on plant material under water or other small aquatic insects. They molt multiple times underwater, growing larger, and building newer, bigger cases when needed. After pupating into their winged adult form, they crawl or float out of the water and fly away. Adults have short life spans (just a month or so), making it a special thing to see one. They do not eat. Instead they spend all their remaining days reproducing.

Because much of the young Northern Caddisfly's life is spent underwater, the cleanliness of the water greatly impacts the insect's ability to survive. Toxic or chemically polluted water kills the delicate larvae, which results in a small population or the complete absence of Caddisflies in that region. For this reason, biologists use the presence of Caddisfly larvae and their adults as an indication of how clean that water source is. Many Northern Caddisflies equates to good, clean streams and creeks.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Insect antennae icon
Flying insect icon
Helpful insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Trichoptera
        Family: Limnephilidae
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          Genus: Pycnopsyche
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            Species: sp.

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Pycnopsyche sp.
Other Name(s): Sedge
Category: Caddisfly
Size (Adult; Length): 17mm to 25mm (0.66" to 0.98")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown
Descriptors: flying; tentacles; antennae; legs; helpful; beneficial

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 17mm (0.7in) and 25mm (1.0in)
Lo: 17mm
Md: 21mm
Hi: 25mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Northern Caddisfly may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Northern Caddisfly. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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