Weather at Bedford, Hanscom Field, MA - via NOAA's National Weather Service

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pond Life

My first tadpole sighting of '09 occurred today. My son found it in our little pond. Most likely it was a green frog pollywog, since that is the species that mostly inhabits our wetland. I'm excited because we didn't seem to have many frogs last summer (though we did have a lot of snakes.... a coincidence? I think not.) It is also kind of fun since I've been reading a lot about frogs because Passover is coming. The second of the ten plagues God set on the Egyptians was a plague of frogs - they hopped out of the Nile into houses and all over everywhere. Then they died and were stinky. Anyway, there are ten species of frogs in Massachusetts. I have spring peepers and wood frogs near my house, but not on my property (except perhaps occasionally). And there are certainly toads around my yard at times - toads are frogs, too.
So the tadpole is pretty cool, but what I think is even cooler is that I saw an awesome caddisfly larva, an inch and a half long. These critters are really cool because they build their own houses around themselves, using glue they make with their own saliva. Depending on where they live, they will use different materials to build these "homes", which are really protective cases for the growing larvae. Eventually they will seal up the case and pupate, turning into the actual caddisfly. Fly fishermen like to make lures that look like adult caddisflies - I guess fish like to eat them. The one in my pond had taken bits of bark about half an inch long and maybe an eighth of an inch wide and made a long skinny house for itself. These guys live as larvae for a long time, sometimes a couple of years, but don't last long as adults. Their goal as an adult is to reproduce, and once that is done they are finished - they don't even eat. So no wonder they hang out as larvae for a long time! Since the larvae will make cases with whatever material is available, some people have figured out how to make jewelry from the shed cases. If you keep the larvae in a tank with pretty stones or bits of glass, they will use those to build with, and when the larvae are finished with the cases you can collect them, preserve them with a sealant, and add hooks for earrings, or string several cases for a bracelet or necklace. I've never tried it.
Also in my pond I saw a couple of freshwater snails today. My daughter said I looked silly sitting there staring into the pond, but it sure was fun! And as the spring progresses I'm sure we'll be seeing lots more good stuff.

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