Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Pagoda Bagworm

This is the 4th time I am mentioning this bagworm. Previous ones #1, #2, #3 were very brief and uninformative so this time, I thought I will go more in depth into it.

Previously someone had commented on my blog that this unidentified creature was a bagworm moth. Further confirmed it after seeing the specimen at the Singapore Garden Festival. But I just felt incomplete not knowing its species or at least genus. However, sourcing from the web "bagworm" yield nothing close to this bagworm case. Dingli suggested I email to some moth specialist or entomologist. He sourced for me the email of Mr Henry Barlow who authored "An introduction to the moths of South East Asia". Recieved a prompt reply by him the next day, saying that this might be Pagodiella hekmeyeri, or the common name Pagoda Bagworm.

study by Florida International University (look at paper of Foreign exploration for biological control agents of three invasive species from Asia) on the biological controls of invasive plants in Malaysia found significant herbivory of the pagoda bagworm on Ardisia elliptica, which is the same host where I first saw the bagworm. They also have similar cases and also circular wounds thus showing that Mr Barlow was probably right with his conclusion. It was noted that it is a general pest found on other plants like the oil palm. I had also seen them on sea almonds a few times.

bagworm wounds on the sea almond

Bagworm moths are of the Order Lepidoptera, same as the butterflies and family Psychidae. The distinctive feature of bagworms is that their larvae are remarkable architects, building mobile cases made of environmental materials, in this example, the leaves, to hide themselves in. Thus, within each case hides a tiny caterpillar. For the pagoda bagworm, it scrapes the chlorophyll off the leaf before incising cleanly around the area consumed, creating a circular wound. The excised leaf piece is then added to the bagworm’s protective casing.

Circular holes on Ardisia elliptica

Each species of bagworm construct a unique case hence making it useful for identification. Their cases are binded together with silk and also to its plant host which is very steadfast as I had tried prying them off the leaf with much effort. Another interesting fact is that the adult female of the bagworm develop vestigial wings thus cannot fly. They normally stayed within case while the adult males moths can attain the power of flight.

Theres this amazing macro shots of another species of bagworm building its case using twigs, which I found linked from the Nature Spies blog. Really worth to take a look.


Andrew said...

I'd like to know how to contact Henry Barlow. I have just posted a set of Malaysian moth photos in Flickr and I was hoping he might ID some for me. My site for reference is at

Many thanks

Andrew (57andrewatgmaildotcom)

Anonymous said...

Could someone please let me know how to treat for these bagworms? I work at a pest control company here in florida and this is our first case. thanks,

ts said...

Hi, I do not know that there are any pest controls used to kill these moths. What I learn is that people just cut off the leaves that have these bagworms on them. That should remove the whole lot effectively.

Unknown said...

I had the pest in my garden.I am enemy of to use chemicals, I used only vinager,liquids soap and water. I was successful!

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