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Springtime – A windshield and tens of thousands of bugs

Pete FowlerGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson
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Live fast and die young.It could be the motto of the caddis flies that flutter around the city and into windshields and car grills and nooks and crannies of all manner after a mass hatching from the rivers every spring. Hundreds of species of insects associated with aquatic environments hatch throughout the year, but these rebels without a cause spring hatch-a-thons are one of the more visible events. They hatch “en masse” to increase the odds of encountering a member of the opposite gender as quickly as possible.”Most caddis flies don’t even have mouth parts,” Colorado State University extension agent and entomologist Bob Hammon said. “They’re there for one purpose – to mate, lay eggs and die.”

The caddis flies live in the larvae stage in the rivers in small “cases” they construct for about a year or so. They hatch around this time in the spring and fly around trying to mate and lay eggs while they’re alive – usually for only a few weeks. This week clouds of the drunkenly fluttering insects appeared around Glenwood Springs. Their presence here should taper off while more will appear upvalley at higher elevations.They’re sticky when smashed.”Once they’re dried up, you can’t even scrape them off with a razor blade,” Pit Stop carwash and auto-service station owner H.J. Chee said. Not even the 1,200 PSI sprayer will knock them off, he added. Turning up the power on the sprayer higher than 1,200 would knock off mirrors and trim, but not the insect goo. They have to be scrubbed off. Chee recommends washing them off fast, saying that once they are dried on for more than two or three days they become “like cement” and that acid from their bodies will actually etch through paint on a vehicle.”It seems to me we have a lot more than we’ve had in about 10 years,” Chee said, adding that he first noticed them this year in the past few days.

“I think we had a fairly warm winter,” which did not kill as many insects,” CSU extension agent and entomologist Pat McCarty said.The “cases” that caddis fly larvae live in are “like little log cabins in the river,” CMC biology professor Bob Kelley said. The larvae weave nets of silk and glue rocks or gravel together to build the protective structures. Some caddis flies use grasses or silt. Some types construct portable cases and some construct more permanent dwellings, using silk nets to catch food that drifts by.If they don’t wind up in the belly of a fish, the larvae pupate for a week or two after about a year in the larval stage, and hatch. Females lay eggs enclosed in a gelatinous mass by attaching them above or below the water’s surface. Eggs hatch in about three weeks.Caddis flies look kind of like smaller, slender moths with a longer, narrower bodies and wings with tiny hairs.”They hold their wings in a kind of roof-like structure over their body,” Kelley said.



People often confuse them with May flies, Kelley said.”We have both here but the big hatches we’re seeing right now are caddis flies,” he said.The more visible caddis flies are one of many.”Healthy aquatic environments just have a plethora of insect species,” Hammon said. “It’s incredible.””Everyone should take an entomology course,” Kelley said.

Contact Pete Fowler: 945-8515, ext. 16611 pfowler@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO


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