17 April, 2014

Dust Bugs, Bagworms, and Casebearers

What started me thinking about this was because we seem to be overrun with the little critters this year. I mean, we’ve had them on our ‘basement’ walls every year since we built the place, but this year, it’s a bumper crop.

It’s kind of strange. I guess I never really looked closely at them till this year. I never realized that there was a live, moving bug inside most of these little things. Well there is.

This also was the first year that we noticed them upstairs in the main living area of the house. As a result, I got curious about them this year. I first spent quality time observing one of them while I was sitting on the throne (as you do) taking care of some personal business. I happened to see what appeared to be some sort of worm or bug sticking out of one end of the thing and actually moving the thing along as it went. I’d never seen that before.

After that revelatory and satisfying experience, I happened to ask a few folks at our Friday pool party if they knew what the critters were. Everyone had seen the things, but no one had a clue as to what they might be.

I didn’t think they looked particularly ominous, but down here, with as many critters as there are, and some quite bad-ass ones to boot, you just never know. I wasn’t real keen to grab one and get bitten or stung and find out I’ve got like 30-seconds to live.

My only experience of getting into close contact with them previously was to grab my broom and sweep them off the walls into a nice tidy little pile, scoop them up into the dustpan and then deposit them into a nearby trash container.

Not that now that I know more about them, that I get particularly cozy and all with them, but now I don’t fret if I happen to actually make real, physical contact with them.

So, wanting to know more about them, but having run into a knowledgeability roadblock with our social crew, I thought I’d ask Dianna to post a photo on Facebook and see if anyone had more of an idea what they were than this lot seemed to.
My Blurry Photo of Small Bug-Thing
I would have done it myself, but for religious reasons, I refuse to have anything to do with Facebook.

Dianna had never posted a photo to Facebook before and suggested I ask Colleen to do it, so that’s what I did.

Tuesday, I emailed Colleen the following:
Hi Colleen,

I've attached a photo of those little bug things that seem to hang out on the inside walls. It's not a very good photo, but I think it gets the idea across.

The bug thing appears to be about 5/8th inch long by 1/4th inch wide at the middle. they're flat and appear to have some sort of worm sort of thing poking out of one end or the other, and they really like being on walls. It appears to be a very small inch-worm like critter. Must be a larval form of some type of moth.

If you could post the photo and the description to Facebook and ask if anyone can identify it, I'd appreciate it. I did ask Dianna to do it, but she didn't know how to do the photo end of it. Thanks.

While Colleen was posting the photo and request to Facebook, she and her hubby, Bruce, were playing host to the best minds in the business, who happened to be getting ready for a heavy day of playing golf. Their suggestion as relayed by Colleen as to what we were dealing with was the following:

The golfers said, “They are a cocoon of sorts. Have a tiny caterpillar inside that changes to a moth. We all have a lot.of them.this year.”

I’m glad I didn’t bet the kingdom on that answer. Those boys must have read my email. Colleen also provided a potentially useful tidbit when she said that her housekeeper called them ‘dust bugs.’Does that help?

Apparently, there were more witty responses on Facebook to the posting. One from some wag named ‘CT’ who suggested turning up the A/C as that made them go away. Wonderful. In the meantime, I wouldn’t be able to afford my electric bill - that’s assuming I had A/C in the first place, which I don’t.

After a few more erudite comments from the peanut gallery, CT actually came back with the most complete and concise posting on the topic. Big ups to him for that. He posted a link ( to an informative article written by a Florida County Extension Agent (Daniel F. Culbert) about our critters. He called them ‘Plaster Bagworms’ (Phereoeca dubitatrix).

I’ve since found all kinds of research about the critters. It seems that the more correct name for them is the following from the University of Florida:

Phereoeca uterella is a species of moth belonging to the family Tineidae. It is commonly known as the plaster bagworm but as the term "bagworm" more properly refers to moths of a different family (Psychidae), it is often called the household casebearer – which may in turn refer to the related Phereoeca allutella. It is found in warm, humid climates throughout the Americas although the exact range is difficult to map as it is easily confused with other case-bearing tineids.”

This came from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ( It seems the experts (so-called) have as much trouble as us lay people telling what’s what in the critter world.

Wikipedia had a much better photo, below, of the thing than my blurry effort.
Household Casebearer - From Wikipedia
Quite a bit more hot skinny on these critters is in a publication from the University of Florida IFAS Extension,  Publication #EENY003 ( The publication also includes several photos, of which, below is a couple showing the Household Casebearer as we’ve seen them, and one showing the end result, the moth. Kind of pretty, that.
Household Casebearer Showing Larva
Female Household Casebearer Moth
Well, now we know more, but we’re still not sure exactly what we’re dealing with. It seems they could be any one of about three or four species of moth. I guess we can agree on the almost politically correct sounding name of Household Casebearer as being more specifically descriptive.

I dunno, I sort of like ‘dust bug.’ At least now we all know a lot more about these things than when we started. We can be assured now as we sweep them into our dustpans that the Household Casebearer isn’t quite the danger that it initially seemed was possible. Unless of course, you want to save and protect all those wool sweaters and such that you brought down with you.


Mr. Pancho said...

Great read. I'm going to add wool sweaters to the list of things I'm selling when moving to Belize from Kansas.
Current list: Snow shovel, wool sweater.


Dave Rider said...

Hi Rodney,

Thanks for the nice comment. Don't forget to add most leather goods. They tend to like to mildew and grow mold down here.
Let's see, I've forgotten... What's a snow shovel look like?


JRinSC said...

Hey Dave,

Saw your reading list and that prompted a question. Were you in the Navy when Admiral Zumwalt was CNO? And if so, who came after him... I cannot remember.

Good post, by the way. Glad most of the electrics are working (an assumption) since you're posting more frequently these

Take care,


Dave Rider said...

Hi Julian,

Yes, I was. It was very exciting with him as CNO. His Z-Grams were revolutionary and mucho exciting as each arrived - Beards for one and civilian clothing kept aboard ship for the lower enlisted for another. Some officers and Chiefs just freaked out.

Took me a couple tries to find his successor - Adm. James L. Holloway, III. Never served under him.

Glad you liked the post. I learned a lot about the little critters.

Electrics are in fact doing better. Still not 100%, but better.


Mr. Pancho said...

Amy and I will be in Beautiful Corozal 5-27 thru 5-30. What's the word on the street about 'The Almond' resort there on Gringo lane?


Dave Rider said...

Hi Rodney,

I haven't heard anything untoward at all. Far as I know, business as usual. Nice, upscale place to stay.


Richard Yates said...

Natural predators are few and far between. Some control methods, such as traps, have been used with limited success. Getting rid of these bugs may become a full time job.