Gimme shelter: Animal Homes in the Wild – Jeannette

This week, I left the hot sticky stoney enclave of urban/campus life at Georgia Tech in Atlanta and entered the cool dappled forest of Tennessee. I brought my own home with me: a hammock tent. Instead of carrying a support system, I used the structures in the forest, namely the trunks of rhododendron bushes. At the second site, taking the experience of the first hammock pitch, I pitched by tent close to rushing creek separated by dense bushes where the fireflies flitted in the night. The suspension system of the hammock fit in between and above a nice depression in the ground to give me clearance to stand below the tarp that protected me. My head faced the shrubs with the creek just beyond. Wrapped like a larva in a silk cocoon, the hammock rocked me to sleep like a sailing boat moored in the sea. This is my forest home, comfortably providing a swinging seat and a supported sleeping platform that was sheltered from the rain and wind, excluding unwanted biting insects but allowing views of nature while in the distance, laughter reached me from my Hiking hack comrades around the campfire.


Once my nest was built, I went to a habitat familiar to me: the aquatic community. When I was little, my family home was bordered by 2 brooks. I spent hours looking under rocks for salamanders and crayfish, moving pebbles to make pools to watch them play with each other and their surroundings. I watched snails and slugs crawl, and recently I’ve spent hours watching pteropods flap and spin, so it was easy for me to mimic one that was hallucinating as one of my character roles in our evening performances.


To my delight, after picking up only a few large stones in a still pond off the main rapids, I found some caddisfly pupal homes: tiny tubes made of sand grains. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Stuck to the underside of a larger stone, these cocoons faced into the flow in the still pool of the side of the stream. A laser light passed right through them so no one was inside these homes. Aligning the purple laser with the axis of the tube home, thin shafts of light escaped through the stained-glass-like windowpanes of clear sand grains OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When I searched upstream closer to stronger flows as the creek ran down steeper terrain, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

the cocoons were constructed of bigger stones. The neatest discovery was that the cocoons looked like little flies: were the caddisfly larvae selecting sand grains that matched in size and color [red] to place them where eyes might be located?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcaddisfly coccoon mimics a fly: two red eyes and grey wings

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA three stone houses in a row, as found on underside of stone facing into stream flow


Now I wanted to know if another site would show me another form of their home. three stone houses in a row on underside of stone facing into stream flow

stream scene brighter

drawing of stream scene [need to brighten this]

Near this location, the little aquatic insects cemented smaller sand grains of slate, making a grey dense strong tubes,

Caddis Fly, Adult, Larva and Pupa Life Cycle

able to protect them from being eaten by trout