Plain Red-Brown Long Horn Sedge

I’m proud of this identification. This insect looks very much like a moth, except for one thing — there appears to be an extra antenna, or possibly an extra leg, kind of furry, under its head. I had exactly this one photo of it, so I didn’t know if that was a leg, or an antenna, or even debris from another insect it happened to be sitting on. What could this “little brown moth” be?

This is where my lack of entomological vocabulary shows badly. “Tufted antennae”, “extra antennae”, “unique antennae”, “tufted legs”, “unusual forelegs”, etc., etc., all combined with search terms like “little brown moth” turned up nothing (because that object is, in fact, not a leg or an antenna). If, however, I had been able to come up with the term five-segmented maxillary palp off the top of my head, the ID would have popped right up: this is a long-horned caddisfly, specifically a “red-brown long horned sedge”, or Oecetis inconspicua. A whole new category for the web site — Trichoptera!

Caddisflies resemble moths, except that their wings are covered with tiny hairs instead of scales (“Trichoptera” is Greek for “hairy wing”) and their mouthparts are palps (little manipulatory appendages) instead of a curled proboscis like a moth. The family this one belongs to is known as “long-horn” because of long antennae, or rather long palps, on its larvae. Caddisfly larvae in general are known as “casemakers”, because they build little tubes out of debris or sand and wear them on their soft, caterpillar-like bodies to protect themselves.

Trout eat caddisflies and their larvae, making the insects of great interest to fishermen. I’m not certain where the name “sedge” came from, but I’m going to blame the English.

And, as always, my identification is probably about 90-95% right. Apparently O. inconspicua is a catch-all name for a bunch of very similar species who all look alike as adults…and this is where I, as a photographer, get off the train. Look, it’s a bug! IT’S A BUUUUUUG

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