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Trichoptera: Helicopsychidae of Gunnison County, Colorado

Helicopsyche borealis
Snailcase Caddis, Cinnamon caddis, Speckled peter caddis

(Hagen) 1861
Updated 2 Oct 2022
TSN 117020


One of the easiest caddisflies to identify as a larvae because it lives in a case made of sand or fine gravel shaped like a snail shell. The larvae out of its case has a distinctive comb-shaped anal claw.

Good Links

Other Websites:
Illustration - University of Alberta Entomology Collection Species page
     Has description, habitat information, range and more.

Photos - from discoverlife.org

PAN Pesticides database: http://preview.pesticideinfo.org/List_AquireAll.jsp?Species=783&Effect=

Photos, Map, Museum specimens, DNA - Barcodinglife.org


Berger,J and Kaster,J 1979 Convergent evolution between phyla: a test case of mimicry between caddisfly larvae (Helicopsyche borealis) and aquatic snails (Physa integra). Evolution 33: 511-513 Abstract and first page

Bergey,EA and Ward,JV 1989 Upstream-downstream movements of aquatic invertebrates in a Rocky Mountain stream, Hydrobiologia, Volume 185( 1) 71-82. Abstract
     Helicopsyche borealis and Hesperophylax occidentalis were the only species to show a net upstream movement during the course of this study.

Bishop,JE and Hynes,HB 1969 Downstream drift of invertebrate fauna in a stream ecosystem. Arch. Hydrobiol. 66: 56-90.

Dodds,GS and Hisaw,FL 1925 Ecological studies on aquatic insects. III. Adaptations of caddisfly larvae to swift streams. Ecology 6(2)123-137. Abstract and first page

Hagen,HA 1861 Synopsis of the Neuroptera of North America with a list of South American species. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 4, 1-344.
     Original description as Notidobia borealis. Hagen's Glossary (pdf)

Hagen, H. A. 1866 Description of a genus of caddis-flies, of which the larvae construct cases known as Helicopsyche. The Entomologist's Monthly Magazine 2:252-255.
     Hagen moves the species Notidobia borealis to a different genus, Helicopsyche.

Hamilton,SW, and Holzenthal,RW 1984 The caddisfly genus Helicopsyche in America, north of Mexico (Trichoptera: Helicopsychidae) (abstract). Pages 167 in Proceedings of the 4th International Symposium on Trichoptera (J. C. Morse, ed.) Dr. W. Junk, The Hague.

Herrmann,SJ; Ruiter,DE and Unzicker,JD 1986 Distribution and records of Colorado Trichoptera. Southwestern Naturalist 31 4, 421-457.
     They note the habitat for this species is streams and rivers, the altitudinal range is 1494 to 3109m and adult collection dates are 28 Feburary to 7 September. Quote from page 427: "This species is more common in Colorado than previously reported." They list this species as present in Gunnison county.

Hinchliffe,R and Palmer,AR 2010 Curious chiral cases of caddisfly larvae: handed behavior, asymmetric forms, evolutionary history. Integrative and comparative biology, 50(4) 606-618. HTML

Holzenthal,RW; Blahnik,RJ; Prather,AL and Kjer,KM 2007 Order Trichoptera Kirby, 1813 (Insecta), Caddisflies. Zootaxa, 1668: 639-698. PDF
      Illustration of H. borealis case on page 655.

Jackson JK, Resh VH. 1992. Variation in genetic structure among populations of the caddisfly Helicopsyche borealis from three streams in northern California, U.S.A. Freshwater Biology 27:29-42. Abstract

Johanson,KA 1998) Phylogenetic and biogeographi analysis of the family Helicopsychidae (Insecta: Trichoptera). Entomologica Scandinavica Supplement (53) 1-172.

Lamberti, GA., Feminella,JW. and VH. Resh 1987 Herbivory and intraspecific competition in a stream caddisfly population Oecologia 73 (1) 75 - 81 DOI: 10.1007/BF00376980 Abstract

Lamberti,GA and Resh,VH 1983 Stream periphyton and insect herbivores: an experimental study of grazing by a caddisfly population. Ecology, 1124-1135.
     Abstract: " The effects of grazing by the herbivorous caddisfly Helicopsyche borealis on benthic algae and bacteria were experimentally studied in a northern California stream, Big Sulphur Creek. By elevating artificial substrate tiles above the stream bottom, larvae of Helicopsyche, but not other herbivorous insects, were effectively excluded. In three replicate experiments, grazing by Helicopsyche resulted in low amounts of algae (as chlorophyll a, 0.3-1.4 µg/cm2) and bacteria (0.3-0.7 X 108 cells/cm2) but a high algal turnover rate (O2 evolved per unit chlorophyll a = 34 µg · µg-1 · h-1). When larvae were excluded, higher amounts of algae (as chlorophyll a, 8.1-15.1 µg/cm2) and bacteria (1.9-4.8 X 108 cells/cm2) were present, but the algal turnover rate (O2 evolved per unit chlorophyll a = 7 µg · µg-1 · h-1) was lower. In a second set of field experiments, the effects of periphyton on the density and spatial distribution of grazers were assessed by varying the standing crop of periphyton. Nearest-neighbor analysis indicated that Helicopsyche larvae were aggregated on periphyton with higher standing crop than that which was present as background levels on surrounding substrate. Such larvae became randomly distributed after their grazing reduced the experimentally enhanced periphyton to the background levels. Helicopsyche's grazing resulted in a diatom-dominated algal community with a low standing crop that, because of a high turnover rate, was able to support a high biomass of consumers. This high rate of production probably occurred because competition for light and nutrients was less severe in the grazed than in the ungrazed periphyton. "

Mecom,JO 1972 Productivity and distribution of Trichoptera larvae in a Colorado mountain stream. Hydrobiologia 40(2): 151 - 176. DOI: 10.1007/BF00016789 Abstract
     Has life history data from the St Vrain River in Colorado.

Merrill,D 1969 The distribution of case recognition in ten families of caddis larvae (Trichoptera). Animal Behavior 17(3)486-493.

Moody,EK; Corman,JR and Bogan,MT 2016 Caught between a rock and a hard mineral encrustation: long-lived aquatic insects accumulate calcium carbonate deposits in a montane desert stream. Western North American Naturalist, 76(2), 172-179. PDF

Resh,VH; Lamberti,GA and Wood,JR 1984 Biology of the caddisfly Helicopsyche borealis (Hagen): a comparison of North American populations. Freshwater Invertebrate Biology, (4)172-180 Abstract and first page

Vaughn,CC 1985 Life History of Helicopsyche borealis (Hagen) (Trichoptera: Helicopsychidae) in Oklahoma. American Midland Naturalist, 113(1) 76-83. Abstract and first page
     Abstract: "The life history of Helicopsyche borealis was compared for 13 months in two Oklahoma streams that have different thermal regimes. Densities of H. borealis were usually higher in the thermally constant stream. The species was multivoltine with overlapping generations in the thermally constant stream and univoltine in the thermally fluctuating stream."

Vaughn, CC. 1987 Substratum preference of the caddisfly Helicopsyche borealis (Hagen) (Trichoptera: Helicopsychidae) Hydrobiologia 154(1) 201-205. DOI: 10.1007/BF00026840 Abstract

Vorhies,CT 1908 Studies on the Trichoptera of Wisconsin. PhD Thesis. 1909 Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences Arts and Letters 16: 647-738. PDF

Williams, DD., AT. Read and KA. Moore. 1983. The biology and zoogeography of Helicopsyche borealis (Trichoptera: Helicopsychidae): a Nearctic representative of a tropical genus. Canadian Journal Zoology 61: 2288-2299.

Brown, WS 2005 Trichoptera of Gunnison County, Colorado, USA