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When I was younger, I was extremely
interested in freshwater biology and spent most
of my time dredging about in ponds and
streams, catching minute creatures and keeping
them in large jars. Among other things, I had
one jar full of caddis larvae, which camouflage
themselves by decorating their cocoons. The
caddis I had collected looked rather dull, for I
had collected them from a stagnant pool. They
had merely decorated the outside of their
cocoons with little bits of dead water plants.
I had been told by my friend, however, that
if you remove a caddis larva from its cocoon
and place it in a jar of clean water, it would
spin itself a new cocoon and decorate the
outside with whatever materials you supplied.
Deciding to experiment, I removed four of my
caddis larvae from their cocoons. Then I placed
them in a jar of clean water and lined the
bottom with tiny seashells. Later, to my
astonishment, the larvae had intricately
decorated the new cocoons with seashells.
I discovered that by moving the larvae to a
different jar with a new substance, they would
produce new multicolored cocoons. My
greatest triumph lay in forcing them to decorate
their cocoons with fragments of blue glass, then
red brick, and white seashells. Moreover, the
materials were put on in stripes.
I never remember feeling quite the same
sort of satisfaction as I did when I showed off
my red, white, and blue caddis larvae to my
friends. I think the poor creatures were really
rather relieved when they hatched and flew
away and could forget about the problems of