A reader in Algiers, Algeria wrote to us recently to ask about a “worm” he found in his garden. The worm is in fact a caterpillar, which may be one of the species of swallowtail butterfly caterpillar, which make up the family Papilionidae. With these two sentences, we’ve already supplied our reader with everything he wanted to know (and all we can really give him), but we’ll delve a little bit further into the subject to round out our answer, and also explain our rationale a bit more.
One of the great tics of the English language (and perhaps other languages as well) is that groups of certain animals have different names. It is for this reason that one can point to the sky and scream “murder” as a way to acknowledge the group of crows flying overhead. Worms are like any other type of animal, and in fact a group of worms can be called several different things, although how “official” any of these names are is hard to determine. So, our concern is not necessarily centered on what you should call a group of worms, but rather on what people do in fact call a group of worms. That is, our task is descriptive, not prescriptive, as the lexicographers like to say.
A reader wrote us a fairly frantic message via the All About Worms Facebook page recently about what appears to be carpet beetle larvae, easily the most common creature we write about. The reader was “begging” (her word) us for help, and stressed her discomfort with three exclamation points. The carpet beetle larvae, if this is in fact what they are, are on a sock, and there appear to be at least seven or eight of them, so we can understand the reader’s concern. The reader only asked about identification, which we’ve technically already covered, but we’ll explore our suggestion in greater depth below.
We received a photo from a reader that appears to depict a few dozen dried worms on some concrete surface, perhaps a driveway, or maybe a sidewalk leading up to a front door. (“Dried worms” sounds almost like some sort of snack, so maybe “dried-up worms” or “dried-out worms” is a better way to describe them.) Normally, we would say the reader asked a question about the dried worms on the driveway or sidewalk or whatever concrete surface we are looking at, but no question was asked. In fact, no text was supplied whatsoever – the picture was submitted and nothing else. We can’t divine exactly what our reader is looking for from us, but context suggests we take his message as an unspoken question of identification. What are the dozens of worms on the concrete, and how did they get there?
We received a question from a reader about some issues she is having with her Concord grape vine. Her situation is somewhat complex, so we’ll quote her entire message so as to not leave out any important details: “I have a Concord grape vine that I recently found some strange bulbous growths that look like some sort of cocoons on them. When I opened some up you could see very very tiny orange looking worms, no bigger than the tip of a pencil. These bulbous things are a very light pink color and have taken over the vine. The vine is supported by a trellis, birds also love to nest in it. I can’t seem to find anyone who can tell me what they are and how to treat them.”