We received a brief and somewhat perplexing question from a reader a few days ago about brown inchworms in the kitchen. In fact, her entire email consisted of the question “what are brown inchworms in the kitchen?” – and nothing else was written. We therefore aren’t sure what our reader’s situation is, and we also aren’t really sure what information she is looking for. Brown inchworms in the kitchen are, well, brown inchworms in the kitchen, and we don’t really know what else to say about the matter. What we can do, however, is provide a little information about inchworms, so we’ll focus on this general theme below.
Inchworms aren’t actually worms, but are instead the larval form of geometer moths, which makes them caterpillars. Geometer moths compose the family Geometridae, which make up a fairly substantial portion of the total number of the Lepidoptera, the order to which butterflies and moths are assigned. There are around 180,000 species in the order Lepidoptera, and about 35,000 species of Geometridae specifically. Thus, the word “inchworm” is fairly vague, and the brown inchworms in our reader’s kitchen (if brown inchworms were even found in her kitchen – not even this is clear) is just one of many, many possible species. If we had a picture of the inchworms our reader is asking about, or if we had some more specific information, like where the inchworms in question live, we might be able to narrow the range of possibilities, but alas we have no such information. If our reader wants to investigate what kind of inchworm she found, she might look for information on the website of the nearest university’s integrated pest management program. If a university is not located anywhere near where she lives, she might seek out information published by a larger university in her region, like a big state school (if she lives in the U.S.).
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If the reader is wondering if she found inchworms at all, she should closely observe the creature’s locomotion. Unlike other caterpillars, inchworms lack prolegs on the middle section of their body, so they have only regular legs on the front end of their bodies and two or three pairs of prolegs on the back end of their body. So equipped, the larvae appear to “inch” along a surface: the front end of the creature clasps the ground and then pulls the back end forward, causing the middle part of its body to arch. The prolegs on the caterpillar’s back end will then plant on the ground, allowing the front end of the creature to extend forward. If the creature is moving in this way, our reader found an inchworm.
We aren’t sure if any of this will be particularly helpful to our reader, but it’s all we can provide in the absence of additional material to work with. She is of course free to submit additional information, however, and then we might be able to supply her with whatever it is she is looking for.
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