Some green caterpillars might look like worms, but they are not. In fact, there are many different species of green caterpillars in the world. There are over 140,000 types of butterflies and moths known to man, which means there as many caterpillars.
Green caterpillars are very common and can easily be confused with worms in the early stages of the lifecycle. They thrive in many environments including gardens, trees and plants. Caterpillars are often found on the stems of plants and trees as this is a common form of food. Caterpillars can often be identified by the food plant they are found on since different green caterpillars feed on different plants.
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If you are collecting green caterpillars, you want to make sure that the container you are using is large enough for the amount of caterpillars you put in it. Three to five caterpillars is probably enough for a small container. You also want to make sure that you collect plant stems from the plant you found the caterpillar on so you have enough of the proper food for them.
If a caterpillar is found roaming on the ground, then it is probably sick, looking for food, or getting ready to pupate (go into the transformational stage between being a caterpillar and becoming a butterfly or moth). Very small caterpillars are not great for collecting. The smaller they are, the younger they are and being in captivity may affect their ability to grow.
The best way to identify green caterpillars you find is to get a picture and learn about the food the caterpillar is eating. Your picture can be compared to pictures in insect guides available online or at your library. Knowing the food source will help with the identification along with any unique characteristics such as hair, spots or horns. Continue to the next section to read about how to identify worms.
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Identifying worms is a branch of zoology dealing with insects called “entomology.” “Although insects were studied as early as the 4th century BC, particularly by Aristotle, the modern science did not begin to develop until the 17th century ad. The science of entomology received great impetus in the 19th century, largely as a result of the publication of On the Origin of Species (1859) Charles Darwin, which showed how the study of insects illuminates certain aspects of evolution. In the 20th century, entomological research was further stimulated by successes in the search for solutions to medical and economic problems involving insects. Today, there is more research done and literature published annually in this field than in any other branch of zoology.” –By MSN Encarta Encyclopedia:
Because there are more than 2,700 species of earthworm alone, when identifying worms, there are several important steps that should be taken in order to identify them correctly. First, you should become familiar with the key characteristics used for identifying earthworms. Just a few of the characteristics used to identify earthworms include: Genital tumescene (GT), the Tubercula pubertatis (TP), and the Clitellum.
The clitellum of adult earthworms contains features called genital tumescence, and tubercula pubertatis. The clitellum features, the male pores, and female pores are found above the clitellum and are all parts of the earthworm reproductive system. The earthworm also has “setae” which are tiny hair-like projections that are arranged in rows along the earthworm body. The setae are used are used for locomotion by the earthworm. The prostomium is the earthworm mouth. The size, shape, and position of the different characteristics of the worm are different in different species of earthworms and will help you to identify the species of earthworms you may be dealing with.
After you have become familiar with earthworm characteristics, you should become familiar with the characteristics of earthworms that indicate which ecological group they belong to. There are three broad ecological groups that have been identified for earthworms including: epigeic, endogeic, and anecic. The groups are based on what the earthworms eat and where they tend to live in the soil. The epigeic group is a litter feeder, litter dweller, pigmented, small in size, and it doesn’t burrow. The endogeic group consists of rich soil feeders, topsoil dwellers, has no pigmentation, burrows horizontally, and it is small in size. The anecic consists of litter and soil feeders, soil dwellers, dorsally pigmented bodies, extensive vertical burrows, and a large size. Size and color are usually good distinguishers for adult earthworms.
For more information about identifying worms, you can download an online identification key for earthworms by clicking here to visit The Backyard Nature websites’ key or to access an online field guide to earthworms, click here.