The inchworm is a common type of worm that can show up just about anywhere – in gardens, on farms or in plants. So, whether you’re farmer, a gardener or an inchworm enthusiast, you may have experienced an inchworm infestation before. Unfortunately, an inchworm infestation can cause a large amount of damage to your crops, plants or garden. This might lead to the purchase of poisonous chemical remedies to treat the infestation. While these remedies may have been effective, you may have concerns about the toxic nature of these chemicals. Fortunately, there are several less toxic and non-toxic ways to control inchworm infestations.
Before we discuss how to get rid of inchworms, the non-toxic way, continue reading to learn more about the inchworm and several different types that destroy crops and plants.
About Inchworms and Types
An inchworm is the larvae of moths of the family Geometridae (phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta, order Lepidoptera). This large, widely diffused group has more than 1,200 species indigenous to North America. Some inchworms (also “inch worm”) are considered average while others are considered extraordinary. Inchworms do, however, have many common characteristics. They have smooth, hairless bodies, and they typically grow up to one inch in length. Their colors run the gamut from brown and black to bright green.
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Also referred to as loopers, measuring worms, and spanworms, inchworms have three pairs of legs at the front end and two to three pairs of prolegs or larval abdominal appendages at the rear. Inchworms travel by drawing their hind end forward while gripping the earth with its prolegs. They have the ability to stand erect and motionless when poked or prodded in any way.
Much like spiders, some inchworms have the ability produce thin delicate lines. In some cases, these thin lines are made of silk. It just so happens that one of the most destructive types of inchworms, called cankerworms, produces soft silk threads as they drop from trees to evade predators. Also called measuring worms, cankerworms vary in color, but their bodies consist of long horizontal stripes. Cankerworms feed on shrub foliage and tree foliage. These creatures like to hang out in apples, elms, oaks, lindens, sweetgums, and a wide variety of other shade and fruit trees.
Another type of inchworm, also called Looper and Cabbage Looper, overwinters as green to brown pupae tightly wrapped in cocoons (not webs) of white thread. In the spring, the adult moth emerges. The adult lays its eggs, typically on the surface of leaves. Once the larvae emerge, they feed for two to four weeks. Once they’ve had their fill, the larvae spin cocoons similar to the ones used during the overwinter process. The larvae prefer vegetable gardens and they eat a variety of crops including: celery, cabbage, cauliflower, radishes, Brussels sprouts, beans, parsley, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes, and peas.
How to Get Rid of Inch Worms
Inchworms have natural predators, specifically Trichogramma wasps. Birds, yellow jackets and paper wasps also feast on inch worms, so allowing these types of animals and insects to roam free in your garden or around your crops should help control your inchworm population. Natural diseases and parasites also control inchworms. Wilt disease causes the inchworms body to rot. This usually happens late in the season. Bacillus thuringiensis, a wilt pathogen, is available to gardeners to help control infestations. This pathogen is only toxic to insects. If you would like more information about bacillus thuringiensis or to purchase products containing bacillus thuringiensis please visit: http://www.dirtworks.net/B.T.-Insecticidal-Soap.html.