A reader who recently moved to Las Vegas, Nevada has been finding worms in her apartment and wishes that we help identify them. The worms appear pink in color, with a white underside, an orange head, and small legs sprouting from its underside.
Our reader guesses that these creatures are caterpillars, but adds that she has never seen caterpillars this pink before. At the time of writing to us, she had found two of these caterpillars, the first of which was found on the wooden floors of her living room, and the second one crawling on her couch. Our reader worries about the appearance of these worms as she does not leave doors open and she cleans her apartment often. Unfortunately, cleaning her home will not suffice in preventing these creatures from entering it; these are palm flower caterpillars.
Palm flower caterpillars are larvae, as all caterpillars are. These ones in particular are at the larval stage of a palm flower moth’s life cycle. These one-inch long caterpillars thrive in dry, desert climates, and are common in the desert regions of the Americas, including Arizona, California, and Nevada. What attracts them specifically about these areas are the palm trees. Their name is derived from their habitat and source of food, the palm tree. While they tend to stick to living in palm trees, it is possible for palm flower caterpillars to be blown off the trees by strong winds and carried to people’s homes.
Once near a home, they will want to find a place that can mimic the climate that the palm trees provide them. They may crawl in through cracks in the walls, defective bug screens, or doors. If our reader does not keep her doors open, then the former two options are more likely to have been the point of entrance in this case. The places they are most likely to inhabit inside the home are upholstery, books and especially carpets. They have even been nicknamed the ‘carpet caterpillar’, not to be confused with the carpet beetle larva. These critters will only eat enough of a carpet to make room to build their cocoons. They do not cause significant damage to carpets like carpet beetle larvae. However, in the case that they inhabit a book (although it is uncommon), then even the slightest of damage will, of course, be noticeable. The way that palm flower caterpillars multiply in the home is that one of them matures into a moth and lays eggs in the cracks of walls or baseboards.
Hence, while these critters are not directly pests, infestations of them can occur and they should be dealt with immediately. Fortunately for our reader, these infestations are fairly easy to deal with. There are two simple steps to removing palm flower caterpillars from one’s home. The first is to move all caterpillars found to a palm tree, if possible. We would caution our reader when handling the caterpillars. Their heads are comprised almost entirely of muscle which operates a powerful bite. Using gardening gloves, a dustpan, or the cup-and-paper method should suffice in avoiding being bitten. Secondly, locate the source of the infestation (where the eggs have been laid) and clean it out. Depending on where she finds the eggs, they can be removed using a vacuum cleaner, or even moved by hand to a palm tree as well, though she should be sure to be gentle when handling the eggs so as not to break them. In order to prevent further infestations of palm flower caterpillars, we encourage our reader to ensure that her window screens and air vent covers are good quality, and if not to replace them. Additionally, sealing all the cracks in her apartment that creatures could possibly crawl through would be a good idea.
To conclude, the pink worms our reader found inside her Las Vegas apartment are palm flower caterpillars. While they are not pests, they can infest a household and are not entirely harmless as their bite packs quite the punch! Simple measures can be taken to remove these caterpillars from the home, as well as prevent their return, and we recommend that our reader takes them. And the best of luck to her!