Transparent, White Worms Found in the Soil of Pea Plants are Pea Moth Caterpillars

“The ‘very tiny and almost transparent white’ worm that was in the lady’s soil is also in my soil” says this reader in her query concerning the worms she has found in her pea plants. “Are those small worms harmful to my plants or do they help the plants?” she asks.

Now, we do not know exactly which article of ours she is quoting and which “lady” she is referring to, so we cannot make any assumptions as to the worms’ identity based on that. Additionally, our reader does not provide any photographs of the worms she has found, so there is nothing there for us to go off of either. However, our reader did happen to mention which plants she was cultivating, namely pea plants, which in this case does help us a lot. When we hear about transparent white worms in the soil of pea plants, the first thing we think of is pea moth caterpillars.


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Pea moths are tiny, gray moths who lay their eggs in the soils of pea plants, where the larvae will eventually hatch and subsequently crawl into the pea pod to feed. Usually, pea moth caterpillar infestations are only noticed after harvesting the peas, as the damage is done inside the shell of the peas; one might find the caterpillar(s) (transparent and white, with black spots) still feeding on the peas inside, as well as caterpillar excrement on and around the peas. That being said, infestations can also be spotted before the caterpillars enter the peas, which is what our reader seems to have done. Once an infestation is ongoing, there is not much one can do to save the pea plant, as the caterpillars have likely already entered the shells (of course the ones that our reader is finding can be handpicked and moved outside before they enter the pea pod). The way to control pea moth infestations is really to prevent more moths from laying eggs on the plants, and to do this, the RHS’ page on pea moths recommends getting a “horticultural fleece”, which is basically an insect nets to put over one’s plants. They mention that since pea plants are not in need of pollinators, then this will not affect the growth of the plant.

Alternatively, since our reader did mention that she also has springtails in her soil, these white worms could just be young springtails, which are also white in color. Springtails are household and garden pests that congregate in damp environments. Like many other creatures that prefer damp environments (earthworms, millipedes, red midge fly larvae), these creatures feed on various organic materials, such as decomposing organic matter (mold), fungi and algae. When these little guys are disturbed, they tend to ‘spring’ into the air, not unlike click beetles. Of course, since our reader already identified these as springtails, and can likely tell the difference between a six-legged critter and a worm, we would rather suggest these worms are indeed pea moth caterpillars.

To conclude, the white, transparent worms our reader found in the soil of her pea plants are most likely pea moth caterpillars. Without photographs, we cannot make this identification with 100% certainty, but making do with what we were given, we would say this is the most likely conclusion to make. Of course, if our reader would like to confirm whether or not these worms have black spots like pea moth caterpillars, or if she would like to go ahead and send us photographs of them, she is more than welcome to post something in the comments section below, or drop us another email. Otherwise, we wish our reader and her pea plants the best of luck!

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Transparent, White Worms Found in the Soil of Pea Plants are Pea Moth Caterpillars
Description
"The 'very tiny and almost transparent white' worm that was in the lady's soil is also in my soil" says this reader in her query concerning the worms she has found in her pea plants. "Are those small worms harmful to my plants or do they help the plants?" she asks.
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Author: All About Worms

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