Inchworms may be small, but they have a voracious appetite for healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. Depending on the type of inchworm, these greedy little creatures will nosh their way through apple trees, and many other types of fruit trees, as well as shrub and tree foliage of oaks, elms, lindens and sweetgums. Inchworms will also feast on a wide variety of crops such as celery, cabbage, cauliflower, radishes, Brussels sprouts, beans, parsley, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes, and peas.
So which types of worms eat what? 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. The cabbage looper eats a variety of crops including: celery, cabbage, cauliflower, radishes, Brussels sprouts, beans, parsley, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes, and peas. The 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 cankerworm is probably one of the most destructive types of inchworms. Although it produces soft silk threads as they drop from trees to evade predators and their bodies are unusually beautiful (their bodies consist of long horizontal stripes), they can damage crops beyond repair. Once a cankerworm has eaten through the fruits and foliage of trees, there is little to nothing left.
Overall, the eating habits of inchworms cause massive destruction to most food crop foliage because the inchworm will eat as many holes as it can in the leaves of all kinds. Fortunately, there are several ways to control larvae/inchworm infestations. Trichogramma wasps are natural predators as well as birds, yellow jackets and paper wasps. They are also controlled by natural diseases and parasites. Wilt disease causes the worms body to rot. This usually happens late in the season. “Bacillus thuringiensis,” a wilt pathogen, is also available to gardeners and farmers to help control infestations.
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 “inchworm”) 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. Also called loopers, measuring worms or 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 will stand erect and motionless when poked or prodded. Much like spiders, some inchworms have the ability produce thin delicate lines. In some cases, these thin lines are made of pure silk.
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