We recently received this short message from one of our readers, “I have these worms in my palapa that are literally destroying it. Is it possible that they came from Mexico with the leaves? They aren’t on any of the other plants or trees in my yard.” She also sent us a few photographs, the first is of her palapa, which is an open-sided dwelling with a roof made of thatched palm leaves:
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Although we know that this palapa came from Mexico, we don’t know where our reader is writing from. While geographic location isn’t always crucial when determining the type of worm our readers find, it can sometimes be a helpful hint. We will expand on this idea in a little, but first let’s take a look at the specimen:
This first photograph is great for determining the size of the specimen. Since our reader has cleverly placed a coin next to the organism, we can see that it is quite small. We can also see that it is a brown color. We think it might also have a segmented body with a distinct head, but we need to take a closer look:
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There are many caterpillars that eat the leaves of palm trees (these caterpillars are also known as moth larvae.) However, we don’t know if these caterpillars would also eat dead leaves. In other words, we don’t know if the same organisms that live in palm trees and eat the healthy leaves are the same creatures that would be interested in the leaves after they have been cut off the tree. Two caterpillars that are known to eat palm leaves and have at least some resemblance to what our reader found are palm flower moth larvae and palm leafskeletonizers (yes, that is a real name!) However, both of these caterpillars are lighter in color than the brown specimen our reader found. Also, palm flower moth larvae are only found in 3 states in the U.S.: Arizona, California, and Nevada. So, in this case, knowing where our reader lives could be helpful in determining if these creatures could be palm flower moth larvae or not.
Unfortunately, we can’t be much help for our reader. We aren’t extremley familiar with thatch roofs, and we don’t want to give our reader the wrong advice for caring for her palapa and getting rid of these specimens, especially since we aren’t even sure what they are. We recommend our reader visit a local Home & Garden store, where an expert might be able to provide more help!