What Do Inchworms Eat and Drink? Tips How to Control Them

Take a closer look at the twigs on the trees or the leaves on your garden plants. There are times when you find an inchworm or two there.

These tiny animals attract children’s attention because of their cute small shapes, and some also have striking colors.

Regardless, inchworms will be very destructive to garden plants once they come in large numbers.

Moreover, identifying their infestation early and understanding some of the inchworm’s characteristics, including what they eat and drink, will help you better control their growth in the garden.

Table of Contents

Small Creature with Huge Damage in the Backyard

What Are Inchworms
Source: homeguides.sfgate.com

First of all, many people may think that the inchworm is a worm. In fact, they are actually a kind of caterpillar.

Inchworms are the larval phase of the geometer moth that you often find in backyards. Yes, they are agricultural pests you must get rid of out the garden plants.

Then, how long do inchworms live? They will stay for two to four weeks before finally evolving into adult moths.

Moreover, just as the name suggests, inchworms are generally only 1-inch long.

But never underestimate the presence of these small animals in your garden. They can eat the plants there and end up causing massive damage that will make you dizzy.

It is not because they are big eaters. They mostly eat at night in the hope that the dark sky can protect them from predators.

However, it would be different if inchworms came in a large group. They are the reason why your garden plants are perforated, ragged, and even completely sapped.

Inchworms’ Characteristics

Another characteristic that you can find is that inchworms lack hair. It is different from actual caterpillars, which are usually hairy.

Additionally, inchworms come in many colors. They can be green, brown, black, to yellow, depending on their type and what moth they will turn into.

During its lifetime, the inchworm will only grow to about 1 inch long.

Inchworms Special Behaviors

Inchworms Special Behaviors
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Regardless of the type, inchworms can produce silk.

This silk will help the inchworms move from the tree’s highest part to the ground. Or to allow them to bypass their natural predators.

Moreover, some types of inchworms can also change their body color or camouflage following the surrounding area. 

This ability is beneficial to protect themselves from predators as well. As for the rest will cover themselves with dry leaves or whatever to hide from the intruders.

The hind legs are also present not only to help them move. Sometimes they use it to stand up and resemble the twigs once crawling on the trees.

Do Inchworms Bite?

Do Inchworms Bite
Source: gardeningknowhow.com

Some people think that the inchworm can bite. But actually, that is not true at all. Most people feel intimidated by the presence of inchworms when they come in large numbers.

The Life Cycle of Inchworms

The Life Cycle of Inchworms
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During their life cycle, inchworms go through four stages before turning into adult moths. Here are the stages:

1. Eggs

Source: caryinstitute.org

In late summer or fall, the female moth will start laying eggs. Generally, they will lay them on branches, under leaves, or the tree bark.

Based on the type, these moths will lay their eggs wherever they want in singly or bunches.

2. Larvae or Inchworms

Larvae or Inchworms
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The eggs will hatch in late fall or spring. When hatched, they will resemble these typical inchworms with all their characteristics.

During the larvae stage, they live on trees or near food sources to survive. 

At this time, they eat a lot. Therefore, inchworms can damage your plants once they come and live in your garden in large numbers.

Then, how long do inchworms live? Inchworms will stay for two to four weeks before finally evolving into adult moths.

3. Pupae

Source: roadsendnaturalis.com

Before pupation, inchworms will secrete silk to help them fall from the tree to the ground.

On the ground, they will burrow themselves under piles of leaves or whatever is scattered around and then spin protective cocoons all over their body.

After several weeks or months, they turn into adult moths.

4. Adult

Adult moth
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Adult moths can emerge in late fall or early spring. Next, the male moth will fly off to mate. Meanwhile, the female moths stay on the tree as their wings are tiny and waiting for the males to come.

Common Inchworms’ Species

Common Inchworms Species

Inchworms come from many species. More than 1000 species exist in North America, while about 23000 types are spread worldwide. 

But let us discuss the three most common types in this section:

1. Crocus Geometer

Crocus Geometer
Source: champlainislandsnature.blogspot.com

This kind of inchworm is native to North America. Furthermore, you will find these inchworms mostly in bushes or herbs. 

Additionally, they look like twigs on a tree. When these inchworms turn into adult moths, they have yellow wings with brown spots.

2. Chickweed Geometer

Chickweed Geometer
Source: knowyourinsects.org

Unlike the usual inchworm species that live in trees, this type prefers to live and eat low-growing plants such as Polygonum, clover, and Stellaria. 

As adults, this inchworm will become a moth with cream wings with red or pink bands.

3. Peppered Moth

Peppered Moth

It is the most popular species of inchworms. They can change color as well as their body shape to resemble twigs.

Along with the changing era, the wings of these adult moths also switched from what was originally white to black due to pollution and smog.

Where They Prefer to Live?

Where Inchworms Prefer to Live
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Although they tend to live and adapt anywhere, inchworms can generally be found on trees. Meanwhile, some species prefer to live in low-growing plants. 

It all depends on the species. The point is, as long as they can get food sources quickly, that is where they will swarm.

Do Inchworms Have Natural Predators?

Do Inchworms Have Natural Predators
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Of course, inchworms have natural predators. Some of them are wasps, lizards, birds, and chickens.

Inchworms have instincts, and as soon as a predator approaches, they will immediately freeze and camouflage like twigs or hide under leaves.

What Do They Eat and Drink?

What Do They Eat and Drink
Source: gardengild.com

What kinds of leaves do inchworms eat? Everything. They eat various garden plants, vegetables, flowers, and fruit that thrive and provide nutrients to survive.

So, do Inchworms eat grass? Yes, they also feed on any leafy plants. Sometimes, you can find them in shrubs, like berry bushes.

Moreover, they look for food on the pine, oak, elm, maple, fir, hickory, and apple trees.

In addition, they may eat herbs and vegetables such as parsley, celery, cabbage, beans, cauliflowers, lettuce, and potatoes.

Besides, some types of inchworms feed on insects, pollen, and lichen.

Do Inchworms Drink Water?

Do Inchworms Drink Water
Source: gardeningknowhow.com

Of course. Even so, inchworms do not necessarily drink in stagnant water or the like. They will drink the water content from fruit, vegetables, or leaves when they eat.

Impacts of Inchworms in Your Backyard

Impacts of Inchworms in Your Backyard
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It is undeniable that every pest has the possibility of having two effects on your garden or backyard, both benefits, and adverse effects.


Benefit of Inchworms
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Positively, the inchworms will provide benefits to the surrounding ecosystem, especially natural predators.

They provide food for predatory chickens, birds, lizards, and wasps.

Moreover, you have opportunities to raise inchworms for specific purposes, such as animal feed. To do that, you must follow the steps below to avoid damaging your garden.

How to take Care of an Inchworm?

How to take Care of an Inchworm
Source: capitalnaturalist.blogspot.com
  1. Create a habitat for them in a plastic container or glass terrarium with several small holes in the top for ventilation. 

You can get these containers quickly at pet stores. Then, layer the bottom with an inch of dirt or wood shaving to replicate the ground.

  1. Collect the newly hatched inchworms in the spring. Next, clip the leaves where they existed before. 

Please put them in the container you have prepared. Feed the inchworm regularly using those clips of leaves from the same tree.

  1. Place the counter near the window, and open it several times a day to provide sunlight and air that supports the growth of inchworms.

Reasonable care will also produce good adult moths. Do this way to breed inchworms as your livestock feed without having to damage your garden ecosystem.

Negative Affect

Negative Affect of Inchworms
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Inchworms are great leaf eaters. They can eat both day and night. The presence of one or two may still be understandable. 

But, if they have come in large groups, they will be able to damage and consume various types of your garden plants.

Inchworms eat almost all parts of the plant, from leaf buds, flower buds, leaves, and even fruits. Their uncontrolled attacks will make growers fail to harvest vegetables and fruits.

RELATED: How to get rid of caterpillars

Identifying Inchworm damage on Plants

Identifying Inchworm damage on Plants
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It is easy to recognize the damage to the plant caused by inchworms. Once you look closer, you will find ragged holes here and there.

The newly hatched inchworms will feed on the veins of young leaves. Meanwhile, the adult ones can leave large holes on leaves and fruits or even eat your shrubs entirely.

On some vigorous plants, they will be able to grow leaves again four to six weeks later. But it does not say so to the vulnerable plants.

Inchworms bite holes in plant parts, making them fall easily and even die because other pests and diseases can attack them.

6 Tips How to Control Inchworms Infestations

Tips How to Control Inchworms
Source: laidbackgardener.blog

You can get rid of inchworm infestation in your garden in two ways, namely by using toxic chemicals or naturally. Here we describe it in several methods:

1. Remove Away by Hands

Remove Away by Hands
Source: plantcaretoday.com

This method is the simplest and cheapest one you can do. You merely need to remove inchworms from the plants by hand.

Remember to wear plastic gloves before taking them up. Then, keep inchworms in the plastic bag and seal them before throwing them in the trash.

This technique will only work if there are only one or two inchworms in your garden plants. Meanwhile, apply the other techniques below for larger infestations.

2. Soapy Water

Soapy Water
Source: greenerideal.com

It is an easy-to-do home remedy, though. However, not all types of soapy water will immediately kill inchworms. 

To be more effective, you can spray this solution just before doing the method in the first point.

3. Bt or Bacillus thuringiensis

Bt or Bacillus thuringiensis
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It is a type of pathogen or microbial pesticide that farmers often use to eradicate inchworm infestations. Bt is made of organic bacteria in the soil, which can affect the pest digestive system because of its protein.

Inchworms exposed to Bt will continue to starve and eventually die within a few days. Although this pesticide can kill inchworms effectively, it will not harm pets, bees, and humans.

To control the growth of inchworms, you can dissolve four teaspoons of Bt concentrate with 1 gallon of water. 

Put it in a spray bottle and spray on the infected plants until the leaves’ surface becomes moist. You can re-spray if needed or every five days to prevent the inchworm from returning.

Moreover, spray it outdoors to avoid other adverse effects of using this pesticide.

4. Use Insect Killer Granules

Use Insect Killer Granules
Source: gardentech.com

Some stores also provide insect killer granules. They will help you eradicate inchworms through the soil.

Spread the granules around your garden plants, then flush the soil with water. This process will help break down the content in the granules to be immediately absorbed into the ground.

5. Attract Inchworms’ Natural Predator

Attract Inchworms' Natural Predator
Source: gardenguides.com

One of the predators is birds. Provide bird feeders, birdbaths, or shelter for them to get closer to your garden and eradicate inchworms naturally. If you interested to read more articles about bird, here we have some interesting fact about Hummingbirds.

6. Call for Professional Help

Call for Professional Help
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You can do the previous five steps yourself because they will work dominantly on low-growing plants. But remember that some inchworms may also live on towering trees.

To eradicate them, you need professional help to avoid other unexpected possibilities.

Preventing Them from Coming Back

Preventing Them from Coming Back
Source: 72tree.com

After exterminating, it is essential for you also to take preventive action to stop inchworms from re-occupying your garden plants.

  1. The first step is to wrap sticky bands around tree trunks to trap and prevent adult moths from laying their eggs.
  2. The second is to clear the garden of leaf debris to eliminate areas where inchworms may be hiding.
  3. The last is to spray horticultural oil to eradicate the eggs that lay under the tree barks or leaves.

Final Thought

Inchworms are agricultural pests and are the larvae of moths. Instead of a worm, inchworms are a type of caterpillar that belongs to the Geometridae family.

What distinguishes them from other caterpillars is that the inchworm only has a few pairs of forelegs and hind legs. 

At the same time, the middle of its body is legless.

It is one of the reasons these animals are called inchworms because they have to loop their bodies up to be able to move.

To make a move, inchworms bring their hind legs close to their forelegs, making their body arch. Next, their front ones will move forward to extend their body again.

Furthermore, inchworms come with various names, such as spanners, loopers, cankerworms, and measuring worms.

Many may think that knowing inchworms’ characteristics in detail is not so important.

Yet, understanding what inchworms eat and drink and knowing the signs of their presence will make it easier for you to eradicate them immediately.

Of the six methods mentioned above, be sure to choose the one or some that suit your needs. That way, your garden will always be free from inchworm infestations.

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