Gardening Etcetera: Inchworms can be pesky little buggers – Arizona Daily Sun

CINDY MURRAY

Towards the end of last summer, I became painfully aware that something was chomping on my coleus plant. When I looked closer, I found bright green worms chewing holes through each leaf, leaving behind only a skeleton of leaf veins. I was fascinated, though, by the way these guys moved. They seemed to grip the leaf with the front of their body, while scooching the hind portion to meet it. The middle portion made a loop above the worm.

They reminded me of stories and songs I heard as a child about inchworms. I had always thought these worms were make-believe. Is there really such a thing, and is this an indication there may be a problem in my vegetable garden next summer?

There certainly are such things as inchworms, only they’re not worms, they’re caterpillars. Adults are grayish-brown moths of the Geometridae (…….

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Towards the end of last summer, I became painfully aware that something was chomping on my coleus plant. When I looked closer, I found bright green worms chewing holes through each leaf, leaving behind only a skeleton of leaf veins. I was fascinated, though, by the way these guys moved. They seemed to grip the leaf with the front of their body, while scooching the hind portion to meet it. The middle portion made a loop above the worm.

They reminded me of stories and songs I heard as a child about inchworms. I had always thought these worms were make-believe. Is there really such a thing, and is this an indication there may be a problem in my vegetable garden next summer?

There certainly are such things as inchworms, only they’re not worms, they’re caterpillars. Adults are grayish-brown moths of the Geometridae (meaning earth measurer in Greek) family, which consists of many species. The caterpillars are about one inch long and, depending on the species, may be green, brown, gray or black. And the reason they “inch along” is because they have legs and prolegs only on the front and back portions of their bodies. Some inchworms are called loopers, in reference to the loop they form as they move.

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There are several intriguing facts about inchworms. When poked, they will stand motionless on their hind legs, likely a defensive stance. By the same token, some members of this family will secrete a thin line of webbing from which they will drop down and hang if they sense a nearby predator. When the danger has passed, they’ll go back to munching away at its host’s leaves.

Your vegetable garden may be susceptible to a particular type of inchworm called a cabbage looper. If you plan on growing celery, cabbage, cauliflower, radishes, beans, parsley, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes, and peas, you’ll need to keep a lookout for them, but they likely won’t be a nuisance every year nor in every neighborhood. In fact, they’re not commonly a problem in the Flagstaff region. For light infestations you may pick the them off. For major infestations treat with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), available at nurseries. Make certain it is the type of Bt that is effective against caterpillars. Also, treat upper and undersides of the leaves and reapply after each rainfall.

I have flies (I assume that’s what they are) that seem to be coming out from my potted houseplants. They are 1/8” long and have grayish wings. They spend most of their time near my plants or on top of the soil. How do I get rid of these pests?

— Shoo Fly, Stop Bothering Me

Your pests are a type of fly called fungus gnats. They are a big problem here in northern Arizona, especially in potted plants where they are attracted to moist potting soil or soil medium. These gnats may become a serious infestation in greenhouses and cause minor damage …….

Source: https://azdailysun.com/news/local/gardening-etcetera-inchworms-can-be-pesky-little-buggers/article_4bb5bb4e-dbbd-5575-adbd-4a15d5d87330.html

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