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Summary: Inchworms, despite the name, are truthfully not worms at all. They are really caterpillars, which are moth larvae. When trying to identify a specific inchworm you need to consider worldwide the Geometridae moth species that some counts put as high as 35,000. .

The inchworm gets its name primarily because the average species grow to about 1 inch (2.54 cm). Inchworms are not hairy like most caterpillars and they have three pairs of legs at the front of their body and two or three pairs of legs near the back, but nothing in between. They have a very distinctive style of moving that involves standing up on their hind legs and lunging forward, then inching their hind end forward on their back legs.


Inchworms hatch from eggs on the underside of leaves and begin eating immediately. They are generally little more than walking appetites until they pupate and evolve into adult moths of the Geometridae family. One main characteristic of these moths is they hold their wings open and away from their bodies when at rest, whereas other moths fold their wings over their abdomen.

Inchworms are a pest in the garden for a variety of reasons. They prefer several different types of deciduous tree leaves including maple, apple, crabapple, mulberry, and others. Fruit trees are one of their favorite meals causing serious damage to trees when they congregate in a large enough numbers.

In addition to tree leaves, inchworms will eat the leaves of many garden vegetable plants which make them a bigger problem than when they attack tree leaves. It also makes people take an active interest in finding ways to control or eradicate them.

As a defense mechanism to protect itself many inchworms have the ability to spin a web similar to that of a spider. They drop from the leaves where they are eating and swing on a single silk thread until the danger is past. The thread eventually hardens and the inchworm is able to climb back up it to its food supply.

Certain varieties of inchworm like the Eastern Tent Caterpillar, are known to weave cocoons of silk around a collection of the worms to protect themselves from predators while they strip the leaves of a tree completely within the

Tent caterpillars

cocoon. Many people call this a web, but that is not a correct term because the purpose of the structure is purely self preservation rather than any attempt to catch food. These inchworms are the most destructive because they always group together and, if enough are present, they can kill a tree completely in one season.

Characterizations of the inchworm make them likeable by some. In fact, there is a riding toy for children modeled on the shape and movement of the insect that is called Inch Worm. But, this insect pest can be a very serious problem for certain types of trees and shrubs, as well as some leafed crops such as beans, peas, and Brussels sprouts and there is no glamour or likeability factor when they are causing millions of dollars in damages.

So how do you get rid of these things?  Well, they do have a few natural predators like birds, paper wasps and yellow jackets. One of the most common methods of limiting the number of inchworms in a given area involves allowing more wasps to survive there. Wasps like to feast on inchworms. Of course, for many people, wasps are not really a good idea for obvious reasons. The inchworm can also be managed using various chemicals or non-toxic “green” products. Try to find their main areas of infestation. If it is in a fruit tree, you may be able to spray the tree and nuke the entire infestation.

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30 May 2009, 20:48
i have a pet inch worm because i found it and i didnt know wat it can do but i dont know wat to feed it its green but i put leafs and twigs and stuff in there
Old Fogie
15 Jun 2009, 07:38
In Northern VA: We lost 3 trees to tent worms last year but we were successfull in stopping the stripping of another 5 or 6 trees using a garden hose with a high pressure stream nozzle attached.

Seems, if you are able to tear the tent open and wet the catapillers, they vacate the nest and die as they're body temperature drops to low to maintain their metabilism (requires a breeze to work).

Birds and Wasps do not eat them, the catapillers make cianide in their bodies from the leaves they eat (is this a tree specific thing?) and that makes preditors sick.

These catapillers are about 1.5" to 2" long, the leave silk up the trees when they return to the tent nests prior to darkness (must keep warm to live). Breaking the return silk stops them from finding their tents and they do not seem to share tents either.

Worked for us, possibly this will be helpful to others.
22 Jun 2009, 12:05
i have been discovering dead worms in my kitchen my the back door or on the floor in the corner -they are tiny where are they coming from?
22 Jun 2009, 23:36
Will these pesky inch worms continue throughout the whole summer or will they eventually die off because I was told they will die off in a month or so?Because we cannot enjoy our backyard AT ALL!!!
24 Jun 2009, 23:44
can i buy a spray to kill these worms?
25 Jun 2009, 08:29
There is the chemical that county extension offices use, it is preferred to be sprayed by professionals though as it is rather toxic. If a little bit kills most of them, a little more will kill all of them - as well as the wildlife, pets, children, etc..

My personal experience is with the wasp sprays in pressurized cans, the ones that shoot streams upto 20'. They work well but leaves the nest/tent in the tree with stinky dead bugs hanging there for months.

Supposedly, there is a powder that you can sprinkle around the base of trees to poison them as they leave the tree to feed and return (once the nested tree is barren of foliage), as I have pets I passed on that one.

There is another one that uses a super sticky substance wrapped around the trunk of the tree (like fly paper), it captures them as they leave and/or return.

Note that these tent worms stink as they rot!
19 Aug 2009, 19:37
what i do if they are in my home mainly in my kitchen help.
15 Sep 2009, 17:56
I live in Eastern MA. I have many inch worms (cat.) on my kitchen ceiling. How can I get rid of them? Do I need to find a source, or nest? UGH.
Deirdre Lofft
25 Sep 2009, 13:31
They are on my kitchen ceiling too. I can't seem to find where they are coming from. Can they hurt my house and how should i eradicate them. Thank you. These are the lil green guys like you have a pic ont he top of the page.
29 Apr 2010, 17:30
omg we have inch worms all over all our oak trees and in our bathroom so wat do we do???????????????????????????
02 Jun 2010, 09:43
what do i do with the inch worms how do i feed the inch worm? what kind of place do i keep it in? haw do i make a home for it out of paper
Ask the Exterminator
02 Jun 2010, 10:12
This section is for comments. Ask your questions as instructed in red.
06 Jun 2010, 17:58
I found an inchworm. I hope that it will become a moth!
Melissa Walter
04 Nov 2010, 21:16
We just discovered these small yellow/greenish worms crawling on the ceiling in our kitchen. Where are they coming from and what can we do????
Ask the Exterminator
05 Nov 2010, 14:40
Get them identified so you know what species of insect you are dealing with. I cannot tell from your description.
16 May 2013, 17:07
i have inchworms every where. i want to know do they cause rashes?:)
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