The inchworm AKA cankerworms, loopers, and spanworms are a specific species of worm that feed on decaying leaves and other plant matter in the garden and on many deciduous trees (large trees with flowering plants/leaves that shed).
Though an inch long, they play a role in sustaining the environment, ecosystem, and to a large extent, humans.
However, in some parts of the world, our friendly inchworm is considered a bad sign when seen. This has a lot to do with the question, what do inchworms eat?
The answer is inchworms eat various crop species, including trees, fruit, bushes, and garden plants. While a single inchworm won’t cause much damage, in large numbers, they can lay waste to entire trees with their voracious appetite.
About 1,000 species of inchworms live in North America while there are over 23,000 different species scattered abroad.
Inchworms, as the name goes are about an inch long, and in this article, we’ll be taking an extensive look at their dieting habits.
Want to know more? Read on!
What do Inchworms Eat Most Commonly?
Inchworms, also called loopers, measuring worms, and spring cankerworm, eats a wide variety of diet, and the ones they are commonly attracted to are:
- Flower buds
- Fruit trees [berry bushes, oak trees, pine trees, maple trees, fir trees, hickory trees, apple trees, linden trees]
- Garden vegetables and herbs [celery, cabbage, parsley, beans, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower potatoes].
- Lichen or pollen
Among their wide choice of diet foods, they eat these more commonly.
They can be beneficial in eating and decomposing waste matter but if they infest your garden and you see that they are causing major damage to your plant and its young leaves, then you should take control measures.
What Type of Leaf Does an Inchworm Eat?
Inchworms love eating tender leaves and they have a wide variety of choices.
They eat almost all kinds of leaves they can find on many coniferous and deciduous trees.
These are the common types of leaves that an inchworm eats:
- Oak leaves
- Maple leaves
- Mulberry leaves
- Cherry leaves
- Lilac leaves
What Plants Do Inchworms Eat?
Inchworms feed on plants and tree species and some of them include:
- Berry bushes
- Bak trees
- Pine trees
- Maple trees
- Fir trees
- Hickory trees
- Apple trees
You’ll definitely find clusters of inchworms anywhere you see these plants.
What Fruits Do Inchworms Eat?
Inchworms are avid eaters of fruits like pumpkins, squash, cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, cucumber, carrots, strawberries, Plum, Cherries, Apples, Peaches, Apricots, and Pears.
There are other fruit trees you can also catch them habiting or moving quickly around using their hind legs to pull forwards.
What Do Inchworms Drink?
They derive water from the plants and tender leaves they eat.
They don’t go anywhere near streams or water bodies to be refreshed, instead, they get hydrated all thanks to the leaves they eat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Check out common questions related to inchworms and the accurate and professional answers:
Do Inchworms Eat Grass?
Yes, they do.
In fact, anything green, tender, and coming out of the soil is tasty to our one-inch friend.
They are avid eaters of grass and you can find them clustered around in your garden.
However, if you notice that they’re leaving the grass and going for the fruits in your garden, it will be in your best interest to employ control measures.
Do Inchworms Eat Cucumber?
Naturally, inchworms do not have cucumbers on their diet, but if it is on the menu and readily available, they’ll consume them.
More so, if you discover that they’ve gone ahead to eat the beautiful and fresh cucumber plants in your garden, then you should dispose of the worms. Moreover, they cant harm your plants so don’t worry!
Do Inchworms Eat Bugs?
No, not all species of inchworms have the capacity to eat bugs.
Most inchworms are restricted to eating lichen or pollen at the extreme while other species can comfortably eat insects.
What Eats Inchworms and What Are Their Natural Predators?
There are several insects that prey on inchworms for food and some of their natural predators include:
2. Paper wasps.
3. Ground beetles.
These insects will gulp down an inchworm or a group of them at first sight!
More so, if you feel you’ve had enough of the activities of inchworms in your garden, then you can introduce their natural enemies to the field to clean the mess.
You’d also have to proceed with caution so that the soldiers you’ve sent to the field to get rid of the inchworms do not turn into your garden’s enemy.
How to Take Care of Inchworms
If you plan on taking the bold step of caring for inchworms, then follow these easy steps and you’ll be on your way to cultivating healthy and happy inchworms:
- The first step is to gather your inchworms. Inchworms come out in their numbers during spring. You’ll definitely find them clustered on some soft, tender leaves.
- Now that you’ve located them, it is time to get their home ready. You’ll have to get a cup and tin foil [pinch holes in it] and break off branches and leaves from the tree you found them.
- Time to put the inchworms in the cup [their home].
- Cover the inchworms in the cup with the perforated tin foil.
- According to your preference, you can decide to leave the cup of inchworms indoors or if you’re not comfortable with it in your home, you can shelter it outside under favorable conditions.
- You should ensure that you regularly check on the inchworms and change their leaves when necessary.
- With time, as they eat and grow, the inchworms will turn into moths, then you let them go.
How to Control Inchworm Populations
Inchworms come from the family of Geometridae [Greek words “geo,” meaning earth, and “metron,” meaning measure]
So, when the inchworm grows, it turns into the geometer moth caterpillar. They may look eye-catchy, however, are disastrous when not put under control.
Here are a few control measures against inchworms:
- By using a bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis [BT or Bt].
- You can also use a chemical pesticide known as Sevin.
- You can use sticky bands around trunks to catch the females who lay eggs.
- You can hose them off your garden plants as well.
Inchworms are a fascinating species of worms waiting to mature into Geometer moths and can be beneficial in breaking down decaying leaves and other plant matter in the garden.
This article has explored the wide variety of things that they eat. We hope it gives you more insight into the life of our friendly 1-inch friend.
Fun Fact: The spring cankerworm is different in color to the fall cankerworm. Spring cankerworms will be a greeny-yellow or browny-black color, while fall cankerworms are various shades of green (but can be black too). That’s the color difference between these types of inchworms.