Currently viewing the category: "Inchworms"

Subject: caterpillar wearing flower camoflage
Location: Auburn, NJ
September 9, 2012 8:57 am
Hi Bugman,
I took pics of a little inch worm type caterpillar a couple weeks ago, amazed I had never seen them before. I’ve taken dozens of pics of butterflies on these zinnas, but their camouflage is so effective, I mistook them as part of the flower. Luckily the camera lets me zoom in or I still might have missed them.
Over at bug guide came up with a close relative, but not sure the coloring is quite right to be a match: synchlora aerata? Am I getting close?
Signature: Creek Keeper

Camouflaged Looper

Hi there Creek Keeper,
You have correctly identified this Inchworm or Spanworm in the family Geometridae as the caterpillar of the Wavy-Lined Emerald,
Synchlora aerataAccording to BugGuide:  “Caterpillars feed on a wide variety of plants, often composite flowers but also many other flowering plants, shrubs and trees.”  The caterpillars use petals from flowers and other plant parts as a protective covering, hence the common name Camouflaged Looper.  BugGuide also states:  “Caterpillar adorns its body with plant fragments, usually flower petals, to camouflage it as it feeds. It is the only widespread species to do so(2), but from Maryland southwards other Synchlora spp. are also present and only raising to adulthood can yield a definite caterpillar ID.”  Since you are in New Jersey, we are relatively certain that the species identification is correct.

Camouflaged Looper

Ah,Daniel,  thanks so much!  I don’t know why I’m no longer seeing updates for your posts on Facebook, though I used to get them in news feed. If I had, I would have seen your previous posts and not been quite so lost looking for information.    I guess its the time line they changed me too?  But I just spent some time catching up.  Amazing things, bugs are.
thanks again,


Subject: Weirdest bug I’ve ever seen!
Location: Zebulon, NC
August 22, 2012 6:32 pm
This has to be the weirdest bug I’ve ever seen. There was more than one of them in my flower bed. I have so many different types of pollinators that at first I didn’t pay much attention to it. But upon closer inspection, I could see it was no ordinary bug.
I don’t know if it has some dead foliage on its back to act as camouflage, or if that’s its body, but the entire thing was moving on top of the flower. Can you help me out?
Signature: Melissa

Camouflaged Looper

Hi Melissa,
Though the camouflage element is obviously the dried petals of the flowers in your photo, the insect portion is not very visible in your otherwise lovely photograph.  We hope you have other angles of view to submit as well.  The most likely candidate is some type of caterpillar, probably a Camouflaged Looper,
Synchlora frondaria, but it is difficult to actually see the insect in your photo.  See some examples of photos of Camouflaged Loopers on BugGuide which states:  “A variable twig mimic. Larvae take on the colors of their host plant and employ decorative crypsis by attaching plant material to themselves.”   BugGuide also states:  “larval foodplants include sunflower, Bidens, Rudbeckia sp., and others” and the flower in your photograph is in the composite group that the Camouflaged Looper feeds upon.  The Camouflaged Looper will metamorphose into the Southern Emerald Moth.

That’s exactly what it is!  Thank you so much!  I’m attaching another photo I took this afternoon, from another angle.  I also got some video of it.  Fascinating creatures!

Camouflaged Looper

Thanks Melissa,
This image is a much better view of the insect known as the Camouflaged Looper.

Ed. Note:  A mere ten days after making this post, it quickly rose to the fifth “most liked” posting on our site.

Ed. Note:  We haven’t awarded a Nasty Reader Award in quite some time since most folks who write to us are polite and quite understanding that our small staff is unable to respond to every question we receive.  This morning we happened upon this flurry of emails from Alexis Crowell, that came within three hours of one another.  Seems Alexis is demanding instant gratification and furthermore, (S)he has deplorable grammar.  Additionally, U.S.A. is a very broad location when it comes to trying to determine the identify of many insects that have a very localized range.  Further research into the matter revealed that Alexis did not even take the photographs, but rather pilfered them from other websites.  With that said, we are unable to even respond to this rude query with any accuracy.  It also appears that despite the poor grammar and spelling, Alexis has referred to our staff with a derogatory sexual orientation slur in the final correspondence that occurred a scant two hours and 45 minutes after the initial email.  Seems Alexis is not only rude, but a person who demands instant gratification.  For all  of the above reasons, we are pleased to award Alexis Crowell of the U.S.A. as our latest Nasty Reader Award recipient.

Subject: are they rare?
Location: U.S.A
August 14, 2012 3:08 pm
dear bugman,is the pink inchworm rare or is it not that rare. is there not that many inch worms?
Signature: sinnceraly, Alexis Crowell

Ed Note:  Our immediate automated response
Sent: Tuesday, August 14, 2012 3:08 PM
Subject: Identification Request: are they rare?
Thank you for submitting your identification request.
Please understand that we have a very small staff that does this as a labor of love. We cannot answer all submissions (not by a long shot). But we’ll do the best we can!

Alexis Crowell
3:19 PM (18 hours ago)
dear bugman it is ok
you cant just try we are really curious about this unknown bug.

Alexis Crowell
5:10 PM (17 hours ago)

Alexis Crowell
5:53 PM (16 hours ago)
texts back faget

Pink Inchworm from

Our online submission form clearly states:  “By submitting an identification request and/or photo(s), you give permission to use your words and image(s) on their website and other publications. Also, you swear that you either took the photo(s) yourself or have explicit permission from the photographer or copyright holder to use the image.”  Both of the images you have submitted have been pilfered from other internet websites, most likely without permission which is a copyright violation.  One image came from and the other is a photo credited to Dave Green posted on which can be accessed by clicking the Photo of Pink Inchworm link.  You have plagiarized the work of other photographers and submitted them using our online form that specifically indicates that you have taken the photos or you have permission to use the photos.  Additionally, your flurry of emails in rapid succession ending in an incorrectly spelled sexual orientation slur has gained you the distinction of being awarded the Nasty Reader Award as well as a feature on our scrolling announcement bar.  The Nasty Reader Award is a distinction we have not had the pleasure to award in over two and a half years, which is an indication that most people who write to us are polite and well mannered.  Please search elsewhere for information on Pink Inchworms.  Responding to you is not worth any more of our time which is quite precious to us.

Pink Inchworm from Daylight 44

Ed. Note:  excerpt from another response.
… so sorry you had to award your Nasty Reader award … what a jerk !
the rest of us really love what you are doing and appreciate your time, efforts, and your willingness to share your knowledge.

Subject: Eggs on Fennel Leaf
Location: Atlanta, GA
July 8, 2012 5:17 pm
These egss were deposited a couple of days ago on a bronze fennel leaf. They are small, about the size of a pin head. Hoping you can help identify. Thanks!
Signature: Amy R

Unknown Eggs

Dear Amy,
Eggs can be very difficult to identify, and though this formation seems distinctive, it does not look familiar to us.  Our best guess is that perhaps they are either a moth or a type of True Bug.  We will continue to research this.

As an update, I’ve attached a picture of some of the hatchlings. Some kind of looper? The picture was taken, today, 07/11/2012.

Eggs on Fennel Hatch into Caterpillars

Thanks Amy,
It seems our first guess, Moth Eggs, was correct.  Also, judging by the way the caterpillars move, they are the hatchlings of a Geometrid Moth, often called Inchworms or Spanworms.  We will see if we can determine what species feeds on fennel.

Subject: It moved!
Location: Slatington, PA
May 28, 2012 8:53 am
My mother found this thing outside of her house. She thought it was stick, and rightly so. And then it moved! EW! Please tell me what it is, I have never seen anything like this!
Signature: Mandy


Hi Mandy,
This is an Inchworm or Spanworm, the caterpillar of a moth in the family Geometridae.  They get their common name from the manner of locomotion.  As you can see in the photo where the Inchworm is up-side-down, there are three pairs of true legs near the head and only two pairs of false legs or prolegs near the posterior end of the body.  Most caterpillars have five pairs of prolegs and that enables them to move in an oscillating manner.  There is a drawing on the Enchanted Learning website that illustrates the anatomy of a typical caterpillar.  Inchworms need to crawl forward on their true legs and then loop the rear end of the body forward.  Many Inchworms are excellent twig mimics, and they are known to grasp a stem with the prolegs and stick the rest of the body straight out exactly like a twig.  Our Bug of the Month Posting for April 2011 was the Inchworm and the posting illustrates both the manner of locomotion and the twig mimic behavior.  

Location: East Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
May 24, 2011 8:24 pm
I found this oddball on my shirt after walking through some trees ( mostly ironwood, sweetgum, red maple, but there were other around) near a river in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in TN – about elevation 1500’. Sorry just one picture! I couldn’t find anything like it in David Wagner’s excellent Caterpillar field guide…
Signature: John D.

Horned Spanworm

Dear John,
Most caterpillars have five pairs of prolegs at the anterior end of the body and these prolegs assist in the caterpillar locomotion.  Many caterpillars in the family Geometridae have only two pairs of prolegs, so their method of locomotion is unusual.  They crawl forward on their true legs and then loop the rear portion of the body forward.  Because of this manner of locomotion, they are commonly called Inchworms or Spanworms.  The filaments on your specimen are very unusual and immediately indicate it is a member of the genus
Nematocampa, most likely the Horned Spanworm, Nematocampa resistaria, which we identified on BugGuide.  According to BugGuide:  “Larvae feed on many hardwoods and several softwood species of shrubs and trees including pine, hemlock, fir, larch and spruce.”