Last weekend I was wandering around Siggelkow Park, next to the Wapsipinicon River in Black Hawk County (north of Dunkerton), when I stumbled into what I thought were spider webs. I quickly realized that it was NOT a spider web, it was thousands of inchworms working their way from the trees to the ground.

Since their silk is so thin, it does appear that these worms are suspended in the air.

But they’re not actually floating and they’re not worms. They’re inchworms (they are actually caterpillars) hanging from their silk.

The beginning…

Inchworm's eggs spend the winter attached to the underside of leaves. They hatch early in the spring, and as soon as the tiny inchworms emerge, they begin eating…and eating…and eating tree leaves. They can live in a variety of trees including maple, oak, hickory, apple, and elm.

They have three pairs of legs in the front and two in the back, so they are easily recognized by their movement as they crawl along a tree branch. But before they become geometer moths – they spend their time eating for about three months as they grow up to about an inch in length.

The inchworm has skin that can't grow with it, so it needs to shed the old skin when it's too small. They will molt several times during this stage.

These caterpillars produce white silk, which they use to start hanging down from branches as they mature. They let themselves down from the tree branches until they touch the ground, where they burrow down a few inches and spin silk cocoons around themselves.

The geometer moths are the second largest family of moths in North America. There are around 1,200-1,400 known species in North America and around 35,000 worldwide.

They also produce the silk when they feel threatened, attaching to a leaf or branch, and dropping down to escape.

Adult females lack the ability to fly and will remain on the same tree in which they pupate. The males do have the ability to fly and will move from tree to tree or plant to plant in search of females.

The fall inchworm has a brown or green back with white stripes running the length of his back. The spring inchworm is green or reddish-brown,

An old myth from Kentucky states that if an inchworm crawls on you, he’s measuring you for your coffin.

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