October 17, 2010

An inchworm

Last night I found an inchworm.
It was about 10.30 at night and I was bringing Scout back from her evening walk, when there he was, hurrying across the pavement ahead of me with that unmistakeably comic looping walk. It's the arrangement of their legs that gives inchworms their curious, measuring locomotion: just one pair at the front, two at the back. I hadn't seen one since I was about six or seven.
Using a leaf, I picked him up and brought him home for a better look. As I did so he stiffened and stood erect, hanging on to the leaf stalk by his back legs only. With his smooth, dull brown skin and knobbly shape, he looked exactly like a twig.
Inchworms are the caterpillars of geometer (or geometrid) moths, of which there are about 300 in the UK. It's possible he was a scalloped hazel - or will be - but it's hard to be sure without raising him to maturity. We put him in the back garden, where, with luck, he'll overwinter as a pupa (or chrysalis), within which he will melt himself down into a kind of DNA soup before reconstituting himself entirely from scratch as a moth.