Twig Mimic

inchworm inching

“Inchworm, inchworm, measuring the marigolds . . . ”
Ever since Middle School chorus the Inchworm song has helped me double eights and sixteens. (Danny Kaye sang it first, in his weird but mesmerizing film Hans Christian Anderson.) It’s also the song that loops in my head—nearly a literal earworm—when I see inchworms.

Friday’s inchworm should not have been there to see, what with this being late December, but like many creatures it is confused by our crazy spring-like temps. I saw it rappel from the bare hackberry tree in the driveway, so to save it from certain doom (frisbee, dog, kids, composer, me), I draped it onto the clothesline. It did its inching thing to orient itself—or to measure the rope—and then it froze in what must be an advanced yoga pose: back feet on rope, front feet in the air at an angle that implies an admirable degree of core strength. Also, endurance. Also, unwavering concentration.

I touched it, but it stayed straight. I tried again. Straight.

“I AM A TWIG,” it screamed in body language.

It’s a “twig mimic” species, and I finally had to noodge the thing (gently) in order for it to move and prove to my semi-interested kid that this was indeed an animal and not a stick. Kid was semi-impressed, and I was semi-happy. I’d be wholly happy if the inchworm didn’t think it was May.

“I am a twig”

Our untimely visitor must be in the moth family Geometridae, from the Greek meaning “to measure the earth.” I don’t know which species, but my guess is Common Gray (Anavitrinella pampinaria).

If allowed to metamorphose, this guy would become a “leaf mimic” moth. From fake twig to fake leaf. Brilliant camouflage against predation.

However, I doubt the balmy weather will continue long enough for it to transform.
Maybe it can overwinter in the larval stage?

If not, “You and your arithmetic will probably go . . .” nowhere.

Inchworm, inchworm, measuring the marigolds
You and your arithmetic, you’ll probably go far.
Inchworm, inchworm, measuring the marigolds
Seems to me you’d stop and see how beautiful they are.

Two and two are four
Four and four are eight
Eight and eight are sixteen
Sixteen and sixteen are thirty-two

*BugGuide page on Geometrid moths

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