I was really hoping that I would not have to write a post to tell you about this little pest. Because, I really hoped that we wouldn't find any in the garden this year! But, they're back, at least a few...The Hornworm.
|Tomato Hornworm droppings|
|click on this photo to see it larger |
and check out the decoy eyes
courtesy of JonOfAllTrade.blogspot.com
OK, OK, so I am not really crazy like you are all thinking right now!
Last year we were infested with them, and the only thing to do was to pick them off the plants and mash them, and hope that you got them all. You see they are so devastating because this fat boy (or girl?) will ruin an entire tomato plant (leaves and green tomatoes as well) practically over night! They are so gross to find on the plants growing the food YOU are supposed to eat! And killing them gives me the hee-bee-gee-bees equally as much as finding them in the first place! This year I thought sure I was covered because I broke down and sprayed the entire garden with insecticide twice because I had so much to lose this year! The insecticide and a lot of prayer may be the reason I have only found a few of these guys in the last couple of days rather than the dozens and dozens of last year.
|This one was as nearly as big|
as my index finger
|courtesy of JonOfAllTrade.blogspot.com|
The best way to save your plants is to search for the worm, pick them off of the plant, and squish them. Alternately, though I have not tried it, is to toss them into a bucket of soapy water to kill them instead. One tip I learned to help locate the hard to spot worms on the plants, is to spray water on the plant with a spray bottle or hose, which will cause the worm to wriggle. Another tip is that you can supposedly use a blacklight at night to make them glow and stand out from their hiding places (but I have not yet tried this experiement). Also planting Marigold flowers in the area is supposed to diminish the Hornworm population.
It is suggested that if you find a Hornworm with little white casts all over it, to leave it be, not dispose of it....the white sacs are the parasitic eggs of a Braconid Wasp, and once the eggs hatch the worm will be used as food for the wasps, and die, giving life to a bunch more wasps to help further control even more pests. It is very hard for me to just leave the worm, eggs and all on my tomato plant though, and last year I tried removing the leaf branch to which the worm was clinging, and moving the whole thing to a different location away from my tomatoes!
As creepy, yet interesting and uniquely designed, as these things are....I still don't want them in my garden...They look like they better belong in an Alice in Wonderland picture book or something instead!
Special thanks to http://jonofalltrades.blogspot.com/ for allowing me to borrow a few pictures from his creature post last summer.