Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wildlife Feature: The Hornworm---They're BACK!

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
 I was strolling through the second garden one evening, and much to my dismay, found that one of the Salsa tomato plants had been severely munched on. Several branches had be stripped of all leaves, so I had a feeling that I knew what had happened.  A closer look at the plant confirmed my suspicion, when I found these droppings (rather large droppings for a caterpillar type thing I think!)  Then began my search for the disgusting creature.  I think it took close to 15 minutes for me to locate him on my tomato plant.  And for a moment (a short moment--right before I smashed it) I was sort of in awe at this creature, and once again thought of THE AWESOME CREATOR that made it!

click on this photo to see it larger
and check out the decoy eyes
 courtesy of 
When I see things like this Hornworm, I recall a children's radio program, that was on for years on our local Christian Radio station when I was young. I can't think of the program name just now, but the man's name is Bob Devine, and his character was called "Uncle Bob"  Well, the gist of the program was that Uncle Bob hosted interviews with all kinds of various animals, bugs, etc.  discussing all the unique, and marvelous things about each one, and ALWAYS giving the GLORY to God their great Creator!  I can still hear in my mind some of the voices that he did for the animal characters... and imagine this giant green worm in my garden with one of those funny little voices saying something like ...."Well you see God my great Creator, made me just the perfect color to blend in with the stem of the tomato plant. And He made me with all these spots that look like eyes all down the sides of my body too fool predators that might want to eat me...."

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

These green worms are the larvae stage of the Hawk Moth or Sphinx Moth, known also as the Hummingbird Moth.  The moths lay eggs on the underside of the leaves and after hatching in about 5 days, the larvae spend 4 weeks chowing down on the host plant, growing to around 4 inches long before going into the soil to pupate.  Tomato Hornworm and Tobacco Hornworm are closely related and often confused, differentiated by slight difference in angle of the white lines and the color of their horn. Tomato Hornworms have 8 white V shaped lines and black horns, while Tobacco Hornworms have 7 diagonal white lines and red horns.  Oh, and the horn is on the back end of the worm.  Both types can be found devouring all varieties of the Solanaceae family including tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, and tobacco.

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 for allowing me to borrow a few pictures from his creature post last summer.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Vegetable Garden Update 4

Veggie garden update:
Still picking cucumbers and beans, as well as banana peppers and jalepenos. The green pepper plants have produced only a few good peppers so far, but are now covered in tiny ones. The zucchini and yellow squash are giving us a few decently sized squash ever few days now. Waiting for tomatoes to ripen is the hardest thing to do! So far I have only picked 6 red grape tomatoes, but there are lots and lots of green ones hanging on all the plant varieties.

  Another veggie that is hard to wait for is the carrot.  Maybe that is just because all you can see are the green tops, so you don't know if it is growing very much down there in the dirt!  As I have confessed to you before, I am not good at I pulled up a carrot today--just one and it was very crowded close to another one and needed to be pulled anyhow really--I just had to see how they are doing.  You see here that this carrot is not very big yet, but it seems to have formed correctly. Good thing there is still plenty of growing time for the rest of the carrot patch before the weather turns and I have to harvest them.

Here is a little acorn squash.

Today, I picked one of the 3 watermelon that I found out in the garden. It flexed some on the outside, and it sounded hollow when I thumped it with my finger, so it seemed that it was ripe and ready to be cut up...but when I cut it in half it looked like this picture on the right.  All white with a few pinkish spots in it.  The flesh was really really soft, like an over ripe melon, and it didn't taste right at all, so into the garbage it went.  Had it not ripened enough? even though the centered seemed so overly soft? I don't know. I will wait a while before picking and serving the other watermelon out there and see if it is any better.

That is all for tonight. I am hoping to get a few more ideas typed out tomorrow or over the coming weekend.