Monday, July 25, 2011

Crisis du Jour

Yesterday I was out in my garden, taking pictures and pulling weeks when I heard the cry.

My fellow vegetable gardeners were calling out for me to come down to our community garden and to bring my camera.  

I knew the reason had to be something biological - snake, raccoon, skunk.

Nope.  It was just...

A tomato hornworm Manduca quinquemaculata

These pests generally go undetected until major damage starts showing up on tomato plants.  We found three of them in the garden.

Here are two - notice the slight difference in colors.  We put them in this bucket in the hope that we can feed them the suckers we remove from the tomato plants and that The Mayor can watch them pupate.

These caterpillars mature into a type of Sphynx moth (usually called Hummingbird Moths).  The moths are fun to watch in the garden but the caterpillars are seldom welcome. 

So how can the average gardener deal with these pests?  Simple.  When you find them pick them off the plant (bare hands are fine - so are gloved hands for the squeemish.  You don't even have to talk to them while you're removing them if you aren't the Neighborhood Biologist).  Squishing is the fastest and most humane disposal method.

Preventative measures include tilling the soil in the spring to prevent the emergence of last year's pupae (the pupae overwinter in the ground) and planting marigolds near your tomatoes (and peppers and eggplant).

We tilled and planted marigolds. 

I guess it's not perfect.  Fortunately the female moth seldom lays many eggs in the same place so hand picking works just fine for dealing with an infestation.  No need for pesticides for these pests.

They are disturbingly cute, though, aren't they?

1 comment:

  1. They are kind of cute! But good you caught the, uh, little buggers. Sorry. (It's really late! That's my excuse for the bad puns.)That's a really good pic of the one feeding on the helpless tomato -- caught in the act!