Sunday, July 22, 2012

Oh, Bother!!

I know my gardening friends will be able to quickly identify this massive garden pest!  Squishy, nasty and voracious!!  It eventually turns into a "Hawk" or "Hummingbird" Moth.  The moth is lovely, but on it's way to adulthood, this teenager, like most teenagers, will eat you out of tomato and home.  I have plucked 6 of these off the tomatoes this week, luckily loosing only a few tomatoes and leaves in the process.  I've been holding a vigilant eye on the plants to be sure they aren't appearing as I have a few of them last year, and this year, I'm ready for them.  They'll not be getting my biggest, juiciest tomato like they did last year. 

In the event that you've not had the pleasure of meeting one of this mischievous creatures, allow me to introduce you.  The above picture is a depiction of one.  I think the "eyes" along the body are there to fool predators into thinking there are many of them, when indeed, if they look closer, there is only one.  And, none of those dots are the eyes, so even better camouflage again, they are ingeniously colored and blend exactly in with the tomato plant and leaves.  If you see my drawing above, the bare stems, is the quickest way to identify their location.  That and the copious droppings forming a large pile on the leave below where ever they may be infiltrating.   I have spent many, many minutes trying to find them after spotting the damage and the droppings only to note that my eyes had cruised over them without locating them at all their ability to blend with their environment so completely.

When you go to pluck them off the branch, or goodness forbid they've actually reached the tomato and made a meal out of your best, you will notice something.  They are very squishy, their body is not firm at all.  And they don't give up their place on the branch easily, so as you are squeezing them a bit to get them off the branch they spray something on you. I'm not sure what it is, but it's bright green along with them.  GROSS.  So, I've gotten smart about their removal.  If they are on an outer branch that does not have a tomato growing, I will just snap the branch off, gross grub and all.  If they are with a tomato, I don gloves so that the green crap does not land on me when fired.  It's not like it's venomous or anything, it's just gross and I avoid it at all costs.  After I've collected what I've found, I walk to the chicken pen  and inform the girls they have "TREATIES!" coming their way.  Then I tell my Faoumi, Maggie, that she's got a really good treat as she is the first to grab them and will parade around the pen like she's got her beak on the Stanley Cup or something.  She flips them around until she's got them adequately reduced in size to swallow 'em down. 

And I tell her "Good Girl!" and feel glad that my food supply is no longer the food supply of these marauders. And Mags gets some valuable protein for egg health, so it's a wonderful relationship...for everyone but the poor hornworm, who in the end is just doing what hornworms do.

Wishing your garden pest-free, ~ Peacemom


Jennifer and Steve said...

I love those cats! We always plant extra plants and move the cats to those. Did you make that drawing? Love it! :)

aseaman said...

Boy, I can relate to those ugly, destructive buggers since having them on my tomatoes last year for the first time. I am loving your colored pencil drawings! Mom

Dog Trot Farm said...

Vonnie, did you do the sketchings? very nice. Many years ago when I was new to gardening, my tomatoes over night vanished. I thought deer had invaded my vegetable garden. My husband feeling sorry for me fenced the garden in. A few days later I discovered horn worms and soon realized it was not the deer, but these gross green worms. I never did tell my husband!

Jennifer and Steve said...

We are dealing with the squash vine borers here. I love those moths, but the caterpillars are so devastating! You can't really move them out of the plant either. :( Your bundt cake recipe looks YUMMY! :)