Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The tomato hornworm

While watering my largest and healthiest (so I thought) tomato plant, I noticed there was an abundance of suckers growing. I shut the water off and started to trim the plant. Only the first sucker I touched was, well, soft. And round. And LARGE.

Meet the tomato hornworm. He's a very bad fellow, as a closer examination of my once lush plant revealed. He had been consuming fresh tender little tomato leaves for some time. He didn't get to be 4 inches long overnight!

The caterpillar of the five-spotted hawk moth, he would eventually grow out of his bad habit of eating my tomatoes, but I certainly wasn't going to allow him to continue.

Many years ago, our dill crop was being devastated by caterpillars. I caught one, placed it in a holey-lidded jar and we raised, to our pleasant surprise, a spicebush swallowtail butterfly. Still not a nice fellow when in caterpillar stage, but at least pretty.

Not so the hawk moth. But an educational experience like this doesn't come along just any time, so I snipped him off the plant, put him in a jar with tomato leaves, and took him to the grandchildren. Should he do his magic and turn into a moth, I advised my son to destroy the evidence, lest the eggs laid this summer turn around and damage the tomato plants next spring.

Then I went to inspect my plants again for more of the nefarious fellows. Didn't find any but I'm being very vigilant now.

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