Saturday, August 6, 2011

Unwelcome Guest

Plenty of people have mentioned to me this year that their gardens had been host to one or more tomato hornworms, but my garden had managed to miss those quite large pests until, apparently, the last day or two. I didn't notice it until today, but here one is:

What's really funny is that I didn't even see the four-inch caterpillar at first. You'd think a critter this large would be totally obvious, but the way it's lined up with the stem, and exactly the same color as the stem, helps keep it hidden.

Instead, what I noticed first was the big black balls of frass on some leaves. Then, knowing there had to be a caterpillar around somewhere, I looked more closely at the plant and figured out that a whole lot of leaves had gone missing. It took another minute or two of searching to spot the big, squishy culprit.

So far, I think there's only this one tomato hornworm, so I am going to leave it alone for the rest of the day and wait to see what happens. If all goes well, a brachonid wasp will find it and lay eggs on it, and I won't have to do anything. When the baby wasps hatch out, they'll eat the caterpillar and that will be the end of that. If no wasp shows up soon, though, I'll remove the caterpillar to prevent the total demolition of my pepper-patch.

Elsewhere in the garden, things are chugging along just fine. The husks on some of the ears of popcorn have dried, which means those ears are pretty much done, so I've picked those. Other ears of corn are still very green, but in a couple of weeks they'll be ready to bring in, too. Last year, I waited to harvest the popcorn until almost all the ears were covered in brown husks (dry), but a few ears had begun to mold. I don't want that to happen - it's a very small crop - which is why I'm bringing the ears in as they seem ready.

This year's popcorn is supposed to be red, but not all of the ears are. Some are dark red, some are kind of orange, and one that I brought in is sunflower-yellow. It's a beautiful mix!

I'm beginning to work on the fall garden today, but I realized that it actually was begun a couple of months ago, when I planted the parsnips. It's hard to find room for these when all the summer crops are going into the garden, but in January, when I want to add variety to the roasted root veggies, I'll be glad that I did.


  1. I don't even look for hornworms anymore, it's too traumatic LOL!

  2. Erin, I totally understand. Sometimes, when the garden is under siege, it's better for the gardener's sanity to just move on.


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