February 27, 2021
As I am looking through my seed catalogues for the year, I am reminded of a learning experience that I had the first year of planting a garden on the ridge.
There have always been gardens in my life, since I was a small tot. My heritage is one of farming being through the past 5 generations, and beyond. Before the days of chemical sprays, we were always taught that the best method of insect control, was monitoring and removing what ever was causing the problem. My introduction of the Tomato Horned Worm, was always known as the hide and seek worm, for it's ability to hide perfectly on the tomato plant. We were always taught to pick them off and immediately offer them up to the chickens, or birds, or the fish in the pond.
This above picture is one such Tomato Horn Worm.
I found one on my tomato plants, shortly after inspecting my first garden, here on the ridge. He looked funny, like the photo below, but I plucked him off, and fed him to the birds. I was researching on the computer later that evening, and I found out that I had made a terrible mistake. The little white sacks on this worm are actually tiny Braconid Wasp cocoons, which are beneficially good for your garden.
So, upon finding my mistake, I watched the tomato plants very carefully, hoping and praying that I would find another. It took a couple of days, but I finally found another host worm that was loaded with the cocoons.
I watched as one by one, each worm was destroyed. The tiny wasp lays her eggs inside the Horn Worm, which is a kissing cousin to the Tobacco Worm, which these photos could be either. After she lays her eggs inside the worm, they chew through the worm, and the larva make the little cocoons, which is what the white cells are. Then, the larva develop into the wasp and emerge from the cocoon. When the wasp emerge, the horn worm will die before it can become reproductive. Win!