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!
Pretty amazing, isn't it? Good photos! We had tomato hornworms on our trellised front porch tomatoes; tons of them. But we never saw the parasitic eggs, sadly. Dan was diligent in keeping them picked off, however, and eventually the tomato plants recovered.ReplyDelete
It truly is amazing, Leigh. Last year I think I counted 23 worms infected, which was about half of what we had the year before. I don’t know what will happen to the wasp if the worms are eradicated. I simply love that we can have a very large garden and use no chemicals! It’s a beautiful thing!Delete
At our previous home, I had a grape vine that I planted in front of our south facing old fashioned verandah. The vine, which grew to be very productive, provided a wonderful green bower of shade and privacy, as I trained it on sturdy strings to cover the front. I discovered a strange worm with white things sticking out of it one year, and on looking it up learned about those wasps that parasitize caterpillars. Nature has her ways of dealing with things! Thankfully we've not had the hornworms here...yet. Hopefully they can't find us up here in the bush! Have you started any plants yet for this year's garden?ReplyDelete
Sorry that I didn’t see this message until this morning, Rosalea! We have been busy little bees here in the ridge! My Sis and her hubby came up for a week, and then we had a Celebration of Life to perform for, and then we also won an auction for a zero turn mower down in Tennessee that we had to go pick up... no moss these past two weeks! Oh, and I had to drive the tractor over to town... the front wheel seals were leaking, and since it was in the shop, they are doing all the filter changes and getting it ready for the summer . Do you still have snow? We are getting the beds ready, and I will be posting on those soon, and in the meantime we do have plans to pick up the tomato and veggie starts from our adopted Mom in town, as she starts 100 plants of every thing you can think of, and then we grow it and bring her a bounty every week during the summer. It’s a great partnership! Have a great week, and I hope y’all don’t get the snow that predicted for my brother in Wyoming!Delete
Figured you were busy, as your season is much more advanced than ours. Yes, we still have snow, and at present a 'white-out' snowstorm with gusting winds is blowing through. Just started some seeds yesterday, as it is about 10 weeks to our last frost date. I like to get the peppers well established inside.Delete