The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Tobacco hornworm

Tobacco hornwormThe tobacco hornworm is easily confused with the closely related tomato hornworm.  Both caterpillars are the larval form of hawk moths, and both like to nibble on your tomato plants, but the tobacco hornworm has seven white lines running down each side of its body while the tomato hornworm instead has eight Vs.

Some gardeners resort to hand-picking their hornworms, while others believe that planting marigolds or basil between their tomato plants keeps the pests at bay.  I just ignore the hornworms of both types.  In our diversified environment, parasitic wasps quickly lay their eggs in each plump hornworm, and the wasp larvae eat the caterpillar alive from the inside out.  By the time these white cocoons show up on the back of the hornworm, he has long ago stopped nibbling on my tomatoes, so I am careful to leave hornworms like this in place to hatch out the next generation of parasitic wasps.

(I know I left you hanging about the tomato blight.  It turned out I had too much to say to fit in one post (surprise, surprise), so you'll hear all about it in a lunchtime series next week.)

Your chickens will be annoyed to miss their tasty hornworm treats, but they'll cheer up when you introduce a homemade chicken waterer.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I am careful to leave hornworms like this in place to hatch out the next generation of parasitic wasps.

Huh -- what are the wasps good for? I think of them as being mostly good for stinging people. :^(

Comment by irilyth [] Sat Jul 31 09:02:37 2010
Those aren't parasitic wasps that sting so painfully. Parasitic wasps don't sting, and they're generally so small you probably don't even notice them. What they're good for is laying their eggs inside pest insects and devouring them --- great for the garden!
Comment by anna Sat Jul 31 18:08:46 2010

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