News of Seasonal Produce Offerings, Auctions, Events, Agritourism and Farmers in Casey County, Kentucky ~ and the Old Order Mennonite & Amish Communities ~ located in the scenic Knobs Region and agricultural heart of Kentucky.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Gross but Great in the Garden

If you happen to see this sight in your garden, let it be. This is a tomato hornworm carrying the beneficial eggs of a braconid wasp. Normally I hate wasps but when these hatch there will plenty of the little freaks to guarantee that your garden is hornworm-free (although I'd still check your tomato plants regularly––just one of these little green buggers can chomp at a rapid pace!). In the meantime, the worm is paralyzed by the emergent eggs and can't do any more chomping on your precious tomato plants. (They can also affect tomato plants, too.)

The other day I was watering the tomato seedlings that my friend Diana had given me (and she still has some plants available at Meadowbrook Orchards and Farm). I noticed the tell-tale signs of the dreaded hornworm: lots of poops, chomped leaves, and then, the nasty creatures themselves (who are hard-pressed to be found, given their excellent camouflage). Overnight they had taken out half the leaves on half the plants!

Then, this morning, my sons noticed that our two datura plants (called 'Moonflowers' here by many native Kentuckians: I got these at Hettmansperger Greenhouse) had four worms that were covered with white eggs. Thankfully, they asked me first before squishing them (or throwing them at each other, which is more apt).

The worms were on the underleaf side of the two datura plants (which must be an attractant, like the tomato plants). I decided to clip the leaves and put each one in the shade of some of my potted tomato plants across the way. We'll see what happens. If I find any more without wasps on them they will be plucked off and fed to my free-range chickens.

The datura plant (at left), also called 'Moon Flower,' has a lovely trumpet-like
bell flower that emerges in early evening. My plants were started by seed saved
by some Casey County women and passed along to Hettmansperger Greenhouse.
WARNING: it is highly toxic to people and pets. But the hornworms must like it!

It just goes to show you that, if left alone, nature often takes care of things quite nicely.


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