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09 September 2010

Tomato Hornworm Update

I decided at let the tomato hornworms that had invaded my tomato plants to have their way. I ignored the plants, harvested what tomatoes matured, and tried to pretend that all of my hard work and nurturing wasn't for naught. Today, since September has come and fall has officially started, I decided that the tomato plants could be "trashed." (They weren't actually trashed. I left them in the creek bed to biodegrade back into the soil.)

To my surprise, only one hornworm remained. And it didn't look normal. It had had some rather weird growths on it. There were little white pods all over it. They looked like little grains of rice. The hornworm didn't move, so I figured it was dead.

I pulled all of the plants out to the stream bed and noticed that the nasty little rice-covered worm started to move slowly. I was happy that it was now far away from the house! 

I rushed into the house, turned on the computer, and searched "what is on this hornworm?" Seriously. That was my search phrase. Turns out, these little grains of rice are actually wasp cocoons. It is a parasitic wasp - Cotesia congregatus - that will eat the hornworm from the inside out after it hatches! It's actually a recommended natural pest control when dealing with hornworms. And the wasps are completely benign to humans. In fact, they are only about 1/8" long when hatched. I can't wait for them to hatch and eat that nasty creature. I know that sounds mean, but I can't help it. He ruined my plants. 

Before I tossed the plants, I was able to harvest three last ripe tomatoes. Goodbye, Summer. Hello, Fall!

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