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Friday, August 04, 2006

Nature at work

"Don, the leaves of the Yellow Brandywine Tomatos are being eaten!! I suspect tomato hornworms, come help me find them."

Our search begins. We must protect our favorite kind of tomato.
It's funny how at first you can't see them, they blend so well with the leaves.

Lillian, "There's one."

We get a search image.

Don, "Wow, look at these, they're all over the plants!"

A vertible party of hornworms has congregated on the Sweet 100 Tomatos.

Don finds one that is parasitised. It looks like a hornworm wearing pearls.

Don, "Cool, this is blog-worthy!"

The tomato hornworms we are seeing are actually the larva of an adult moth sometimes called a "sphinx" or "hawk" moth. When resting these caterpillars have the front end of the body up and curl the head down and are supposed to resemble the Egyptian Sphinx. See top photo. Thus, the genus to which they belong was named Sphinx.

The tomato hornworm is also parasitised by a small wasp who lays its eggs on the hornworm. The larvae hatch from the eggs, feed on the insides of the hornworm (eeew) and then make little white cocoons on the hornworm and pupate. It's all part of nature.

We removed all the hornworms from the tomatos, but left the hornworm with the wasp pupae, so the wasps would emerge and go and find some more hornworms to parasitise. Nature's biological controls at work.

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