Unexpected Guests

It seems that whenever we start talking – or writing – about wildlife in and around the garden, our fellow gardeners always have their own stories to tell. Here’s a guest post from our good friend and Master Gardener, Denise, who has also had some wild encounters recently:

It has been a number of years since I had a real veggie garden. I decided 2010 was my summer and got to planning. Before I put a seed into the soil, I decided the garden would be organic. I spent a good part of the growing season fretting about tomato blight and hand- picking Mexican Bean Beetle larva and a few adults. Then I found it –  the dreaded Tomato Hornworm, Manduca quinquemaculata, munching on and pooping all over my beautiful tomato plants. I’m sorry, but these worms are absolutely revolting.

This hornworm is doomed!

I find it amazing how they clutch for dear life to tomato leaves and vines. Everyday I would go into the garden and pull them off my plants. With every plunk into my container of soapy water I smiled, ah what joy. Then I saw it. At first I thought what the heck… what kind of fungus is this? Then I realized this was no fungus. I was looking at a  hornworm covered with Braconid Wasp cocoons on its back. Talk about joy – and I didn’t have to pay for it. I left the worm on the leaf and continued my bug hunting. Every day I found at least one more worm on another tomato plant doing nature’s work. I don’t know where the wasps came from but I hope they come back next year. So for me, an uninvited guest became a wonderful garden host. Too bad I can’t say the same for the woodchuck!

The woodchuck, about to depart

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About dirtynailz

Writer for a daily newspaper, gardener, tree hugger, orchid-grower, photographer, animal lover, hiker, wilderness seeker. Proponent of clover in the lawn and a dog on the bed.
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5 Responses to Unexpected Guests

  1. HerbDoc says:

    I wrote about this wonderful little wasp last year, and as an update, there were only three hornworms on my plants this year as opposed to about a dozen last year! The 2010 crop of wasps seemed to attack their food source a lot earlier and with more vengence! The hornworms were only about as big as half of a little finger when they were totally covered with wasp cocoons. Isn’t it fun to watch those voracious hornworms turn into little brown sticks?

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  2. auntie beak says:

    yay, wasps. boooo! woodchucks. they are the WORST. last place i lived, i actually gave up vegetable gardening for a whole year because my woodchuck problem was so intractable. yes, this is me, auntie beak, about whom it can be said “she is a fanatic vegetable gardener.” it got so bad at one point that i was literally plucking baby woodchucks up by the scruffs of their necks off my seedlings that were still in 6-packs hardening off. i kid you not. and i’m not getting specific here, but there is a certain state forest in central massachusetts that had a noticeable uptick in its woodchuck population one summer. only thing that really works? electric fence. assuming they just don’t burrow under the fence and directly into the garden, which happened to my mom one year… did i mention that i hate woodchucks?

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  3. HerbDoc says:

    There is one other solution, and it’s called lead. Whistle, they stand up on their hind legs, take aim with your trusty rifle and shoot. Now for all of the animal lovers who will decry shooting these pests, be aware that in RI it is illegal to catch them in a Have a Heart trap and transport them anywhere off your property. (Read BIG fine). Know what you’re supposed to do after trapping? You guessed it…….shoot them in the cage or drown them……….less humane in my opinion than giving them a running chance.

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  4. Wendy says:

    blech on the hornworm! I did catch a worm in my garden with wasps and it was fun to watch the process unfold. I should post some photos soon.

    Regarding your message about the farmer’s market – this week, there was a new vendor – a seafood vendor. I believe he had mussels (?) from Pt. Judith!

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