I know. I said today would be the ‘Ground Troops,’ but a storm came through and did some damage last night that will require my attention, and this is a shorter post.
While picking tomatoes with James a couple of weeks ago, I discovered an invader.
“Ugh,” I said. “James, hand me my gloves…”
He peered around to my side of the plant. “What is THAT?” He asked.
“Tomato hornworm. He has to go.”
“Why do you need gloves?”
I slipped my hand into its cotton sheath, plucked the offending worm from its perch, and squished it. “Because they’re icky. Look around, there’s never just one…”
“Got one over here – but what’s this on it?”
“Aahh, leave that one there. He doesn’t know it, but he’s working for us.”
The white egg-shaped protrusions on the worm’s back are the cocoons of a parasitic wasp, the Braconid wasp. These tiny insects feed on the living hornworm, and after they emerge from the cocoons as adults, will lay other eggs to repeat the cycle. You can read more about them by clicking here.
Ten days later, and still in the same spot where we found him, this is what was left:
Just as it is with higher life-forms, predator species reproduce more slowly than prey species. A shot of insecticide is non-selective, and will kill both. But, the prey species will recover more quickly. Without adequate numbers of predators, their population will boom, prompting many to reach for the spray again, perpetuating the cycle.
I suppose what I’m saying is “Think before you spray.” Not all bugs are Bad Bugs. Some of them are Secret Agent Bugs – they’re on your side!