Tomatoes, Caterpillars, Wasps, and Mortality
Over the past couple weeks a new presence has made itself known in the greenhouses. We are not alone as we have begun to enjoy the yield of the deliciously sweet cherry tomato harvest. Who is this that reaps the benefits of a CSA uninvited and so very unabashedly? The Tomato Hornworm is who.
A large green caterpillar with distinct diagonal markings evenly spaced with an eyeball like pattern between each line and a horn protruding from what I believe is the rear-end. This pattern is laid across a shockingly large body ending in a protruding horn, from what I have seen, anywhere between 2 and 5 inches long. While their size certainly startled me, and continues to make me feel uncomfortable, the truly shocking observation was the difficulty in which they are to observe. The mammoth pre-moth’s hue is primarily a vibrant green. A color slightly lighter than the tomato plants and an unbelievably effective camouflage made even more effective when they take their usual resting place underneath a curled up leaf. However effective this camouflage may be, evolution and Sherlock Holmes have equipped us with an incredible weapon against this goliath, the power of deduction.
When walking down the rows of plants it is likely that one will eventually come across a scattering of what appears to be black couscous sprinkled around the base of a tomato plant. As tempting as this may sound to the hungry reader you would be ill-advised to act on behalf of your stomach. This temptation is in fact the droppings of our bulky bandit. As the eye travels from the excrement up along the plant it is very likely that it will come across a bare branch and a couple of partially eaten tomatoes. Now, using the power of deduction, we can conclude with the up-most certainty, that there is indeed a stupendously large Tomato Hornworm attempting to satiate itself until ready for cocooning.
Go ahead, pat yourself on the back, we have this corpulent caterpillar all figured out. We now know the general vicinity in which it lies. However, I hope you didn’t pat your back too vigorously. The task of locating the caterpillar’s general location is a breeze, and without a keen eye its precise location would be quite impossible to discover. Luckily for me I have been gifted as is required to root out the green gargantuan. This technique usually involves me scanning the plant up and down countless times until out of a spot I must have scanned over countless time there appears a caterpillar. What a strange sense the eye gives us.
The end of our caterpillar hunt of course results in an end we all are all too familiar with and an end to Part I of this tale of the capricious caterpillar. In Part II an even newer presence makes itself known in the greenhouse and then we’ll all deal with our mortality. The farmer and the CSA member alike are not the only ones who benefit from the destruction of the Tomato Hornworm….