Thu 28 Jul, 2005 12:13 pm
I didn't use Bacillus thuringiensis (http://users.rcn.com/jkimball.ma.ultranet/BiologyPages/B/B.thuringiensis.html) this year on my nightshade plants, and the Manduca quinquemaculata (http://www.floridagardener.com/critters/Insect_Pests/)have come as usual. The braconids (http://davesgarden.com/terms/go/1565/) come after so much damage has been done that they hardly are useful as a biological control IPM agent.
TRANSLATION: Forgot to buy some BT this year and the f**king tomato horn caterpillars are destroying my tomatoes! The parasitic wasps came way after the damage had been done and are of virtually no use at all, but I leave the paratisized caterpillars there because the wasps are beneficials, although I can't stand the sight of the stuck caterpillars.
I was vigilant, and hand-picked off over 10 dozen of the buggers, and still they come. But I vow to keep the vines at least alive long enough for the green already formed fruit to finish maturing.
How I hate those critters!
Ooooh yeah, I have a love-disgusted relationship with those wasps. Good luck, Sumac.
Thanks for the sympathy, littlek. Buggers.
Isn't there anything non-toxic you can spray the plants with?
It's been a boom year for caterpillars of all kinds. It's probably too late to do anything this year, but in the future you can bookmark www.gardensalive.com
for organic solutions. Daily caterpillar hunting is best now that you know they are around.
I also can't stand the look of them and my solution is to call over our neighbor's 8 year old son to pick them off. I pay 25 cents per caterpillar. He enjoys throwing them in our pond where they sink like little bricks.
At this point, alas, hand-picking is about the only non-toxic solution. BT might do some good, but am too worried about honey bees to use anything else right now.
The thing is, I put some volunteers in a totally new place - way away from last year's garden and in an area that has never had a garden. They are there too. Moths fly. Lay eggs. Larvae feed for a couple of weeks, go underground, pupate, come out to fly again.
BT only effects caterpillars and does not hurt bees. It works when the caterpillar ingests the BT by eating the leaves of the treated plant. It stops the ability of the caterpillar to injest food and the caterpillar soon dies.
However, BT can also kill the caterpillars that become butterflies and moon moths. It should never be sprayed near host plants like milk weed, parsley, dill or fennel.
I think tomato hornworms only have one cycle per summer, so handpicking is the way to go.
I thought they had only one cycle too, until I read on some site that they pupate underground for only a matter of weeks, not until next summer. But am handpicking.
Lessee... 25 cents per caterpillar, 10 dozen of 'em... I may be in the wrong job!
They rarely find more than 10 in the whole garden. They're not like tent caterpillars.
An aside, sort of.... My niece was looking through a bug book for a wasp-thing we saw together. She stopped and showed me the tomato horn worm - the image they chose was one with the parasitic wasp eggs latched on. She said she liked that catapillar. I told her those were wasp eggs. She said she knew that. I told her they were growing ON the catapillar. She said she knew that. I told her that when they hatched, they would eat the catapillar's insides. She said, "That's gross, but cool." Heehee. She's not even 6.
Tell her that she is right. It is gross, but cool. Sounds like she is too. Cool, that is.
Early this morning, looking out the windows, I noticed two birds perching on high (above the tomato plants - one on the tomato stakes, one on the wooden swingset under which plants are growing), looking, and looking.
A small bird, and a male cardinal. Opposite sides of the house. The cardinal even flew from tomato stake to tomato stake and even went into the plant. Both appeared to find nothing.
Aha, says I. I'll go give them a hand, and went to find two plastic containers whose sides were too vertical and slippery for the buggers to climb, but not too deep so that the birds could perch on the edge and feast.
I thought that I would figure out a way to secure these platters of goodies on high so that they would be seen, and appreciated.
No buggers! Either I was too vigilant, the heat made them retreat under the soil, they had finished that part of the cycle anyway; or a combination of all of the above.
What a shame. What a waste. Think of the spread of gourmet delights I could have served up? Why didn't I think of it?