Monday, October 20, 2008

Horned Tomato Worms!

Yesterday I took out my spent tomato plant. It had withered and dried up and it was past time to let it go. I decided to use the pot to grow Sweet Peas in. They were my mom’s favorite and I wanted to grow them for her.

After I took the old tomato plant out, I started digging into the dirt with my trowel to loosen it up and get it ready for seeds. I had been germinating the seeds for 12 hours in water with SeaResults Micronutrient Solution from the Happy Gardener. I dug and dug into that dirt, picking up clumps and breaking them up to be sure the soil was nice and soft for the new seeds. As I got to the bottom, an interesting little item came up with the dirt. It was a cocoon of some sort that had been buried at the bottom of the dirt. “What in the heck is this?” I thought to myself. I had no idea what could have cocooned itself in the dirt as I always thought butterflies, moths and the like were above ground cocoon creatures.

Since I had no idea what it was, I decided to get rid of it. I threw it out and went back to my dirt and planting my Sweet Pea seeds.

Today I did a little investigating via our friends at Google. It turns out this nasty creature was the larvae of a horned tomato worm! EWW! I remember these nasty things from when I was a kid. My dad grew tomatoes all the time and he was constantly on the watch for these things. When he found them, he’d go out to the garden with a pair of scissors and cut the darned things in half to be sure they died. Gross!! I still remember that to this day it grossed me out so much! Anyway, once I discovered what this was, I was all grossed out once again. These things can do big time damage to your tomato plants!

Tomato Hornworms feed on leaves and stems of tomato plants. Sometimes they will also eat the fruits in the late summer months. They also feed on peppers, eggplant and potatoes and can defoliate a plant in just a few days. There can be two generations of tomato hornworms every year. A bunch of them can spell disaster in your garden! Once these little buggers have grown up, they become a huge moth called the five-spotted hawkmoth. These guys can get as big as hummingbirds!

It’s important that if you find these guys on your tomato plants or the larvae in the dirt, you get rid of it immediately! They will absolutely eat your plants up.

I can say that while I was grossed out, I’m SO glad I found that thing before I planted my Sweet Peas! Not sure if it would have damaged them or not, but I don’t want to find out.

Happy Gardening!

Independent Garden Consultant
The Happy Gardener

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