Monday, September 28, 2009

The very hungry caterpillars

A few days ago when making pesto I found a green inchworm on the basil.  What type, I wish I knew.  SOOO glad I found it before putting the basil in the Cuisinart!  This is the part of home gardening that makes we want to just buy prepackaged stuff.  But the disgusting truth is that I probably find more of the bugs before consumption than the mass producers do!  shudder

DS, of course, wanted to keep it.  So we put it in a 4 oz jar with some basil leaves.  The next day, the basil was gone and the bottom of the jar was covered in caterpillar poop - small blackish balls.  I never knew what caterpillar poop looked like!  We had to pick more basil leaves for the caterpillar and put it in a bigger jar without poop.  I'm happy to report that DS decided on his own that the caterpillar wouldn't like to be enclosed with a bunch of poop.  Empathy is a good quality to develop!  Anyway, we were very surprised how fast that hungry caterpillar could eat through the basil leaves.  No wonder my basil looks ratty.

Then yesterday I was inspecting my tomato plants.  Some were looking suspiciously leafless.  Hummm...  Looking on the ground there seemed to be a lot of little black balls that looked remarkably like caterpillar dung.  Hummm...  Looking closer at the plant...  yikes!  Two caterpillars.  DS of course wants to put them in with the inchworm.  Then, we find another.  Ok, 3 in with the inchworm.  Looking more.  Find one staring me in the face and so big that I shriek in surprise.  DS shrieks in surprise - in a remarkably prolonged and ear-piercing manner.  Wonder where he got that from?  He insists we must not put this enormous one in with the "babies" for fear it will eat them.  So we got a bucket.  Found two more that were too big to go in with the babies.  Tonight took another close look at the plant and found the biggest one yet.  Despite the fact that I'm looking for them, they startle me in a creepy way when I find them.  Happened to mention the tomato hornworms to DS's preschool teacher today who said, "Bring them in!"  They already have our figeater beetle larvae as pets and tomorrow they'll get 7 hornworms and an inchworm.  Lucky preschool teachers.  I put some tomato plant leaves and partially hornworm-eaten tomatoes in with the hornworms, but I bet they'll tear through them pretty quickly.  Those are some hungry caterpillars.


  1. That shreak is familiar to me :) I've done it a few times. I always wear my gloves or just break off the leaf the hornworm is eating because their little catipillar feet latch on pretty quickly and it totally freaks me out! I've tried sitting them on the fence to see if the birds will enjoy a morning snack, but they always fall off before they get eaten - bummer! I thought that would be sweet revenge. Never had them eat the actual tomato tho, only the leaves.

  2. The first few I tried to pry off, but now I'm doing as you suggested and cutting off the leaf. Those little suckers can hold on tight! So if you don't have a preschool to send the hornworms to, what do you do with yours?

  3. You've got a Tomato Hornworm Caterpillar there, they are voracious creatures, I have a hard time killing them because they are so cute and interesting but I just smoosh them with my foot (after removing it from the plant) as they will bring down your tomato crop overnight if you don't at least remove them from the plants! I bet chickens would find them a tasty snack, too bad I don't have any of those...

  4. I was wishing that I had ducks or chickens to eat them, too. I don't think I have the guts to squish them with my foot. I wonder if they make a popping sensation underfoot? Too much sensory feedback on that for me. Although it might be a more humane end than being aquariumed and inspected by 15 preshoolers.