Thursday, June 21, 2012

when to call in the big guns

This week I have found some unwanted visitors in the garden.  We found not one, but two black widow spiders on a tomato plant.  What the what???  I have never seen a black widow out in the open air, sunning on a leaf.  They are usually in places like the corners of sheds, under a stack of logs, not climbing up a tomato plant.  She was very pretty, but she ended up under my boot.  Now we are extra cautious when picking tomatoes, always looking for signs of webs.

And then there was this guy that I found this morning.  If you're thinking "wow, that looks really big, but it must be the close up zoom of Mandi's awesome new camera", you'd be wrong my friend (about the size, not about the camera- it really is awesome!).  This tomato hornworm is over 3 inches long!  And it is the perfect green of a tomato plant.  Can you believe I nearly missed seeing something this monstrous?

I have not used one conventional spray on my plants ever.  I usually smash stink bugs after picking each one off.  I feed caterpillars and grubs to the chickens.  But when I saw this guy I realized that I may have a real problem on my hands.  If left alone, horn worms can knock out the whole crop very fast.  So I turned to the big guns- Bt Worm Killer.  Bt is technically safe to use in organic gardens, but it was still unsettling to me.  Anything near the "poison" category makes me nervous!

You may have seen hornworms in your garden too.  They actually start out very small, like a normal caterpillar.  If undetected they can get between 3-4 inches long.  They typically munch on leaves, but this guy had eaten half of one of my mortgage lifter tomatoes.  Mortgage lifters weigh about a pound each.  Each!  He had eaten a half a pound of tomato over night!

Have you found any monsters in the garden lately?  Do tell!

Please come back on Monday.  I have an exciting project that I need your crafty selves to help me with!


RiverBend Farm said...

Oh, Mandi, those spiders are worrysome! especially around here! Hope ya'll are careful. Now tell've got to tell me what camera you have. I recently got a Canon t2i and i still haven't mastered the zoom lens. I keep telling myself to get out the book..but, no...I just keep losing great shots.

Rosie_Kate said...

Oh, the spiders are unsettling! On a tomato plant where you might just put your hand on one! Shudder! We've been finding what we think to be brown recluse spiders in our house. That is worrisome as well. I got bit by one in the shower. I treated it right away and it was okay.

The hornworms are buggery, but manageable, in my experience. We get piles of them every summer, but we make sure to go out every evening and pick them off. I've found up to 15 big ones at a time. The chickens love them. And it's amazing how hard they are to see! I have to look a long time to find them. They just blend right in.

The stinkbugs worry me... we don't have them bad here yet, but I hear they're coming. We already have asian ladybugs (that bite!) and boxelders, both of which flood our house every spring and fall. I don't want to go through that with something as gross as stinkbugs.

Right now we're dealing with flea beetles. They're trying to decimate my cabbages. And wow... I wrote a four-paragraph comment about bugs. See what gets me going... :-)

Rosie_Kate said...

Oh, and if you stand near a munching tomato worm, you can hear the steady "crunch, crunch, crunch" as they eat away. Monsters!

Becky said...

you're making me happy that we couldn't put a garden in this summer with the remodel...i'm not in a bug mood. just so totally not in it. plus, we don't have the chicken i want to eat them when we need to dispose of them. someday, sigh...