Monday, August 24, 2009

Hornworms! Run!

Moseying about my thus far unsuccessfully fruiting poblano/ancho pepper plants yesterday I encountered a nasty:
(reference to my hand)
(reference to my pinky)

I had noted that my poblano pepper had yet to set fruit and seemed to appear gnawed upon. I suspected that it was obviously some bug that liked to chew had been at it and I ins response have been diligently spraying my plant down with dilute neem oil.

Little did I expect to see this guy and miss him at this SIZE.

This is a tobacco hornworm (, a little different from the regular tomato hornworm but still happy to munch on all in the Solanaceae family(aka nightshade family such as eggplant, peppers, tomatoes).

I pulled him off to take pictures and I KNOW I am supposed to smoosh'em but I have difficulties with that, so in deference to nature I tried feeding it to the praying mantis, but she wasn't having it. Maybe she's on a diet... or maybe the fact that the hornworm was possibly 2x her size could have been the reason or maybe hornworms are unusual and unpalatable to mantises, which seems reasonable.

So I tried feeding it to the golden orb spider, but yeah, hornworm was too heavy and that just left a nice hole in the web when I attempted to chuck it in. Sorry to mess the place up ma'am. After exiting the spider web the hornworm fell into the bushes where I couldn't find it but far enough away from its regular buffet, so I think it'll just die.

Unfortunately, when there's one hornworm there's always plenty more and sure enough I found about 3 more munching away including a swallow tail butterfly caterpillar going away at the parsnips (I know the 'snips should have been pulled up WAY before now, they may be 3 months overdue... I'm just worried that they'll be woody and bitter if I pull up now before a frost or if I can freeze them to get to them sweet, or do I have to really boil?)

Anyways, since I couldn't get anything to eat them, and feel weird about smooshing them, so I throw them VERY FAR AWAY into the park, and hope that it's too far for them to make it back or that the bouncing off the ground gets them. I wonder if birds like them and I can put them in a bottle of sorts for the birds to pick them out.... that would be sort of neat.

I understand that I can Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis ) ( the worms (caterpillars) but it's not a big deal to do so unless there's a real infestation. Plus, I want to keep things on the cheap too. So unless the worms want to see me really angry like the Hulk, we'll keep it mostly civil here.

Randomly, I have heard murmurings online that hornworms are edible. A little olive oil and frying some say. Hmm... maybe if I need to be a survivalist that's good to know.

Other than that... here's looking at you kid.

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