Friday, August 10, 2012

Ewww, gross!

I’m not, as a rule, squeamish about bugs and similar critters. I have two boys, and have always enjoyed discovering with them what lives inside rotted logs and under rocks. Son1 once found a praying mantis in the hedge, and fearing the coming frost of late October, brought her inside. We set up a lovely terrarium, purchased crickets for her meals, and enjoyed her company until the following spring.

I regularly capture bugs and spiders inside the house and release them to the great outdoors.

The only bugs I go out of my way to kill (squish, DESTROY!) are those insects that damage the garden. My spring days are spent hunting down and squishing the cutworms who seem to take delight in chopping down my green bean seedlings. While digging in the garden, I collect all the Japanese Beetle grubs I can, and feed them to the chickens. If I’m feeling lazy, I just squish the buggers between my fingers. (This always reminds me of the scene from Lion King when Timon mentions a “cream filling", *giggle*.)

A few days ago, whilst checking out the tomato plants, and rubbing my hands with glee at the coming bounty, I witnessed a sight that struck horror in my soul. Well, maybe not horror, but a definite case of heebie-jeebies. Branches stripped of their foliage, and little mounds of excrement on a few leaves. I knew what this meant.

Tobacco Hornworms, aka ewwww, gross! Ginormous caterpillars that chomp the leaves with their non-horny *giggle* ends, and poop out green goo from their horny ends *snort* . (I’ll stop now.)

What do these slimy (not really) disgusting things have to do with my opening sentence? I’ll tell you. I have a deep, visceral resistance to touching the Hornworms. They are just too damn big. Firm, yet slightly squishy. And they grip the plant with steel talons (not really) so it’s not just a matter of knocking them off. It takes at least a thumb and one finger, sometimes two, and considerable force, to dislodge the b**tards. And then they rear up as if to attack! OMG that’s scary.

I’m not alone in my fight, however. For there is within the wild kingdom of insects a species of beneficial wasps who need to find a nice place to grow their babies.

Those white pellet-y things are the pupae of the wasps, parasitizing the life out of the Hornworm (huzzah!).

The caterpillars covered with their little friends I leave in place, figuring more beneficial wasps will be the result.

The caterpillars without little friends I scrap off into a container, take them out to the road, and drop a brick on their sorry asses.

Side note: the chickens won't touch the Hornworms, and, in fact, flee in terror.

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