The Caterpillar: One Long Stomach

August 10, 2009 5 Comments

I have been waiting anxiously for the Swallowtail caterpillars and the Monarch caterpillars to make an appearance.  I have been looking every day for over a week at my Butterfly Weed and our parsley.  The Monarchs eat away the Butterfly Weed and we found out last year that Swallowtails love parsley.  We planted a lot of it this year.

Three types of parsley in the main part of the garden.

Three types of parsley in the main part of the garden.

The parsley is growing well in the clay pot.

The parsley is growing well in the clay pot.

 

Well, the other day, while talking to Dwayne on the phone, he mentioned that a huge caterpillar was eating away one of our ornamental peppers. 

 

The plant seems to be shrinking.

The plant seems to be shrinking.

I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t on the parsley.  Then I figured out, it isn’t the Swallowtail caterpillar.  It is a tobacco hornworm.  And they love to defoliate tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and, you guessed it, peppers.  The article I read didn’t mention tobacco as one of it’s favorite foods, so I’m not sure where the name comes from.

 

He ate this branch down before we found him.

He ate this branch down before we found him.

The tobacco hornworm is green with seven diagonal lines on it’s sides and a curved red horn at it’s back end. 

This is his eating end.

This is his eating end.

 

This is the non-eating end.

This is the non-eating end.

There is also the tomato hornworm which has V-shaped marks and it’s horn is more straight and a blue-black color.

 

The tomato hornworm. Photo courtesy of the Colorado Extension Service.

The tomato hornworm. Photo courtesy of the Colorado State University Extension Service.

Hornworms are the larvae of hawk or sphinx moths which are also known as the “hummingbird moth”.  Their wings move almost as fast as a hummingbird.  We saw one of these the first or second year we lived in our house and we could have sworn it was a hummingbird.  I just couldn’t figure out about the antennae, though.  We were new to gardening and birding, but I was pretty sure hummingbirds didn’t have antennae.  And hummingbird moths can’t fly backwards. 

The hummingbird moth. Photo courtesy the Colorado State University Extension Service.

The hummingbird moth. Photo courtesy the Colorado State University Extension Service.

While I love seeing the hummingbird moths, I don’t really like their larvae eating my vegetables.  The moths don’t really harm any of your plants, but the caterpillars can seriously defoliate a plant and even eat some of the green fruit.  I don’t want that!  The recommended way to deal with the caterpillar is to pick them off and cut them in half or drop them in a bucket of water.  We have moved the pot to our deck and Dwayne is thinking of steaming it this weekend with some plastic wrap.  The birds can have their very own barbeque!  If you happen upon one that has what looks like small white eggs on it, leave it alone.  These are the cocoons of a parasitic wasp and as the wasp eats away the caterpillar, the caterpillar with die.  Nature takes care of itself.

The news isn’t all disappointing.  I found a Monarch caterpillar on our small fence around the butterfly weed. 

 

He's probably quintupled his size in two days.

This picture was taken two days ago. He's probably quintupled his size by today.

 

The Monarch caterpillar a couple of days after the photo above.  He is definitely growing!

The Monarch caterpillar a couple of days after the photo above. He is definitely growing!

Now, him I look forward to watching gorge himself on our flora offering.

 

 

Dig it!

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Comments (5)

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  1. Phyllis says:

    Where do you get your flat rocks?

  2. eloan says:

    Dwayne got them from work. The company was clearing an area for more track and they were piling this up. He got permission to get some and he has made a few trips. I feel sorry for his back but he seems to do it when I’m not there to help him… usually after he gets off work. We were looking at something almost exactly like it at Cedar Valley Garden Center in Palo. We go there and to Peck’s in Cedar Rapids, but I am almost positive they don’t have that kind of rock.

  3. dayle hayes says:

    Eileen, My husband planted a caster bean and it grew tall and looks pretty interesting. My neighbor told me her grandma always planted them in and around her yard to keep the moles away! Is this true and why? Thank You :-) Dayle

  4. eloan says:

    Dayle, it appears that your neighbor’s grandma is correct. Moles don’t like the castor bean plant. The article that I found mentioned that the moles may not like the castor oil any more than all the kids that were forced to take it for their health. If you do grow the castor bean plant, be aware that the plant itself is poisonous, so keep children away from it. Enjoy your mole-free yard!

  5. i love summer and all the beautiful crawley creatures that rome the earth

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