29 August 2012

La Belle's Hobby Farm: The Bloodythirsty Gardener (Or How I Hurt My Back)

Don't eat me. I am an inchworm. I am useful. I measure things.
~ Leo Lionni

erhaps that is true of the inchworm, but not so for tomato hornworms.  The big green nasties hide underneath poor tommy toes leaves and chomp, chomp away!  I was hoping he would pass my wee garden by, but alas!  While I took my early morning garden stroll on Sunday, I saw through his (or her) disguise!

I am Manduca Sexta - hear me chomp through your tommy toes!
A little research showed that Manduca quinquemaculata was innocent of veggie-cide; it was actually his cousin, Manduca sexta, alias tobacco hornworm.  Although much good mistaken identity did my tomato plants.  Those bad boys aren’t as selective as one would think about the vegetation they consume.
I tried scolding, I tried poking but he was having none of it.  His buffet was not to be interrupted.  Squashing was not an option ~ gardener I may be, but a girlie girl I am to the core and squashing anything living is just. . . .ewwwwww!
As an organic gardener, not using poison is also a no-brainer.  Actually, that is bass-ackwards: it should be that using poison is a no-brainer, because people with no brains use it.  Who wants to eat poison through their food, even if it’s residual poison?!
So how to get rid of the plant murderer?
The Sustainable Executioner
The answer (I thought) was on the plant next door, the garden-hood watch, so to speak.  Since she moved to her digs, Tia has been catching aphids and growing huge!  It’s either her increased diet or she’s preggers.   Which would be very cool!

I looked at Duca S and Tia and realized that by the time he made it anywhere near her place, he would have eaten a good many leaves.  And this criminal activity could not be allowed to continue.  So I helped.

Tia is a beloved member of the garden-hood watch, but webs still freak me out.  I think it was that Sinbad movie I saw when I was 7.  And Shelob didn’t help my phobia either.  I picked up a dead leaf and pushed him on. 

His body was baby-skin soft.  I felt like I was the criminal for a moment.  After all, wasn’t I killing a butterfly before it had a chance to sow its wild oats? (My later research said no, left to their own devices hornworms turn into moths – large and interesting, but not pretty butterflies.)

It took some odd maneuvering, but I finally got the leaf onto to the far side of Tia’s web.  Then I crouched down and waited for the show to begin.

Just call me the Bloodthirsty Gardener.

If I had been watching this on NatGeoWild and it were lions and antelope, or wolves and reindeer, I would have shivered and cried at nature’s cruel but effective means of culling the herd.  But somehow, insects just fascinate the scientific side of my brain ~ except of course for dragonflies and butterflies.

Tia took her time, but finally the rocking of the web drew her attention and she raced up and her long legs began feeling Duca S’s big long body.  And then something happened I could barely believe.  Duca S reared up and used his big head like an arm and hit at Tia!

Breakfast was putting up a fight!

Boy, do I know what that’ s like: acid reflux!  However, my food is not normally alive by then!  Tia waved her legs over him for a few more seconds, trying to get in her spider-novacaine, but finally had to retreat defeated and hungry. 

All this was new to me, so I wanted to get a better look and see where this story was headed.  And promptly fell with all my weight onto a leftover 2x6.

Which is how I ended up spending two days flat on my back, nursing some very bruised glute bones and a sore spine. 

I don’t know what happened to Duca S ~ I’m sure he crawled off none the worse for wear and began munching on my plants again.  As for me, my days as a fight promoter are over.  I’m just going to let nature take its course.

Unless I start squashing.


Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
What pests are eating your garden and how are you dealing with them?  Don’t get hurt out there!

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