An interesting post at dirtywordsgarden about cole crop cabbageworms and other delicacies got me thinking about these things. The post mentions Spinosad, an organic insecticide that kills by contact and ingestion. I’ve read good things about it, but have yet to try it.
But I have had excellent results controlling cabbage loopers with Bt, or Bacillus Thuringiensis, an organic, bacteria-based product that attacks the guts of only leaf-eating caterpillars. I spray my cole crops conscientiously with Bt after rains or watering, and it really does keep the little green buggers out of my life.
A much more frightening caterpillar is the tomato hornworm.
These things have absolutely the best camouflage ever conceived by God. You can look right at them and miss them, even when they’re hot-dog-sized. You know they’re in your tomatoes, because the tops of your plants are missing and there are clumps of green monster doo scattered on the remaining leaves. And if you’re slow to act, it can quickly become ugly.
I found one by chance last year, but I can’t crush these things. It’s no problem for me to massacre most anything that dares to mess with my garden (granddaughter excluded). I even enjoy squishing sex-crazed Japanese beetles with my bare fingers. But to see what might come out of a squashed tomato hornworm? Uh uh.
There’s no need for squishing. That BT that I mentioned earlier? Size isn’t an issue for it. Hopefully bigger guts mean bigger indigestion. I started spraying BT on all my tomato plants immediately after that picture was taken, and there were no further incidents.
And in case you think I’m heartless, I grabbed my granddaughter and we walked this monster worm a good distance from the garden and then released it. Its son or daughter will no doubt come back to thank me next year.
By the way, the tomato hornworm turns into the Sphinx moth.