Last month we began a guide of insects that you may find in your garden. Although creepy crawly things can make one squeamish, it’s important to remember that some insects are extremely beneficial in the garden. Read on to learn how to identify a few more pests and beneficial insects!
Tomato hornworms- Tomato Hornworms and the closely related Tobacco Hornworms are large and muscular caterpillars that feed specifically on tomatoes and other plants in the Solanaceae family including peppers, eggplants, ground cherries, and potatoes.
Combating tomato hornworms -
Plants like marigolds and basil are said to repel hawk moths (Mature hornworms) and can be effective companion plants when grown next to tomatoes.
Monitor your tomato plants often. Look for damaged leaves, stems, or fruits as well as dark brown or green worm droppings on the ground around the plant.
Pick off any worms you find. Worms can be squished, fed to birds, or dropped in a bucket of soapy water.
BT can be applied as a last resort to kill off any remaining worms on the plant.
Braconid Wasps - Braconids are parasitoid wasps. They have a wide range of hosts that they may kill or sterilize including caterpillars, aphids, beetles, and squash bugs. Gardeners may find parasitized tomato hornworms this Summer: the wasps lay their eggs just under the skin of these caterpillars. When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat their way to the surface where they spin themselves into cocoons to pupate. You’ll be able to tell a caterpillar is parasitized by the small, white cocoons in rows upon their backs.
Fun Fact: Most parasitoid wasps have co-evolved with viruses that they inject into their host to slow their immune system.