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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Icky Garden Pests: Hornworms, Cabbage worms and Aphids

I have been "lucky" enough to spot some pests in my garden during the last few weeks while I've been making my weekly rounds with my camera. 


Check out this puppy - I mean, hornworm.  I've seen many pictures of them on the internet, but that still didn't prepare me for a up close and personal encounter.  I initially thought that this was a tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata) but I learned from my pest research that this was actually a closely related tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta).  Tobacco hornworms have seven diagonal white lines on each side with a slightly curved red horn on their rear ends (exactly like in my picture above!).  Tomato hornworms have eight V-shaped marks on each side with a straighter black horn.  Both tomato and tobacco hornworms feed on various Solanum species, which was good to know, since I'm definitely not growing any tobacco in my garden.
 

This must have been my lucky day, because I also saw another less fortunate tobacco hornworm infested with parasitic wasp eggs on its back.  I know this is supposedly to be natural and all, but ugh, I have to admit, I was thoroughly, completely grossed out while taking these pictures.


On to slightly less disgusting, but nonetheless evil pests in my garden.  Here we have two cabbage worms feasting on my radish leaves.  A few weeks ago, I posted some pictures of damaged seedlings in my fall garden.  Many of my regular readers suggested slug damage.  That may still be true, but I have yet to see any slugs in my garden.  What I have seen lots of are these cabbage worms.  They are everywhere, and they eat the leaves of radishes, kale, all kinds of asian greens and even chards.  I could (maybe) deal with them nibbling a bit here and there.  But left unchecked, many of my seedlings get stripped bare of their foliage and just die.


Here's a picture of another cabbage worm.  They blend in really well with the leaves, don't they?  I must have squished dozens of them in my garden just last weekend. But they keep popping up everywhere and I just can't keep up. 


Here we have an aphid infestation on the underside of a radish leaf.  The aphids are out in full force all over the same crops that the cabbage worms seem to love.  I tried to spray them with soapy water and squish what I could, but as you can see, they way outnumber me.

28 comments:

meemsnyc said...

Ewwwww, and ewwwww! I am thoroughly grossed out by those critters. Today, I was preparing turnips from the farm to eat for dinner and there was a tiny slug on one of the turnips. Thank goodness I saw it before cooking the little bugger. Gross and gross.

Stephanie Ozenne said...

YUCK! Although the parasites on the tobacco hornworm are awesome, in a totally disgusting way. There are some crazy parasites out there.

Nartaya said...

Ugh! I make sure I have gloves on when dealing with leafy greens. From garden gloves to kitchen gloves until they get washed at least twice and inspected. I can't even imagine touching a worm or looper accidently, ewwwwww. Blech!

Anonymous said...

check out Borage on the internet or in a gardeners catalog. I planted it this year. It's supposed to be a natural repellent for Hornworms. Yuck I had them last year but so far none this year. Maybe the Borage really worked, thanks for sharing Robin

Daphne said...

I get so grossed out by the hornworms. Mainly because I have to kill them and they look like little alien monsters. Thank goodness this year I had none in my garden. I've got the cabbage worms in my kale. I should have put them under a row cover. The package said they were very insect resistant. Yeah sure. No cabbage family crop can resist them. Or maybe it is no cabbage worm can resist the cabbage family.

vrtlarica said...

That hornworm is ugly! How do they get in the garden?

I had a lot of problems with aphids this spring. What worked for me the best was spraying them off with water. It will get them of the plants and also damage their mouthparts so they can no longer feed.

Dan Owen said...

It's amazing to see just how biologically active your garden is. While you do have some destructive pests there, it's also often a sign of a pesticide free area. I've never used any form of chemical pesticide (at least not knowingly)on my beds and have now shifted to only kitchen scraps as a sole form of soil amendment. Bugs can be a real problem, however.

Ottawa Gardener said...

Well on the plus? side, tomato hornworm (probably also true of tobacco hornworm) are edible according to some sources... yeah, I know, just thought I'd mention it. Other fun things to do with insects. Collect cabbage worms on their favourite leaves and watch them pupate. My kids love that one. As for aphids, well, I just hope for lots of ladybugs and other assorted aphid insectivores.

Ribbit said...

Horn worms really are one of life's oddities, aren't they. Did you touch it? It feels like playdough.

thyme2garden said...

meemsnyc - I have to admit, my tolerance level for gross bugs have increased drastically since I started gardening.

* * * * *
Stephanie - I totally agree with you about "awecome, in a totally disgusting way." BTW, thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog!

* * * * *
Nartaya - would you be totally grossed out if I told you that I squished the cabbage worms with my bare fingers?

* * * * *
Robin - borage, hmm, will look into that for next year!

* * * * *
Daphne - hornworms do look like alien monsters!

* * * * *
vrtlarica - the hornworms are larvae of some moths, so they come from moth eggs. No way to avoid them!

* * * * *
Dan Owen - I haven't used any chemical pesticides in my garden yet, so that's probably a part of why the pests love my crops.

* * * * *
Ottawa Gardener - you DIDN'T just say that hornworms are EDIBLE? EEK!!

* * * * *
Ribbit - they really are odd looking, mainly because they are so big and squishy. I picked up these two with gloved fingers. I can pick up cabbage worms with bare fingers, but am not brave enough to do the same with the hornworms.

Nartaya said...

OMG, ewwwwww! I found 14 cabbage worms today and didn't touch a single one with my bare hands. You are a braver woman than me. Ugh, grossed out just thinking about it.

AND Ottawa Gardener ---- seriously??? Edible??? I think I may have a case of the vapors (or whatever it is in this modern age!)

thyme2garden said...

Nartaya - as long as you get rid of them somehow, I'm sure the bare hands method is totally unnecessary and just adds to the gross factor. I would use gloves myself, but sometimes I forget to bring them out the garden and I just want to get rid of the cabbage worms as soon as possible. Vapors? Ha, you're a funny lady. :-)

Amy Manning said...

Have you tried BT?

thyme2garden said...

Amy - not yet, but I just found about it last week. Has it worked well for you?

Amy Manning said...

I had a pretty bad infestation of cabbage moths and what I think was a cutworm. It worked pretty well along with handpicking, but you have to make sure to soften the water with some dish soap or something or the solution will just drip off the leaves.

thyme2garden said...

Amy - thank you for the info about dish soap! I'll try to track down some BT and see about using it in our garden. I don't really mind handpicking cabbage worms when I see them, but they seem to be hatching way faster than I can keep up with them.

Amy Manning said...

Yeah, they hide really well too, as they are usually colored by the pigments in the plants!

thyme2garden said...

Amy - so true! Sometimes I have to stare at the leaves for a while for my eyes to adjust before I can start to see the outline of the cabbage worms. They really are a perfect color match to whatever they've been eating!

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