Who Eats the Eaters ?

DMForcier(8 DFW)September 5, 2012

Hornworm time again.

The little buggers seemed to have sampled most everything. There is a little damage to their all-time favorite, the cayenne. But they moved over to the new serrano and took up residence.

Not that it did them any good. Something has as much of a taste for hornworms as they do for leaves. I'm thinking a wasp.

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DMForcier(8 DFW)

This one got big enough to do some real damage.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 11:22AM
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Ever try a few drops of dish soap in a spray bottle. I never had the chance to even try pestisides because soap works so good:)

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 12:00PM
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Yep. Supposedly those are the eggs of parasitic wasps. I've never seen them in action in my garden though, even though I've grown plants to attract them. This year, I just used BT from the get go and have definitely seen a drop in the cabbage looper and sphinx moth populations. Sure enough, no caterpillar damage to my tomatoes or peppers.

I think what you want to do is remove the caterpillar(don't kill it) and move it to another part of your garden so the eggs will hatch without the caterpillar doing further damage.


    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 12:22PM
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Kevin is right. It's the small braconid wasp, Cotesia congregatus.

I observed the same thing in my pepper garden last weekend. Here's some information I found online:

Larvae that hatch from wasp eggs laid on the hornworm feed on the inside of the hornworm until the wasp is ready to pupate. The cocoons appear as white projections protruding from the hornworms body (see photo, left). If such projections are observed, the hornworms should be left in the garden to conserve the beneficial parasitoids. The wasps will kill the hornworms when they emerge from the cocoons and will seek out other hornworms to parasitize.


    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 1:08PM
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DMForcier(8 DFW)

I probably could have left them on the plants. They seemed past the leaf-eating stage. But I tossed them over in the corner. The pupae should be okay.

Another reason I don't kill wasps. (Yellow-jackets and hornets are another matter entirely.)

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 2:28PM
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I came across a single hornworm in the pepper garden; before he was parasitized, evidently had a taste for the leaves of a poblano and the fruit of the 'Super Chili Hybrid'. Unfortuntaely, he did not eat the whole fruit but instead nibbled on about 20 pods, leaving a small hole in each before moving onto the next. He only touched those two plants out of 20 before the wasps got him.

Elsewhere in the garden I noticed three hornworms had eaten all of the (Italian) parsley down to the soil :*(

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 2:59PM
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DMForcier(8 DFW)

They can eat a huge amount. Last two years they stripped the cayenne down to the twigs before I caught them. They generally don't harm the pods. This year I think one chowed down on the shoulder of a serrano. (It lasted great in this morning's omelet, btw, one of the best I've made in a long time.)

Found another hornworm on the fatalii this evening. He's toast. I'll leave his dry husk of a corpse in situ as a warning to others.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 5:58PM
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A natural predator of the tomato hornworm is a tiny beneficial insect called the braconid wasp. This wasp lays its eggs inside the hornworm. As they hatch, they eat their way out, killing the hornworm in the process. It's a bit off-putting to see this creature on your plants, but you're better off letting him be and letting the wasps do their job. Once they hatch, they'll be enough braconid wasps to keep your garden hornworm free.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 6:36PM
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@DMForcier - a hornworm omlet??? Tasty!!! LOL


    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 7:02PM
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Oh, and outstanding pic, maple!!

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 7:03PM
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DMForcier(8 DFW)

Hornworm omelet, eh? I'd try one ... if I could only find a worm that isn't full of alien parasites. Oh well.


I hear they taste like chikin. (Eat mor hornwums!)


    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 10:34PM
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