Picture Snob

August 18, 2008

YUCK! The Tobacco Worm Strikes Again

WARNING: This is worm and bug week at GardenSnob. If you are grossed out easily, skip this blog for a few days and read your bank statement or local police blotter instead.

The tobacco worm has reared its ugly head again this summer. And I mean UGLY! This could easily turn a new gardener away from gardening AND tomatoes altogether.

tobacco_worm.jpg

These are some of the largest caterpillars found around here. They have a natural camouflage that would make any soldier envious and a red, pointy horn on one end. It's a little hard to tell which end it is because they seem to have eyes or a little face on both. (I hope no one says that about me, ever.) At some point, these things turn into hummingbird moths

hummingbird_moth.jpg which is the worm version of that old classic, The Ugly Duckling. (Photo: Jim Sedbrook)

The tobacco worm is hard to find even though they are so big because they are the exact same color green as tomato leaves. The best way to find them is to look for their droppings on the ground or on leaves or tomatoes. The droppings look like miniature green (fresh) or black (a few hours old) raspberries and they get bigger as the worm grows.

Thumbnail image for worm_droppings1.jpgworm_droppings2.jpg


Here's the gardener's version of "Where's Waldo" to show you how difficult is it to find these worms. Try to find the worm in this photo:

where's_worm1a.jpg

Here it is, up close and personal:

where's_worm1b.jpg

Let's try another one. Where's Wormy?

where's_worm2a.jpg

That's right! He's biting into another leaf of the tomato plant you've planted, watered and staked with loving care all summer. where's_worm2b.jpgBastards!

Now the question is what to do with a tobacco worm once you've found one. I thought the chickens might like them so offered the first one to them.

chicken_&_worm1.jpgchicken_&_worm2.jpg

But I was wrong. Then a goat stepped on it.

When I found the next tobacco worm, I started to get really mad and increasingly sick to my stomach. A website suggests snipping them in half with shears but there is no way I want to have that green blood on my clippers. Then I noticed the fire pit

worm_in_firepit.jpgworm_under_rock.jpg

and that was the end of that one.


With worm #3, I thought, "I must get revenge!", and a dirty, smelly light bulb went on in my head. To the pig pen!

pigs_&_worm.jpg

At first they didn't notice it because I threw it over their heads. Oh, well, if they don't eat it , it will surely die of the stench. But then, oh yes, one of them poked it around with its big pink snout, gobbled it up, and smacked its lips. I am not joking about the lip smacking. And pigs are omnivores. You should have seen them fighting over a dried snake they found in some hay the other day. There certainly was a lot of lip smacking going on over that snake jerky. But, I digress . . .
Afterwards (after the cold beverage to settle my stomach), I felt a little badly about the harsh end for that worm and about all the plants that won't be pollinated by that future hummingbird moth. But worms #4, 5, 6 and 7 have all gone into the pig pen and the pigs now hop around with glee when I approach with a tomato branch and tobacco worm. I'm not joking about the hopping, either.

Read More in: Garden Photos | Worms, Bugs & Gross Things

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Posted by Mary Ellen at August 18, 2008 7:06 PM
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