Perspectives on Garden Atrocities

I know…it’s been a while.  But I wanted to show you a weird, gross thing I found in the garden:


This picture is of a bunch of wasp larvae cocoons on a tomato hornworm.  The mama wasp laid eggs inside the worm and then when the eggs hatched, the larvae ate the caterpillar’s insides and then busted out of its host’s body, spun little cocoons on top of its husk, and then emerged into the world to take down other tomato hornworms.

I mean, it’s just horrifying.

And I knew it was horrifying the minute I saw it on the tomato plant outside my studio door.  Just your basic visceral reaction.  And I wanted to know what this was all about, so I put this picture on Facebook, asking if anybody knew what the deal was with this poor caterpillar.  Because I know all kinds of people who know this kind of stuff.

And I got answers–lots of them.  And they were surprisingly enthusiastic:

  • “Yes! Another hornworm down the tubes!”
  • “The caterpillar is a tomato/tobacco hornworm and I believe the egg-like additions are Braconid Wasp cocoons, a beneficial garden wasp.” (yeah–I know that kind of people.)
  • “Wasps!” [winky face]
  • “Yeah Hymenoptera! This parasitic wasp that lays its eggs on the caterpillar and the larvae feast on their living meal. A natural control for tomato hornworms!”

So, turns out this crime scene I came across in the garden was both just as horrifying and insidious as I thought, and (apparently) a reason to celebrate with a ton of emoticons and exclamation points.  Had the victim been a golden retriever puppy, or even a Eastern Tiger swallowtail butterfly, it would have been received differently by Facebook, I expect.

Anyway, let this be a lesson to us all: the world is a complicated place.


One comment

  1. Patrick Shields

    We gardeners breed for such “cultural” pest killers. We don’t import them…they are all around us…you just got to find, and introduce them to your plot. They love to go to work on cattypillers and other creepies. I love to gather praying matis cacoons and hang ’em all winter on the garden fence. The down side to this is the horn worm turns into some kind of pretty moth. Old wives tale, maybe.

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