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Trouble in tomato paradise

As I was gathering tomatoes today, I noticed some were partially eaten. I didn’t think much of it until I noticed some little black specks underneath one plant–definitely caterpillar poo. Uh oh. Shortly thereafter I was face-to-face with a Tomato Hornworm.

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I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in real life, only in pictures. I do like bugs, and it was actually kind of cute. I’ll admit that my first thought was to just live and let live, especially because these caterpillars eventually become hummingbird moths, which are pretty cool. But then I saw another one. At that point I headed into the house to find out what to do about them. Apparently it doesn’t take very long for a bunch of hungry hornworms to destroy a tomato plant. The best thing to do is pull them from the plant and drop them into a bucket of soapy water. This is easier said than done, as the little suckers hang on to the stems pretty tightly. I was terrified of squishing one, which would have been really gross. I was able to coax a couple of them off with sticks, and for the others I just cut off the small leaves or branches to which they clung and threw the whole thing into my bucket.

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So far I have found six, and I have a feeling there are more; I plan to check again soon. It is pretty amazing how well a three-inch caterpillar can hide on a little tomato plant. But I will not give up my tomatoes without a fight.

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Leafy greens

Our first CSA pickup was this week. The share consisted of many leafy green things: red and green leaf lettuce, bok choy, chard, spinach, and arugula. Additionally, there were some garden plants available. I chose basil (I’ve already planted Genovese and Thai basil, but I love it so much I couldn’t turn down another) and an eggplant. I’m not sure where I’ll put it in the garden but I think I can find some room.

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So far all I’ve made is a salad. I’ve been looking up recipes for the chard and bok choy–I think I’m going to learn a lot about cooking with vegetables this summer.

Oh, and while I was cleaning leaves for the salad, I found this cute little inchworm.

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Little creatures

One thing I love about having a yard full of plants is seeing all the creatures that visit and inhabit it. Here in the city, we don’t really see anything more exotic than the occasional raccoon, but I still enjoy watching our urban wildlife.This year we have had our first hummingbird and our first goldfinches (we have seen both in the past, but only briefly), as well as the usual birds, spiders, and insects. I have liked bugs for as long as I can remember (there was a time when I wanted to be an entomologist when I grew up) so I have a special affinity for interesting-looking creepy-crawlies. Although there are some bugs I won’t tolerate, such as mosquitoes or anything that will do major damage to my plants, I generally take a live-and-let-live approach to the¬†invertebrate¬†world. Here are some of my photographs of bugs from this summer.

This was definitely my favorite caterpillar find. I was quite pleased to find that it is a hummingbird moth caterpillar–hummingbird moths are so fun to watch, but I haven’t seen one in a few years. It was very tempting to keep this one, but I thought it would be best to release it.

white-lined sphinx hummingbird moth caterpillar

We always have a variety of spiders; this one wisely made its web near the porch light.

arabesque orb weaver

I think these little orange moths are really cute.

orange-wing moth

While going outside tonight to investigate a really close-sounding cicada, I found this katydid on a grape leaf. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate the cicada; I suspect that my flashlight and camera must have persuaded it to relocate.

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I haven’t tried to identify this pretty little moth yet.