Saturday, September 7, 2013

Things Eat Things in my Garden!

Had a heck of a surprise in the garden today.  Our heirloom tomatoes have been struggling (so have our heirloom cukes, which have what I think is downy mildew--still producing great, but the leaves are dying back pretty hard).  The tomatoes have dead leaves, curled leaves, and we won't even talk about the squirrels eating the fruit as it comes ripe because that's nothing to do with this.  But who knew squirrels would eat tomatoes?  NEVER happened to us in Utah.  Of course, in Utah we had pine trees, pears, plums, cherries, peaches, sumac, and a gigantic walnut tree.  Maybe they left the tomatoes (and bulbs) alone because there was better to be had.

Not my squirrel, just representative of the problem
Anyway, back to the tomatoes and their curly, crackly leaves.  Had no idea what was wrong, just hoped they'd hold out (and survive the squirrels) long enough to give us a decent crop.  So, I'm out there, watering, when I notice a large patch of what looks like big white eggs.  I'm thinking, "Ohhhh, is THAT what's wrong with the 'maters?"  I look around, and realize there are at least a DOZEN patches like this.  And then, I look even closer.  And I see this:

and these:

And I realize these aren't "eggs" on leaves or stem, these are "eggs"  on caterpillars!

At first, I was really concerned--we had a bumper crop of Black Swallowtail caterpillars this year, and, while they don't tend to hang out on tomatoes (they like our dill and parsley a lot more), fact is, my first thought was "ooooooh, poor caterpillars, poor baby butterflies!"  I told my husband I thought they were probably parasitic wasp eggs, and came inside to check.

My concern turned to joy pretty quickly.  The caterpillars?  Are evil hornworms.  And the "eggs?"  Are actually the cocoons made by eggs that have hatched.  Eggs from Braconidae wasps.  Just little guys who do a big job in the garden.  We may be lacking bees this year (which worries me a lot), but we've apparently got a whole slew of beneficial/parasitoid wasps.  And that's a GOOD thing!

 I want to give a shout-out to another blogger whose wonderful page made solving this mystery a breeze:  Half a Hundred Acre Wood.  Hoping she won't mind the link back, her entry on hornworms was very informative, with great pictures.


Speaking of the garden, I haven't really posted many pictures of our tiny postage stamp of a yard lately.  So here you go:

As I always feel obligated to point out, those aren't weeds between the stones, that's thyme.

Cukes and tomatoes against the fence.  Neighbor's LOVING it.

Five dollar pretty from the Farmer's Market.

This is a little earlier in the year, things don't look so orderly against that fence now!

One of our bandits.  Note the tomato.

Hubby's loving the peppers!

Our amazing cukes.  We've never had luck like this before.

Daylily was a gift from a friend.

I know, that's a lot of silly yard and garden pictures.  Distracts me from the growing mass in my arm, the expired lease with no word from the landlord, the disastrous cash flow issues, our boy's sudden declaration that it's time for him to get his learner's permit, and the recurring bouts of light-headedness combined with the "swallowed a golf ball" sensation I've had the past few days.  That last is called a cricopharyngeal spasm, and I only get them when the stress has hit a super-ultra pitch.  I guess I can look forward to at least a month of that, considering it's a month before the ortho can see me.  

What a  mess.

Anyway, enough of that--have something ugly:

If you were hoping for some politics today, I'm all worn out.  Syria bad, Assad bad, rebels bad, Israel bad, Saudi bad, wingnuts bad, USDA approving Chinese chicken processing BAD.

That's it, that's all I have in me today.  

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