I looked up three times from the book I was reading before my brain registered that something was amiss. Four tomato plants grow in nearby pots. Some held tomatoes in shades of green turning to red. Yesterday, all had had lush foliage and blossoms. Now, it was all but one; the left-most plant was almost denuded.
I stared at the plant, wondering if the groundhog had attacked it. I doubted that. Broccoli and cabbage leaves, yes—he devoured them –but tomato leaves? Never before. Besides, the groundhog usually eats top down. This plant was empty from the bottom up. Two sprigs of leaves were left on top.
As I watched, one of the leaves moved—continually, rhythmically, up and down. Weird. And that leaf was a more apple green than the others. It was segmented too. Putting my book aside I approached the plant. It wasn’t a leaf. It was an ugly green bug masquerading as a leaf! Its relatively large head was actively— continually— chomping on one of the few remaining tomato leaves.
I am not unfriendly to insects. I raise Monarch caterpillars. I smile benevolently at spiders. When I find an ant in my kitchen I carefully capture him and let him go outdoors. But this creature was ruining my chance of eating fresh tomatoes. At the rate it was eating, I was certain it was just a short matter of time before it moved on to the next tomato plant. But I couldn’t touch it. It horrified me. Its busy mouth appeared full of huge teeth. I needed backup.
I called my son out to look. “Yuck, that’s ugly,” he said. “What is it?”
“I don’t know but we have to stop it.”
“You stop it,” he said. “I’m not touching it.”
Joe retreated to his computer to look up the bug, Googling on “worm” and “tomato.” Seems our marauder is a Horned Tomato Worm. This picture came from http://grapeseedfarmproject.wordpress.com/.
Meanwhile, I called my husband, who saved the day—and the tomato plant. He removed the twig on which the segmented green monstrosity feasted, plunged it into the bird bath, and held it down. I admit to feeling a twinge of guilt about our taking a life. But at the same time, I hope the deceased has no relatives nearby.