Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tomato Attack!

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.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Raider of the Lost Pears

Gazing out our kitchen window, my husband and I watch the resident groundhog approach our pear tree. The tree is just three yards from the window and abundantly laden with not-quite-ripe fruit.

But the neighborhood squirrels haven’t waited for ripe. They’ve been raiding the tree for three weeks. It’s infuriating that each time we step foot out back, there’s a squirrel in the tree. He chooses a pear, takes a few bites, and drops it to the ground.

Now beneath the tree, the groundhog finds a second-hand pear. He sits up on his haunches, holding the pear in his front paws and delicately takes a bite. I know he’s a garden pest but he looks adorable.  And perhaps he’s heard that our yard is a certified wildlife habitat; he looks totally relaxed. We watch as he takes a nibble and carefully chews, turning the fruit in his tiny paws. He obviously enjoys the pear for five minutes, then drops the core and moves closer to choose another partially eaten fruit. Nice of him to neaten up our yard. Nice cooperation between our wildlife.

Last year the squirrels and groundhog left only one untouched pear for us. We don’t mind sharing but that was insulting.  This year we are being proactive. We’re bringing not-quite-ripe pears into the house so we’ll get to eat some ourselves. The wildlife will have to learn to share.