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"...besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child." - Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Giant Green Critters of Doom!

Do I have your attention?

Let me tell you a tale, children, of how I battled the Giant Green Critters of Doom and survived to tell of it.
It began innocently enough - I desired to grow tomatoes for my enjoyment, and basil to adorn them with. I had the thought that tomatoes warm from the sun, ripe, crimson, delightful, bursting with flavour, would be a wonderful thing.
I purchased some tomato seedlings (Rutgers, heirloom) from an Evil Sorcerer named tarM-laW. They were small plants, but I knew that with love and patience, they would be mighty.

The red earth around my home would not do for my new little darlings, so I planted them in a pot, a large pot, with room for them to reach their roots downward and stretch their leaves upward and bring forth their globes of nutritive delight.

I watered them twice a day and arranged for their care while I was away, frolicking in the wilds of Ohio.

I returned to find them having missed me, but well enough. One or two of the little green berries were black at the bottom, unwell! I learned that potted tomatoes sometimes have blossom end rot due to calcium deficiency. Oh, no, osteoporosis for tomatoes! I remedied their condition.

One day, while watering them, I noticed odd little pellets on the ground around the pot. Hmm. Nothing looked amiss on the plants, so I watered them, rinsed the walkway, and left them in peace. The next day, more pellets. Tiny little things, they looked almost like morning glory seeds, but there are no glories in that part of the yard, and also it's too early for seeds. Hmm, again. Once more, I rinsed the walk, looked at the plants, and wondered what alien things were going on when I wasn't looking.
The next day, which would be Monday of this week, I found my answer.It was as big around as my thumb (not exaggerating the tiniest bit), and three or four inches long (again, really). It was plump, solid, and looked rather like a rolled up leaf. It was eating my plants! It was a Giant Green Critter of Doom!!

It was perched on top of a branch, happily munching away without regard to my desire for fresh produce!


I investigated a little closer. It had a spiky bit on what I presumed was the backside. I poked it with a bit of grass, hoping to dislodge it. Giant Green Critter of Doom or not, I didn't want to kill it if I didn't have to. It didn't budge. Well, I thought, after all I'm only using a bit of grass. I looked for a twig and poke a little more insistently. Nothing, That Giant Green Critter of Doom was as solid as Gibraltar, and about as inclined to move. Hmm.

I poke harder and that's when it happened! The Giant Green Critter of Doom reared up, turned, and menaced me with nine-inch fangs!! (OK, now that may have been a slight exaggeration.) It reared back, turned, and let loose a stream of invective that included me, my progeny, and all the members of our household, then moved on to its analysis of our political system and all the woes of mankind. It was a well rounded Giant Green Critter of Doom.

OK, really, it did rear up and turn, and it would have hissed if this was a Stephen King or Arachnaphobia kind of movie. Maybe even spit something. I was, to say the least, startled. A word popped into my head, a name for this Giant Green Critter of Doom, but I wasn't sure if I really knew what it was (besides angry that I'd interrupted its lunch).

Nothing I did could dislodge the uninvited visitor, so I pulled out my tiny, almost microscopic pocket knife and decided that surgical intervention was the only answer. I carefully pruned off the branch where the Giant Green Critter of Doom was perched and flung it as far as I could, hoping that the spiky bit at the end wouldn't reach back and stab me as a vicious response to my tomato-rescuing efforts.

I wondered - if there is one, will there be more?

Oh, horror, there was another one! Again, I cut the damaged bit of plant away and flung it, thinking that some bird was going to have a bonanza if it looked in the bushes. A third, and then a fourth followed. Poor plants, all munched and cut. Then I saw the green tomatoes, half-eaten away! Argh! With sorrow in my heart, I pulled them from the plants and sent them sailing in the direction of the Giant Green Critters of Doom - lunch out on me, guys.

I watered the plants, spoke lovingly to them, reassured and encouraged them, and went about my preparations for the guests I was expecting that night.

I also looked up my Giant Green Critters of Doom on the infallible Internet. The thought I'd had as to their identity was right - no otherworldly menace were they, but rather:

Photo copied from these folks, because I didn't think about photographing my Giant Green Critters of Doom until they'd already been flung, and I wasn't going to look for them and ask for a close-up.

I give you the Tomato Hornworm. Only mine were much, much bigger.

Photo "borrowed" from here without permission and with complete disregard for her feelings on the matter.

The funny little pellets are called "frass", which is really a nice way of saying "hornworm poo".

I found another, smaller one on there yesterday. He had a flight lesson and hasn't returned. I am now given to fits of suspicious staring, poking, and investigating the undersides of my tomato plants. I have decided that if I get even one ripe tomato from these poor, benighted plants, it will be a wonder.


Greta said...

Oooooh. We've had those too. I always think they'd make a great meal if I were on Survivor ;) {shudders}

Kit said...

Well, they're kind of pretty. . . but unwelcome, for sure.

I found this online:
"To control them, use garden quality diatomaceous earth as a dusting powder, hand pick them, or use bacillus thuringiensis as a spray for control. Although these are all organic remedies, please use safety gear when applying any pesticide."

Aunt Becky said...

Kinda creepy but kinda cute at the same time.

Gypsy Guru said...

Oh. My. God.

I might have run screaming when it reared up at me.

Go ahead, call my chicken.

RachelW said...

Beautiful little fellas! Or big, you might say! Yeah, I love butterflies, moths, and all their larvae.... even when they are munching on my tomatoes.

Mrs. G. said...

That thing looks very similar to the Luna Moth caterpillar.

earlysnowdrop said...

Funny blog. You are welcome to the photo of my hornworm critter of doom. Cheers!

Kyddryn said...

Thanks for all the comments, y'all! And snowdrop, thanks for the permission - your photo is a brilliant shot of the beastie in all its glory!

Meanwhile, in case anyone reads these comments all this time later, I have harvested two edible tomatoes from the plants and have tenuous hope of a half-dozen more. Maybe. We'll see.