And then the hornworm moved in and so did the wasps…the cycle of life continues on the farm

Last week I reported on finding tomato fruitworms on my tomatoes. Apparently, the hornworm quickly followed. These guys are huge and scary looking with a sharp pointy horn on one end…and, wow, do they do some damage! I couldn’t believe how stripped some of the plants looked. I was also pleasantly surprised by the presence of tiny white eggs on the outside of one and then fully covering another (see pics below) indicating that wasps are feeding off these worms and will eventually kill and hopefully control the remaining population. If I can keep Spink from getting bitten by the wasps, I think we may have good thing going here! My plan is to just leave the parasitized worms alone so nature can fight it out and the ecosystem can remain in balance. Below is an excerpt from the University of MN extension site:

Tomato hornworms are also parasitized by a number of insects. One of the most common is a small braconid wasp, Cotesia congregatus. Larvae that hatch from wasp eggs laid on the hornworm feed on the inside of the hornworm until the wasp is ready to pupate. The cocoons appear as white projections protruding from the hornworms body. If such projections are observed, the hornworms should be left in the garden to allow the adult wasps to emerge. These wasps kill the hornworms when they emerge from the cocoons and will seek out other hornworms to parasitize.

This is the stripped top of a tomato with the full beast hanging near the top on the underside. 
Close up. Notice the small white eggs protruding on one end.
This image shows another hornworm with many wasp larvae on the outside. Fascinating!

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