Monday, August 19, 2013

Tomato Hornworm vs. Braconid Wasp

My tomato plants are enormous (around 6 feet tall and growing).  I feel like I am battling to keep them from taking over the world (or at least my garden).  They have outgrown their cages, so I have driven bamboo stakes in as additional support and tied the plants to them.  I have cut them back and cut them back, but they continue to grow with a vengeance (and they are laden with fruit).

The other day, I went out to battle with them again and noticed a tomato hornworm.  It was not a surprise even though I have never seen them in this garden before (we have had them in the large farm garden).  I did not remove it, not because I want it to eat these overachieving tomato plants, but because I could see it was parasitized.  There were little white cocoon looking things attached to it- braconid wasps (well soon to be).

Now, they do look creepy and your first instinct maybe to get rid of the infested caterpillar, but resist the urge!  The braconid wasp larvae are a blessing in disguise.  The larvae are feeding off of the hornworm and will eventually kill it (thanks for the help).  At that point, there will be more braconid wasps hunting in my garden!

Don't worry about having more wasps in your garden- they are not after you and will not sting you.  They are looking to continue the cycle of finding a new tasty host caterpillar.  In other words, they are beneficial even if they gross you out!