Don't wear perfume in the garden — unless you want to be pollinated by bees. ~Anne Raver www.quotegarden.com/gardens.html Last modified 2015 Jan 18 Sun 14:39 PST
Tomato Horn worm AKA the Hawk Moth
One of the more destructive insects here in Arizona and U.S.State wide are called the “Tomato Horn worm”.In the larva state a tomato horn worm can devour a tomato, pepper or any other prized plant within a long weekend.While studying these insects I foundits life cycle interesting.Interesting like which came first, the chicken or the egg?In my explanation of the hornworm life cycle, I will begin in the egg stage. I have found the hornworm eggs to be white in color laid like other moth eggs, on the underside of the plant foliage.
Within a few days undisturbed eggs hatch into small larva. It is at this stage they cause major destruction.In the larva stage they eat constantly until reaching their full body length. In my yard the length is about two and half to three inches long and as fat as a human finger. Although big at this stage, they are virtually invisible. They are chameleon like with their camouflage.One way to know you have them is to notice the eaten leaves and observe their unmistakable manure trails. Here is what the hornworm looks like as larva
Now the full grown larva instinctually burs its way under the dirt as Pupa and waits for the warm summer months to hatch into giant Hawk Moths. Yes, these are the giant moths you see flying around the street lamps in the summer. Just as aside note, as they fly around apparently the moths make great bat food.Shown below are photos of some Pupa stage Tomato Hornworm I dug out of my garden while harvesting my sweet potatoes? The Pupa luckily didn’t burrow into any of the potatoes.
One way to avoid getting these hornworms is to have chickens
work the area for a couple of days. My neighbors’ chickens could tear up the
dirt in no time looking for grubs, caterpillars and worms. For the rest of us
whom don’t have access to chickens need other methods. Another way is to remove all
grubs and hornworm pupa when you originally till your soil. Furthermore cover
the garden with mosquito netting to avoid moths and other insects from laying
their eggs. If all this sounds like too much work and you’re not afraid of
these caterpillars, do what I sometimes do. Find them while inspecting your
leaves and cut them with a razor. If you really want to get even, pull them off and feed them to
your mocking birds or simply crush them. It could bring a satisfying feeling after you see what they have done to your food. It all sounds nasty but are you
growing the garden for bug food or people food. In most cases I don’t use insecticides
so it’s them or your family’s food supply.
White Grubs found in garden soils around the world are typically the larva stage of scarab beetles. There are many types of scarab beetles such as June bugs, Japanese and Dung beetles. Beetle larvae or grubs cause significant damage to both gardens and grass lawns. Most white grubs eat the roots of plants, causing plants to lack root structure. This root thinning significantly reducing the plants ability to acquire ground nutrients needed for full maturity. This being stated, in smaller numbers and right species, grubs aren’t always a bad thing. Studies show that grubs also break down compost in gardens, converting it into available nutrients for plant’s needs. The way I look at it is if your plants are small and you have grubs in your tilled garden you have a problem and need to get rid of them.
Some organic gardeners use milky spore disease found in local garden nurseries to rid these pests. I for one would go back to the use of chickens for their digging and eating habit. Like stated before, a couple of hours of chickens on a garden area, there will be no more bugs. You may also dig them up during a till and feed them to your local mockingbird like my friend Buddy. This bird Buddy has eaten them from my throwing hand like a dolphin jumps for a fish from a trainers hand. Carnivore’s birds find them irresistible.
caterpillars are not friends of the gardener. They eat large amounts of foliage.
Caterpillars destroy a plants leaves and its ability to photosynthesize. Caterpillars
are the larvae stage of moths and butterflies. When found in a salad, a caterpillar
may cause uproar at the dinner table. The good news is if a caterpillar is found
in your food, you can believe the lettuce or other vegetable isn’t heavily
treated with poisonous pesticides in its growing period. Moths’ are a nuisance
but are a great food supply for many birds and bats. The pictures above of fuzzy
caterpillars are the larvae of the Monarch butterfly.No matter the damage of my neighbor’s passion
flower, I suggested not killing them. They turn into the beautiful Monarch
butterfly which migrate north in the summer. They are a staple to any little
boy or girls butterfly catching collection. Oh the childhood memories.
Large Milkweed Bugs
These Large milkweed bugs are seasonally found in my Arizona backyard. They can't survive cold winters, so they migrate south in the fall and overwinter in southern states.
These pictures show how the Large Milkweed bugs sometimes adapt to different native plants. Here the bugs are accumulating the toxins from my oleander bushes instead of their namesake milkweeds. These toxins from the oleander give the large milkweed bug the ability to sicken any predator foolish enough to ignore there bright orange and black colors of toxicity.This is why they are tricky to get rid of. The birds won’t eat them. Not to worry gardeners, my research has found them to eat only the nectar and small seeds; not vegetables. Sorry you broccoli haters.
These giant beetles found crawling around in my backyard are called Palo Verde Root Borer beetles.The one shown in my picture with the ruler is clearly over 3 inches long. These beetles tend to be 3 to 4 inches long on average. Palo Verde Root Borers start as grubs in the ground and are usually near the tree their name is derived from, the Palo Verde tree.During the humid summer monsoon months, the mature beetles emerge fully grown looking for a mate. At this stage they do have wings and can fly. Apparently most of the damage they cause is done as a grub because when they are looking for to mate, they don’t eat; they just mate and die in a month. Some of us can relate to this one track mind mentality. Palo Verde Root Borer beetles are not harmful to humans but may bite if defending itself.
are insects that can ultimately cause massive damage to leaves of plants devastating
the plants ability to gather sunlight for the process of photosynthesis. In the
above pictures from my yard you see a green grasshopper. I’m not sure but I
think this is a camouflage method. The other picture is of two grasshoppers either
playing leapfrog or mating. I know what you’re thinking. Grasshoppers don’t
play leap frog they play leap hopper. Not as if I tried it but if in a jam,
grasshoppers can also be eaten by humans. I have read among other places, In Southern
Mexico grasshoppers known as Chapulines are eaten with chili sauce on a
tortilla. Fried grasshoppers are popular in Chinese food markets and in the Middle
East grasshoppers are boiled, salted and eaten as snacks. Unfortunately for grasshoppers, carnivorous
birds like them to. I hope my mocking bird friend Buddy’s not too full yet! I
guess this is why like the ant; the grasshopper doesn’t save food for the
winter. They are on too many other menus. If you would just like to keep them
off your garden, a mosquito net will do just find. Again, no pesticides
As my readers know, pesticides are not usually found in my gardens. It is for that reason a large amount of good and bad insects may be found within my garden beds. As a gardener, I do my best to accommodate the beneficial insects. The Praying Mantis is one such beneficial insect.
The praying mantis is a relative of the grasshopper. Both Praying Mantis and Grasshopper belong to the insect family Orthoptera. The mantis pictures above are taken from my backyard. A praying mantis has the ability to attack and eat things much larger than it. Adult praying mantis will typically eat anything close in stature to it that doesn’t eat them first. This includes frogs and lizards. Praying mantis real value for gardeners is there willingness to eat flies, beetles, moths and other insects. I remember as a child when we would see a praying mantis, a story would always surface that if you kill one and get caught you go directly to jail. Funny but maybe this should be some type of law. I’m just saying, if you see a praying mantis, don’t kill it! The following pictures are from this year's batch of beneficial mantises.
As you may be able to tell, these praying mantis have no problem changing color to camouflage from their own predators. The end of summer also brings maturity and adulthood and different issues to the mantis. Mid October in the Southwest is time to reproduce for the mantis. This year at Grandpa's Garden was a welcome home for the praying mantis and her reproduction ritual. At maturity an adult mantis has fully developed wings. In the following picture I photograph one such mature female. My photos show how she spent a couple of days flexing her wings before heading to the Goji bush to perform intercourse, then eat her mate during their strange ritual.
A few day have past and I have found this Mantis on a Goji bush chowing down on something. When the following exclusive Gardening Grandpa backyard video was shot the Mantis was almost done with her meal. It may have been some insect or perhaps her lucky sperm donor mate. Only this Mantis knows what's for dinner.
There are many types of scorpions worldwide but few packs a punch like the one shown above. This scorpion was captured in my backyard garden on accident. This lobster looking creature is known as the deadly ArizonaBark Scorpion. They are native to the Sonora desert area which includes the southwest US and northern Mexico. This two inch scorpion probably carries enough toxic venom in its stinger tail to liquefy its small prey in minutes. These scorpions liquefy their food for easy digestion. Their diet usually consists of roaches, beetles and crickets so they are useful to gardeners. They are however not timid creatures and are not afraid of any size animal. It is best to avoid these little buggers. On humans being stung, they’re very toxic type of venom has been known to feel like electric current. Other common symptoms are foaming of the mouth, swelling to the affected area and trouble breathing. Children and elderly are mostly at risk of adverse symptoms. Arizona Bark Scorpions tend to blend in with desert ground and rock so they are not easily seen until it’s too late. Fortunately because their sensitivity to direct sunlight on their exoskeletons, they are basically nocturnal. They may be seen with a black light flashlight at night. Gardeners usually garden during the day so probably have less chance of a meeting with these bugs. Again, this scorpion was caught by mistake in an open container .It couldn’t get out of from its trap before sunlight. If he wasn’t trapped I probably wouldn’t have been seen her at all.