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Discussion Starter #1
If you have an infestation of tomato hornworms, and should be so lucky as to see one that looks like it has little grains of rice attached to it... leave it! The white bulbs are egg sacks of braconid wasps, which lay their lovely little babies IN THE SKIN of the hornworm. When they hatch they'll eat the hornworm first, and then resume their more normal life of sipping nectar from flowers. They can control the hornworm population quite well and are an excellent addition to an organic farm interested in natural pest management.

You can also plant small flowers around your garden to attract the adult wasps. It's all about the biodynamics, baby!

(Stolen shamelessly from my blog at Deliberate Wanderer)
 

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I was lucky enough our first year gardening on the homestead to find a hornworm with the wasps attached. I left him/them and boy did they do an number on the worm. It was not pretty, but it gave me great hope that I might be able to rasie some 'maters naturally.

However, the VERY best hornworm control I've learned is hand picking eggs and baby hornworms. Boy it took me forever to get a "horn worm eye" so that they didn't have the advantage of camophloge (sp?!?), but now I spent my time in the late spring and early summer on a 5 gallon bucket looking under tomatoe leaves. It helps me to pas the time while I'm waiting on things to produce. I've learned just about when to quite looking for them and start looking for aphids. Next year I think I'll order lady bugs for the aphids, but those too I'm able to take care of by a careful check.

Any method by which we can produce our food with out killing the earth is the way to go. Wasps, hand picking, spraying water ....let do it :hobbyhors
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I have to handpick all my hornworms, but it seems like I find a new 3 ouncer every day that survived all my previous inspections. My 6 year old has the hornworm eye, or maybe he just has a better vantage point being so short. I have him point them out and I pluck them off and turn them over to the chickens for summary execution.

I've got to do the same with the Japanese beetles. I swear I'm picking a quart of those twice a day and it doesn't seem to limit the population at all.

My handpicking of bugs is taking place over a quarter-acre of garden. Next year I'm expanding to a full acre of vegetable crops (for the markets) and I'm dreading the handpicking. The local Illinois extension office has a short course in integrated pest management, and I'm signed up for it. Can't wait to learn more.
 

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wow, you have more hornworms that I do. I really do not know how many I have, can't see the dern things, but I find them with the wasp sacs on them and leave them alone. But then, it is only a few worms.

Now, if you want to talk about handpicking, blister beetles is what I spend my mornings picking :hobbyhors . But maybe, this is the first year I am seeing some results from all the previous years of hand picking. In the past, I would pick from 30 to 50 every morning for a couple of months. Have only found a few these past mornings. Can't remember when the blister beetle season starts though :shrug: are we in the season, or just beginning?
 

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Wasp Sacks!!! Wahooo. I just love feeling like I'm doing the organic gardening thing. Boy the darn worm was fat. Good thing I hand pick or I'd never have any 'matters.

ERINIE-I definately think the 6 year old has the good vantage. To bad out dd10 never had the experience of looking for them. We wern't hand picking back then.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I've never seen blister beetles on the plants ... I had to go look them up. I have found them in cups of tea that I forget out in the garden and then stumble across a day or two later. Do they just do eating type damage?

Seems like when one season ends another begins. It never ends for the organic gardener.

PS - Love your tagline, babysteps. :)
 

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blister beetles are voracious eaters of my tomato plants. They will kill a tomato plant is short order. There are several types of blister beetles, I have two types, the black with grey stripes and brown with dark stripes. They don't bother the tomatoes, just kill the plant. And the bug poop. They are capable of producing an enormous amount of poop.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Poop I don't mind so much, but I don't want them killing my plants. So far I've remained relatively clear of predation and I've managed to handpick the hornworms off, turning them over to the chickens and making eggs out of the little buggers.

I found some photos online showing blister beetle damage so I'll go on an inspection through the garden as soon as I can and see if I've got any of that. I think that may be what's been devastating some of my potato plants. I don't mind that quite as much ... if they kill the potato plant before the harvest, I can at least go dig up the new potatoes and get SOMETHING for my efforts.
 

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Ernie

Your last post had me laughing. I don't know anything about blister beetles, but this year for the first time I found tomatoe horn worms on my potatoes! Darn things! I picked the fat ones off (wish I had chickens) and left the ones I couldn't see. Should your potaotes be dying back about now anyway?

:walk:
 

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I definitely do NOT have the tomato hornworm eye :(

The only one I've found in my garden, I found last year, and the only reason I saw it was because of the wasp eggs on it. Yuck is right. It looked slow and uncomfortable, to say the least.


I use neem oil a lot this year. It makes the plant unappetizing (bitter taste and strong smell) so plant munching bugs are discouraged from visiting. It doesn't bother bees or beneficials at all, because they don't munch on the bitter plants anyway.

I've read that it's supposed to deter aphids but on my plants the aphids just laugh at it. Perhaps because they are sucking insects rather than munching insects.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I guess it's time for the potatoes to be dying back. I've got a number of them that are still hanging on ... maybe late bloomers. I'm going to give them until the middle of the next week before I take the fork to them. It's going to be potato city around my house. I'm not entirely sure how to store all those ... they're red potatoes. Any tips?

Turtlehead, you keep going on about the neem oil. I'm going to have to try that. Seems like a good solution, so long as I don't have to taste or smell it.
 

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Store them in the ground. Just keep them there. We did them when we need them all summer and then only when we think they are going green or we are getting a hard freeze do we dig everything. Search the posts for "storning potatoes in the ground". Don't put it in quotes, but I bet you will get lots of advice.

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Ernie, the neem isn't a panacea by any means but it's a great compromise between nothing and harsh. Very gentle and mostly effective.

I saw your pic of the hornworm with the wasp eggs on your blog. That thing was COVERED! Wowsers.

I cut my potatoes into chunks or dice them, then can them. Chunks are great for stews and pot roasts, diced is good for soup, casseroles, etc.

The only things canned potatoes don't do well is turn into mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes from canned are passable, but not light and fluffy like fresh.

How many subthreads is that? Wasps/hornworms, potatoes, and neem.
 
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