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In college and for a few months after, until my full-time job started, I worked in a few entomology departments. From that wild experience, where I cared for cockroaches, raised houseflies from maggots (fun fact: they smell like blueberry oatmeal the first day they hatch. After that…not so much 🤢), and collected samples of soybean aphids, I gained an appreciation and fascination for the insect world. That has crossed over seamlessly as a homesteader.

Ugh. So. Annoying.
One of the pests we’ve seen a little more frequently in our garden this year are tomato hornworms. They’re impressive, bright green, plump caterpillars that have a penchant for gnawing on perfectly good tomatoes, rending them inedible. Usually, they only eat half the tomato, and if there’s one thing everyone should know about me, it’s that I hate wasting. Seriously. Ask my kids. When we sweep up after dinner, I have them dump the bucket into the compost bucket. 🤣
This poor guy’s in for it.

If any of us ever stumble across a tomato hornworm while weeding or harvesting, it’s immediately ousted from the garden. The kids often keep it as a pet for a while, but eventually, it finds its way into the beak of a hungry chicken. It’s a quick way to go, the chicken gets a treat, and the tomatoes are safe until another ravenous caterpillar finds its way to it. As terrible as it would be to be gobbled up by a bird with a brain the size of a pebble, there are other, more horrific ways to go. Occasionally, we’ll find a hornworm covered in tiny white cocoons. They’re from a predatory wasp that lays their eggs under the skin. The babies eat their way out, spin cocoons, and emerge to go find the next hornworm to victimize. Yes, I think bugs are interesting, but yes, that still makes my skin crawl.

Even with a few hornworms snacking on the tomatoes, we’ve still gotten a healthy crop of tomatoes, especially since a few volunteer plants have popped up this year that we didn’t pull. Nature does have a way of balancing itself out. The predators find the prey, the tomato plants are prolific, and all I have to do is stand back and appreciate what a little effort on our part produces.

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True stories of raising children, remodeling, braving the elements and plotting out life, all while living on a humble acreage in central Indiana.

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