Friday, August 28, 2009

Integrated Pest Management, the natural way

At first I thought this was a joke. What family trickster had tossed a white panicle of flowers onto my tomato plants?

But closer inspection revealed that this was no laughing matter for two of the three parties involved.

Me, because that "flower" was actually a hornworm caterpillar (Manduca quinquemaculata) feeding on my tomato plants!

The hornworm, because those white "blossoms" were actually cocoons of parasitic braconid wasps (Cotesia congregatus) feeding on it!

Here's where it gets really ugly. The braconid wasps lay eggs inside the hornworm caterpillar. In their larval stage, the wasps eat through the hornworm's body to its surface, where they spin these tiny white cocoons. After hatching, the wasps continue introducing other tomato hornworms to their lethal brand of Integrated Pest Management.

So there's a happy ending for two of the three parties involved. And a natural ending to the third!

No comments: