Slow Down, it’s September
Written by: Sumati Shah
September blows in all the changes at once, it seems to me:
Return to Routine ….
“Back to school season” brings changes to the routing whether or not you’ve got kids or attend school.
It’s an obvious opportunity to pause and reflect, consider the summer past, and the one you want to experience next year. What to put on repeat, shuffle, or to pull out of the playlist.
While “garden gawking” – that thing where you appear to others to be aimlessly and slowly meandering through your garden, or lingering on your balcony while holding a mug of tea or coffee, if you must – the other day, I noticed something going on under a tomato leaf.
Hornworms are NOT the kind of company you ask to stay. They’re capable of decimating a tomato plant in pretty short order, quite literally while you watch, so I’d be tapping or poking him off into a bucket of soapy water.
But let the sleuthing begin! The Hornworm in the picture here is a zombie, with freeloaders…the tomato destroyer was stopped in his tracks! HA – the 🍅 wins!
Here’s what I discovered: A parasitic wasp had laid eggs INSIDE the hornworm! The eggs hatch, the larvae turn the caterpillar into a zombie while they eat, then they pop out as these cocoons on its back and will finally emerge…as wasps again!
It’s nature’s magic! Earlier in summer I’d noticed all the pollinators, and learned that ‘flower wasps’ really love umbel shaped flowers. I had a ton of them: parsley, cilantro/coriander, fennel; there were so many different types of wasps I’d never seen some of them before – all friendly and only concerned with their bounty. They were garden allies with headquarters right beside my patio. All summer, not a single sting.
Rule of Green Thumbs:
DON’T FEAR THE STINGER – the parting gift of the menagerie of wasps is some among them neutralized hornworms I didn’t even know were lurking, thereby saving my tomatoes! HUZZAA!
On many wasps, what looks like a threatening stinger is actually an ovipositor which they use to lay eggs in the caterpillar, and they aren’t even capable of stinging!
Natural ecosystem interdependency. Death and rebirth – but no human sting.
My farewell to summer, while enjoying the ongoing ripening tomatoes…is to watch the metamorphosis of these cocoons into wasps now, grateful and delighted to have been able to play host to all these creatures …and to connect natures dots, first hand.
Go Go Green Thumbs!