Attack of the Killer Tomato Worms

I am all kinds of evil.  Not only did I miss my post for Friday, I’m coming in with one that’s disgusting:

Tomato Worms.

Every year, I get a least a few.  Normally I don’t find out I’ve gained a parasitic little party-crasher until a least two branches of my tomato plant have been stripped bare.

I thought I was done for this year.  My larger plant started showing signs that it was the munchy-of-choice for a tomato worm.  Since I’m trying to be pesticide free in my little garden, I hunted for the worm and any of his friends to find them and squish them.  But hunt as I might, I couldn’t find the little bastard.  I was forced to resort to Sevin dusting the plant–lightly as possible.

That was about a month ago.  Thursday, I started seeing it again.  The little bastard was killing my plant….so I hunted, never found him, and went for the Sevin dust–heavily.  Screw pesticide free, it was ON.

Today, I noticed the tiny cherry tomato plant on the opposite side of the patio–the worm equivalent of a whole continent away–was looking picked clean.  Son of a…..out I went.  This time I was going to find the offender and squish him.  Or possibly snip him with my garden clippers.

I found one right off.  About an inch and a half long and slightly less diameter than a pencil.  Snipped off that end of the stem and squished his green body under the leg of a patio chair.

But something told me he wasn’t alone.  So I went back.  For over an hour I hunted.  Nothing on the bigger plant.  And nothing left on the smaller…..and then I saw it.  Like something from a bloody sci-fi horror film.  Straight from the intergalactic hub of alien invasions, Vancouver, B.C.   Clinging to a spindly volunteer tomato that was trying to reach its way out of the man-eating-squash jungle, was the biggest, most disgusting tomato worm I’d ever seen.

Seriously, I didn’t know they even GOT that big*.  I usually get these things when they’re around the size of the first one I spotted–an inch to an inch and a half, and never any bigger around than a pencil.  Sometimes they’re even smaller when I end them.

This sumbitch was bigger than any of my fingers.  He was bigger around than my thumb and at least 4 inches long–when he was contracted.  I’m pretty sure he alone was responsible for 98% of the tomato plant carnage I’d been seeing.

And I was pissed.

I clipped off the already-stripped stem he was devouring and flung it onto the patio.  As big as he was, I couldn’t risk a close-range squish–it would be begging for a coating of green goo, and no one wants that.  I finally rolled him over with a garden cart.  Even with the green goo emanating from his back end, the little fucker KEPT EATING THAT STEM.  He was technically still moving and going at it when I went in the house.  I mean, there’s no way he could survive having his guts trailing out his ass, right?

Honestly, I give loads of thanks he wasn’t bigger than that or I would have been facing a reenactment of Tremors.  If he has similar-sized friends out there that I missed, I may yet be forced to take more drastic measures.  I’m seriously considering assembling my arsenal of large cal ammo and “a few household chemicals in the proper proportions.”

If you don’t have a post from me as scheduled this week?  Send Kevin Bacon.


*Now that I have googled I’m horrified to see they DO get this big. WTF!

Inching Away with My Time

Okay, as promised, my war with the pests that were attacking my basil appears to be over (Victory is mine!), so here’s the tawdry tale:

I’ve been planning an update to my Black Thumb Chronicles.  Because so far all three basil plants and my new little rosemary plant were all alive.  Not just alive, but thriving.  For someone who hasn’t met a plant she couldn’t kill, this was very exciting.  Then several weeks ago I went to pick some basil for my cucumber lime sorbet and I noticed that a few of the leaves had little holes like something had been munching on them.  I made a mental note of it, but the damage was thus far minor, so I wasn’t super concerned.

Then a day or two later, I noticed that there were more holes and there were some sort of black specks all over some of the leaves.  Initially, I thought that the specks were the parasites in question.  Apparently I was wrong.  And I was mad because one of the benefits of house plants is supposed to be that they’re relatively safe from pests.  AI rushed to the interwebs to see what sort of information I could find on bugs that attack basil.  The closest I could find to something that fit what I was seeing was aphids, but these little black things seemed too small, even to be aphids.  Nonetheless, I looked for remedies.

Now there’s a big issue with pesticides—mostly that I’m only growing the basil so that I can eat it, so I don’t want to get anything toxic near it.  I read that cucumber peels had pesticidal properties, which was vexing because I had just thrown out a large amount of cucumber peelings a couple days earlier.  Then I read that you can get great results by crushing a couple of garlic cloves, soaking them in water for several hours, and then spraying the mixture on the plants.  At this point I was really annoyed because I was out of garlic.  Understand that I am never out of garlic.  This was probably the first time I’ve been without garlic in my apartment since 2004.  Finally I discovered a solution I had on hand—soaking chili peppers in water and spraying it on the plants.  So I filled an old spray bottle and went out to spray these little black specs off my plants.

I started meticulously spraying all these little black buggers off my plants and got a little curious.  I couldn’t see any of these black specs moving.  They were the strangest little bugs I’ve ever seen.  But I’m no bug expert, so what do I know?

The next day the black specs were back.  Hell, they were worse.  And the leaves were looking lacier by the moment.  I got my spray bottle and went to work again.  And then I saw something green fall into the dirt.  And I realized what was really going on.   It was an inchworm!  As best I can guess the black specs?  Inchworm poo.

You have to understand the depth of my hatred for inchworms.  Back when I was in middle school we had an unusually cold winter which evidently killed off something that eats inchworms in their larval stage.  This caused an over population of inchworms.  A disgusting overpopulation.  Our front porch was literally swarming with them.  My mom left a pair of sneakers on the porch and within a day you couldn’t even see them they were so covered in the little buggers. My parents’ house is surrounded by trees.  There’s no way to get in and out of the house without walking under at least a few.  I have long, thick, curly hair.  Picture me having to walk under all those trees, dripping with inchworms on my way to the bus stop every morning and ask me why I have such a virulent hatred of inchworms.

Getting them off my basil proved to be a pain in the ass.  The little creeps are the same exact color as the leaves.  And they hide underneath the leaves because they are, of course, creatures of darkness.  And they can hold on like nobody’s business.  I wound up just clipping off every leaf I found with an inch worm on it.  Then I took them outside, dropped them on the ground and did a victory dance on top of them.  Sneaky as they are, I didn’t get them all the first day.  Or the second day.  I thought I got them all on the third day, but then a couple days later?  More black specs.  Then I found two final inchworms.  Big ones I had initially mistaken for stems they had gorged themselves so thoroughly on my basil.

I took them outside and did one final victory dance on their evil segmented bodies.  And then the war was over.

My basil is still alive, but it’s looking much less healthy.  My rosemary is just fine because it seems inchworms don’t like rosemary.  And I won the war.  But it sucked away a lot of my time.

War Stories: The Great Fruit Fly War of 2010

So this post is a little retro.  It’s about last year’s time vampire.  You see, at the moment a fair amount of my time is being taken up by a war against the inch worms that have infested my poor basil plants.  (I hate inch worms more than Cammy hates squirrels.  That’s a lot.)  I don’t want to file a full report on said war until it’s over.  So instead we’ll turn to a past war.  Which I won!

Last year, shortly after I moved to my current Midwestern college town of residence, I developed a fruit fly infestation.  A bad one.  What had happened was my mother, who graciously helped me move, had brought along a giant tub of cherries.  Her plan was to leave the cherries with me, (clearly I would not be able to buy my own fruit out here) but by the time she and my father were getting ready to leave the cherries had started to… well not look their best.  Ever helpful my mother volunteered to pit and slice the remaining cherries so that I could freeze them easily.  She put the pits and any bad spots she’d cut off in my nearly empty trash can, thus creating a fruit fly banquet and breeding ground.  I, in my infinite idiocy, then waited until the trash was actually full to take it out.  When you’re one person, that takes a while.  While the cherry goop was there the fruit flies were content to stay in the garbage, so I didn’t even realize they were there.  Until I went to take the trash back off and they all flew out.

With their smorgasbord/orgy parlor gone, I now had a whole bunch of evicted fruit flies everywhere around my apartment.  It was disgusting.  Clearly I had to remedy it.

And I did.  After some googling and some soliciting advice from friends I created two Fruit Fly Death Traps.  The first was a bowl containing sweet vinegar (most sources recommend apple cider vinegar, but although this is a bizarre concept to Cammy, I didn’t have any ACV, so I used white wine vinegar) and dish soap.  The vinegar attracts them, but the dish soap breaks the surface tension.  Once they land they can’t get out.  The other variety is basically the same thing only you use a tall skinny glass.  Don’t fill it up all the way, just about an inch.  Then wrap the top in plastic wrap and poke a few holes in it, securing it with a rubber band.

Then you wait for the bastards to die.

And in my case you constantly update Twitter with the current body count until your friends delicately suggest you get a life.

Oh, I know, they’re living creatures and I should feel compassion.  But I don’t.  Not with fruit flies.  I don’t remember my actual numbers, but I killed a whole bunch of them.  I found both traps work just as well, but the glass method uses up less counter space, so it’s my current go-to-trap.

And, no, perhaps it wasn’t the best use of my time.  But it did take a lot of my time.  And it solved the problem.  Wish me just as well in my current war.