Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Evan's Garden Pet, Big Green

    Here is a funny story regarding the psychology of a ten-year old boy with respect to bugs.  The other day I found a few tomato hornworm caterpillars eating our tomato plants in the backyard. I informed  my son Evan, and he became very upset. He had recently been looking at blown-up pictures of these creatures and thus had an inflated image in his mind as to how large and destructive they are. Furthermore, he kept crying that they were "going to pop out at him and 'stink' him".  I think he said this because Mel Bartholomew (author of "Square Foot Gardening") mentioned they can have a foul smelling musk. After pleading with me to help, we went out together to rid our garden of these insidious creatures that had all but destroyed a few tomato plants. However, once Evan finally got a close look at them, he decided they weren't the terrible giant stink monsters he had feared, but rather, he thought they were "kind of cute"!  Anyway, to make a long story short, Evan now has a couple of "hornworm pets".  He is feeding them the rest of his tomato plant in a sealed container and hopes to see them mature into Hawk Moths. As Evan points out, Hawk Moths are good pollinators. We are keeping an eye for these guys at RWCEG because a single worm can eat an entire tomato plant! Below is a picture of his new pet, "Big Green".
        - originally written by Glenn Starnes on June 22, 2013

"Big Green"

The Hawk Moth Arrives!

   As some may recall, I related an amusing story a month ago about my son Evan choosing to make what was a garden pest into a pet. Evan had intentions of destroying a few tobacco hornworm caterpillars (Manduca sexta) that were eating his tomato plants until he realized how "cute" they were. We started with 3 or 4, but only one made it to maturity and started to pupate about 3 weeks ago. To our surprise, this species does not build a chrysalis or cocoon from a hanging branch, but rather, burrows itself a few inches under soil. This past Friday, Evan's hornworm pet, Big Green, emerged as a large moth. The moth species is Manduca sexta, but is commonly called the hawk moth, hummingbird moth, or the orange spotted sphinx moth.

We took the moth to the RWCEG garden in an enclosed hamper Saturday morning to show it to the garden community. That same evening we released the moth to her freedom from our yard (a good distance from RWCEG garden. We do not want the prodigy to become a pest there). Based on the narrow width of the antennae, I believe this moth is a female (males have wider antennae). My kids were very impressed with how beautiful the body of this insect was when the wings were extended. The body is quite thick with large orange spots along the side. The whole body of the moth appeared to be fuzzy. We took several pictures and video. Below are a couple pictures of the moth during her release. We hope you enjoy them.

      -Glenn & Evan   originally written July 19, 2013


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