Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Our garden has been visited by the greatest number of butterflies I have ever seen. It seems that they have been visiting other Austin gardens. Pam at Digging photographed them in her inlaws garden, and Joseph at Round Rock garden. in his garden. Both identified them as the Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta. What a lovely name. I identified the caterpillar but have not seen any in my garden. The coreopsis seems to be their favorite flower.

These tomato horn worms, Manduca quinquemaculata, are not welcome in my garden. Known more commonly as the sphinx, hawk or hummingbird moth, they were here in the garden a few weeks ago feeding on the yellow columbines. They are here every year, but never in the numbers I am seeing this year. Can you imagine the assault on this poor tomato. I found 5 on one plant. A poor plant that had already suffered having its top lopped off by some other creature.
Every year our oak trees are infested with Oak leaf rollers. This year...none. However, the garden is overrun with all kinds of other types of caterpillars.

I found two tomatoes on the ground the other morning. I thought it must be a squirrel until I pulled them out and saw this. New one on me. They aren't even horn worms.


  1. WOW! That is so awesome! The greatest number of butterflies you've ever seen in your garden? That's encouraging news. It seems all of the insects have benefited from el nino - even the pests! Now you make me want to go out and check my tomato plants. I found a few spotted cucumber beetles tonight on my zucchini and squash. Had to chase them off.

  2. Joseph-If you saw hawk moths then you will see horn worms! Also watch for the squash vine borer. I saw one moth the other day and he was on the base of my squash. I only found one egg though. I search on my knees every day.

  3. Wow - my tomato plants are way behind yours but I'll certainly keep an eye out for those horned monsters. Plus your mystery "inside the fruit" pests. How infuriating for them to strike so early, At least they could politely wait until you were all blasé about home grown tomatoes.

    I am consoling myself over my late start tomato status with a bumper crop of loquats this year.

  4. I know catepillars are all Gods creatures, but I can't stand the horn worms they can decimate plants. I had to honor of meeting them last year, my first year attempting to garden and they completely freaked me out. That almost made me give up. I am still at it and hopefully this year (even though the weather last year was horrible) I can live through it.

  5. I've had that gray caterpillar too this year--eating the pepper plants and tomato seedlings.

    No hornworms yet, though.

    I found a yellow caterpillar on my thai basil plants yesterday (took a picture which I'll post sometime soon), and I have no idea what it is.

    Do you know if the SVB attacks watermelon plants too? I had them last year on the squash, but didn't have any non-squash vining plants. Just trying to stay ahead of all the wee beasties in the garden.

  6. I've had something chewing on my tomatoes, too. I'd swear it's a hornworm, but I haven't found any.

    Haven't seen any SVB, yet.

    Let's hope we get some rain, sometime soon. My rain barrels are empty, and the creek has stopped flowing. I hope that's not a sign of a repeat of last year.

    Ah..the joys of gardening. It's always somethibg.


  7. I'll be on the lookout for the vine borers! To answer Katina's question, yes, they sure do like watermelon, too. : /

  8. Texas Deb- Mmm loquats. I tasted them for the first time last year. They were delicious. If your tomatoes are late you can always keep 'em going and hope they crop int he fall.
    Cynthia- Give up! Now you wouldn't do that would you. Gardeners have a good deal of resilience to all these things. Just bumps in the road!
    Katina- I have had every caterpillar under the sun and I bet none of them are good ones. All except on the oak trees. Funny.
    Patchwork- Rain, yes please. My garden is so dry watering with drips has no effect at all. Is this how it's going to be all summer? I hope not.
    Joseph- I have covers over my main crops. I know what the moth and eggs looks like so I am on the lookout every day. I am determined not to be beaten.

  9. I gotta study up on my bugs' eggs, me thinks! :P

  10. Jenny, I've had Vanessa by the hundreds in my yard this week! It was like a fairy land. Yesterday I saw my first Monarch as well. It has been by far the most butterflies I've ever seen around here. I love it.

  11. What a lovely picture! I've seen lots of red admirals this year, too, and usually, they're not in my garden until later. And yes, folks are being overrun with caterpillars. In Texas, we have to take the good insect boom with the bad!

  12. I have also seen more caterpillars this year than I've ever seen in my garden.

    I've been picking tomato hornworms off my datura (luckily they don't seem to have found my tomatoes yet) for a month now, and there are swallowtail larvae all over my fennel and unidentified fuzzy-wuzzies crawling all over the place.

    Now I just need to add some more verbena to make sure they'll have enough to eat once they turn into butterflies!

  13. Looks like you could all use a hen or two!

  14. Get grounded- Yes there are so many this year and I wish they would sit still for a minute!
    Linda- Bugs, bugs bugs, so many. Some I have never even seen before and I know they aren't good.
    Lori- I had some other horn worms on flowering plants. They have more interesting markings and are huge. Know what they are? I'm afraid most are turning into moths.
    Weeder1- Funny you should say that. I was talking to someone who has chickens and told him there was a need for rent a chicken business. Unfortunately I am afraid they would do more than eat the slugs snails and caterpillars- like scratch up my garden!