Saturday, October 13, 2007
Where ‘ya Headed... or, Why’d the Worm Cross the Road?
Beats the heck out us! The tomato hornworm, one of the most hated of the garden pests, comes from one of the most interesting moths – the sphinx moth or hummingbird moth. This fairly large moth is out during the daytime and hovers in front of flowers just like a hummingbird (hence its name); and, just like the hummingbird, it has a long tongue that it sticks down the flower to suck the nectar. So a week ago while we were on our noon walk, we came across a tomato hornworm crawling down the middle of the road, “miles” away from the nearest tomato plant. True, they do eat other plants, such as nightshade and jimson weed, which do grow in the area, but again, not anywhere even remotely close to the road (the state keeps the right-of-way fairly well mowed down). So where did it come from? I took off my hat and scooped it up and put in on the grass by the church yard. And the next day on our noon walk on the way out, there was another tomato hornworm crawling down the middle of the road. Was this the same one that I had rescued the day before? R says “Leave it alone.” So I did, and when we were on the homeward leg of the journey, there it was, still crawling on the road – it must have been going in circles or something. So I gathered it up and put it on the side of the road. It was not there the next day, but over the next week we saw a virtual army of other various types of caterpillars and wormy things crawling on the road. And then yesterday, at least a week after the first incident, there was yet again another tomato hornworm crawling down the middle of the road. I asked Richard if could I bring it back to the house, put it in a jar and feed it some tomato leaves to see what would happen. He did not equivocate: “Absolutely not. We are NOT breeding tomato hornworms!” Ok, ok. But still, the minor mystery remains. Walking on a treadmill instead of on the road accomplishes the same thing, but it sure is a lot less interesting.