Sunday, August 26, 2012

What a Pest!

One of the important aspects of being a farmer is attention to details.  Especially little details.  Noticing the little things, or I should say, the beginning of a problem, allows you to get a handle on things before they turn into big problems. 

This evening, as I was walking by the grape vines that are (hopefully) destined to someday provide shade to our deck and some fall fruit, I noticed something "off" about one of the vines.

Hmmm. Sudden defoliation.  In summer.  Nope, not normal.

Look a little closer, and aha!

Was trying to get a clear view of both caterpillars, but what is clearest is the damaged leaf!

These are either tobacco hornworms or tomato hornworms.  You could probably tell if they were in focus, but the light was funky, and I was in a bit of a rush.  What is strange is that I don't think we have seen these on the tomato plants, which are only a foot or two shorter than our apple trees, and here they are on grapes.  Grapes are not one of their favorite foods, so that makes it especially weird that they aren't in the forest of tomatoes, but on some rather small vines where I was able to spot them relatively easily.

What can I say?  We live to be outliers.

"Head"-on view of caterpillar noming away on a grape leaf.

These are very fat caterpillars, with front ends that remind me of some sort of alien, or possibly hagfish (so gross!).  Those little feet-like appendages are very grippy, and when I tried to pull the first one off the vine, the front end whipped backwards after my finger in attack mode.  When that didn't get rid of me, it squirted some thick green goo out of it's head...unexpected, sure, but not enough to keep me from adding it to the bucket destined for the chicken house.

Hopefully, catching these now, before they burrow into the ground, to emerge as reproductive adult moths in the spring, has helped to nip this problem in the bud.


Rachel said...

Our largest grapevine pest are turkeys. OK, they are our turkeys but man, they nearly destroyed our vines to the ground.

Sarah said...

Wow, I wouldn't have thought that turkeys would be so hard on grapevines. I would have guessed chickens maybe, and goats definitely. Hmmm, maybe those wild turkeys we saw in our yard were drawn here by the new grapevines. I will eye them more suspiciously if they come back and make sure they stay well clear of the grapes.