Zombifying beasties protecting the tomatoes, also gazpacho

Broconid

How is this caterpillar even alive?

Evil, thieving tomato hornworms (Manduca quinquemaculata) have invaded! Eating the tomatoes! Being all hornwormy! Fortunately, Cotesia wasps have followed the hornworms, using the fleshy veggie devourers as nesting grounds for their own rapacious larvae.

Cotesia are tiny wasps. They are host specific, so there is a particular wasp out looking for these tomato hornworms to inject full of eggs, along with a behavior altering virus. The eggs hatch, duh, they’re eggs,  and the virus stops the hornworm from doing normal hornworm things, like moving or molting or turning into moths, making it easier for the wasps to munch the hornworm away as the larval wasps slowly devour the hornworm from the inside. Eventually the larva ooze out of the caterpillar, form cocoons, pupate, fly away, and look for more hornworms to infest or female wasps to breed with, depending on the gender of the wasp. Most useful little wasp. If you like tomatoes. Not if you like caterpillars, as the hornworms (and their moths) are quite attractive and make lovely embroideries.

Tiny wasps already escaped from these cocoons.

Tiny wasps already escaped from these cocoons.

Also, note that the critter nibbled (damn rabbits) vegetables are most excellent in gazpacho. Just use up your sad veggies, it’ll all be good.

References

“Cotesia congregata.” Encyclopedia of life, available from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotesia_congregata. Accessed July 7, 2015.

“Tomato hornworm.” Encyclopedia of life, available from http://www.eol.org/pages/505248/overview. Accessed July 7, 2015.

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2 Responses to Zombifying beasties protecting the tomatoes, also gazpacho

  1. Tenar says:

    Great Pics! I am a moth lover, but in this case I love my tomatoes better, and wish the wasps would come to their rescue.
    Here tomatoes only really work in a greenhouse, the moths always get in there but the birds who could eat them usually not.

    • I know in the US you can actually buy the wasps. Not sure about Germany. These Manduca are such huge caterpillars that the easiest method of control seems to be just looking at your tomato plants and picking them off. I usually put the caterpillars I find in a bird feeder. They disappear very quickly. So the caterpillars are not as much a problem as the rabbits munching the tomatoes. Hence the gazpacho. It all works out.

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