My old nemesis the Tomato Hornworm is back! They certainly are an impressive creature!
When the Five Spotted Hawk (Manduca quinquemaculata) moth finds a tomato plant, it will lay one or several eggs on the tomato plant. When the eggs hatch, the little caterpillar will eat its egg case and starts to eat like crazy! The caterpillar will molt several times until it becomes mature and ready to burrow in the ground and metamorphize into a chrysalis. By late spring the chrysalis will open and a new moth appears in late spring/early summer. Finally the cycle starts all over again.
It is incredible how fast an almost mature caterpillar can strip a tomato plant. I recommend removing the worms by hand. Usually the creatures are found alone hiding amongst the damage. Beware, there color is a great camouflage! Check out the size of this critter!!
BTW, here is another indicator of their escapades. Giant worm poop!!!
You have to admit, they are amazing!!!!!!
It is very important that you supply the correct varieties of milkweed for your specific location.
For instance, I live in the Missouri Ozarks. The recommended varieties are: http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Milkweeds-of-Central-US_plus-vendors_XercesSociety.pdf
- Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
- Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
- Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
- Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata)
- Green Antelopehorn (Asclepias viridis)
- Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens)
Sunset Flower AKA Scarlet Milkweed AKA Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) is not recommended for a Monarch butterfly larval plant in North America. Tropical Milkweed is native to South America. It is now becoming an invasive species in the southern states of America. The Monarchs that consume this variety become prey to additional parasites. Subsequently, this variety weakens the larvae and butterfly. Lastly, the Monarchs are not migrating to Mexico because they have a constant supply of the wrong food.
Check out these links for native milkweed in your area:
Don’t forget nectar producing plants for your Monarchs as well. Some of their favorites include:
Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)
California Lilac (Ceanothus)
Daisy (Aster and Chrysanthemum)
Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa)
Rabbit Brush (Chryssothamnus)
Rock Cress (Arabis)
Star Clusters (Pentas)
Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia)
Wall Flower (Erysimum)
Kathy, a friend at work, dug up three native plants of Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) from her farm. They were given to me to transplant on my property. The Purple Milkweed will be used to attract the Monarch butterfly. The plant itself is the larval food for the Monarch.
These hardy perennials flower from late May through July. The flowers are adored by many different species of butterflies and moths. I have observed butterflies waiting their turn to enjoy the nectar from these unusual flowers. Monarch numbers are decreasing which makes the planting of milkweed essential. Monarch populations have decreased by 90%. All the more reason to plant milkweed on your property!! Indiscriminate use of herbicide and mowing of roadsides has eliminated much needed plantings of milkweed. A 3′ x 3′ planting of milkweed will go a long way to help the beautiful Monarch butterfly.
It is wise to collect seeds from your milkweed plants instead of digging them up. Existing plants are established and should be allowed to produce more seed to be released. Nothing could be easier! After the flowers are pollinated, wait for the seed pods to mature and start to open. Cut off a few of the seed pods and place in a paper bag. The seed will fall to the bottom of the bag. Collect the seed and place in a dated, labeled envelope.
Let’s do all we can to insure the protection of the milkweed plant for the survival of the Monarch butterfly!!
To purchase milkweed seed, please check out these links: