GOOD BUG vs. BAD BUG – Feb Installment

I hope you caught the January edition of this new series, GOOD BUG vs. BAD BUG.  If not, you can catch up here:  January Good Bug vs Bad bug

Bug vs Bug, Tomato Hornworm vs Monarch

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The way to play is I will show you two pictures.  One is a “good” bug, one is a “bad” bug.  If you are not familiar with my attitude towards bugs, you can read my disclaimer here:  April’s Bug Beliefs

On to the game – take a good look.

Bad Bug Tomato Hornworm

Good Bug Monarch caterpillar

Here are two caterpillars

The first one is a Manduca quinquemaculata.  The second is a Danaus plexippus.  Kinda hard to tell without the common names, isn’t it.  Sorry.  The common name will make it tooooo easy.

No. 1 is a tomato hornworm.  No. 2 is the larvae for the monarch butterfly.

BAD BUG – Tomato hornworm

The hornworm can strip a tomato plant very rapidly of almost all of the leaves.  So for this instance, I am calling the hornworm the BAD BUGYou don’t notice it until you find some leaves half gone.   I have to really look and look to find them.

After you find the first one, your eyes become more accustomed to them, and it gets easier.  The hornworm blends in fantastically with the stems of the tomato.

The hornworms are full grown in three to four weeks.  The larvae drop off the plant and burrow into the soil to pupate.  Neat, huh?

I’m not scared of bugs, but I don’t really like touching these caterpillars.  Especially when they get about the size of my pinky.  But I do touch them.  I pick them off and fling them as far as I can.  It’s not the recommended method.  The usual recommendation is to plop them into soapy water.  That is probably the humane way.  Learn more about tomato hornworms here.

When I find them, I don’t have a soapy bucket of water handy.  I’m usually hot and cranky by the time I find that hidden sucker and it goes flying!  Then the next and the next.  Not very lady like of me, I know.  The words coming out of my mouth aren’t very lady like either.

I don’t have the heart to outright kill the caterpillars because they turn into the Five spotted hawk moth.

Five spotted hawk moth in a handThese moths fly around at night and feed on flower nectar.  This moth pollinates different plants, so it is also a GOOD BUG, kindof.   I have a love/hate relationship with this bug.

GOOD BUG – Monarch

In this example the monarch turns out to be the GOOD BUG. It behaves in basically the same way as the hornworm.  It eats and eats and eats until it becomes a butterfly.  The difference is it likes to eat milkweed.  I don’t.  So we don’t argue.

The monarch has become sort of famous recently, but not in a good way.  The North American population has been dwindling. 

I’m proud to say Missouri has partnered with Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Minnesota and Texas to make Interstate 35 the Monarch Highway. Many state departments, city governments and private organizations are working to plant milkweed and other pollinator friendly gardens to help the monarch on it’s migration to Mexico every year where the butterflies cover hectares of land.  One hectare equals almost 2.5 acres.  So for the 2016-2017 winter season, there were approximately seven acres of butterflies.

monarch population by year

The monarch butterfly acts as a pollinator for many different varieties of wild and domestic flowers.  So they are important to gardening also.

Do you want to help the Monarchs?

Monarch is a good resource to start at.  I subscribe to their email list and get updates on monarch migration and happenings in the monarch world.  They have links to buy plants to draw monarchs to your yard.  Give it a look!

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