This was the first year I paid a lot of attention to my backyard garden. There
were only a few pots of herbs and vegetables but they had provided daily a
healthy distraction from my desk-bound routines.
The heirloom tomato seeds saved from last year and buried in the pots early Feb
quickly broke out and turned into saplings. The soil was rich and although I
used no fertilizers, the plants grew tall and strong. By May they bore two
dozens of fruits a few of which measured over one pound each. Ripe and sweet,
they were delicious in my pasta sauce and my bean dish. The first round of
harvest was so good that I gave a box of tomatoes to my neighbor.
Early last week, a few tiny dark green pellets showed up under the tomato shades
and I first suspected birds. Over the next few days, more pellets appeared and I
never spotted any intruder. I realized that they could be from worms but
couldn't imagine what the culprit looked like. I was worried.
Friday morning, as I was watering the tomatoes, it occurred to me that the
margins curled up and inward on most older leaves as if they tried to get less
Meanwhile, a branch started to shake at the top and I saw it! A plump horn worm
the size of my thumb with its fleshy body laid along a bough was busy chomping
on the shoots. There was no way I would have noticed had it not been feasting as
it had the perfect camouflage. It sported exactly the same color as the
underside of the leaves and its log-shaped body resembled another curled-up
With this discovery, it was easier to sight the enemies. Soon, five big-bellyed
thieves were caught in the act. Once on the ground, they wiggled a bit and then
played dead. I shoveled them into a plastic pail used as a dustbin. The villians
had done heavy damage and I'd like to see how they would look like after a
two-day fast in the jail.
Saturday night, I came back late. I opened the door to the patio, turned on the
light, and was shocked at what I saw. Not only had the worms scaled the bucket,
they were heading directly back to the tomato plants 10 feet away! How did they
get the direction? On the red cement bricks, they sailed like a fleet of four
green ships full steam ahead. It was by luck I caught them in the middle.
But one was still missing and it was only after two more days that I started to
see worm poo on the ground again and finally re-captured it. It was the first one
that had made it to the tomatoes, climbed up the wine barrel planter, and
returned to its feedlot. What a feat!