Jul 18 2013
10:37 am

All I wanted to do was help the Monarch population. Now, it appears I may have inadvertently created a battle zone.


I may have to end my love affair with the hornworm.

Every year I plant hardshell gourds which flower at night so it makes sense to encourage night flying Sphinx moths to lay eggs near the gourd patch. At a Pueblo in NewMexico I learned of companion planting tomatoes with the gourds. That makes sense and for years in various states I have done so with great results. Note please that the hornworms have their tomato patch and I have mine and transportation is provided to those who wander in the wrong direction.

For the first time in more than a decade of gardening with hornworms I am seeing all them covered with parasitic wasp larvae. The count is nine as of today which is every one I have seen in the garden. I know this is suppose to be a good thing, but....

This year I planted milkweed in various spots in the yard and garden to help the monarch population. The Travels of Monarch X was a favorite book when my kids were young and really, if something as simple as planting a few milkweed plants with help save the Monarchs then I am all in.

So here is the big question- rather than helping the Monarchs have I created a death zone for their caterpillars with my parasitic wasp nursery?

bizgrrl's picture

I have no answer to your

I have no answer to your question. I am impressed with you efforts.

Mello's picture


I know we are going to need to build insect proof cages for the milkweed if we do get any eggs or larvae. Have we come to a time when we really need to control our wasp population?

The UT Extension Office has a really good facebook page listed as "Soil, Plant Pest Center" but I have not read that we need to generally start killing off wasps.

rikki's picture

Insect biology is built

Insect biology is built around high mortality levels. I'm not sure it's possible to exclude wasps from your garden ecosystem. Parasitic wasps are just a few millimeters long, so building an exclosure would be difficult and would likely cause other problems, like keeping out light and pollinators. A more practical approach might be planting more milkweeds, but really I'd just trust their biology. They've been at this a long time, and giving them habitat is more important than trying to manage mortality.

Frankly, I'm amazed that you've never experienced this before. I see more hornworms become wasp hatcheries than chrysalises.

Factchecker's picture

And that's it for my mother-in-law survey

Damn we sure got a lot of wasps this year. Ant super colonies still easily dominate, though.

Mello's picture

and we now have babies!

I am so happy to report that I found 8 Monarch Caterpillars happily destroying my milkweed this morning!

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