Scarecrows come in all shapes and sizes

milkweed tussock moth caterpillarsI still haven’t seen any of our super scary yellow and black orb-web spiders, but it’s been a week of other frights – which of course makes me think of Halloween even though we’re still miles away. On Tuesday the “Deadheads” discovered no fewer than a baker’s dozen candy-corn colored caterpillars on one of our butterfly weeds (Asclepias tuberosa). But these were no ordinary monarch or swallowtail – even my favorite i.d. book, Garden Insects by Whitney Cranshaw failed me on this one. Thank goodness for google. They are Milkweed tussock or tiger moth caterpillars (Euchaetes egle) and their vacuum-roller-brush lashes render them completely unappealing to most hungry birds, or so I would imagine. (This caterpillar currently tops my list for what I want to be for Halloween.)

Tomato hornworm dressed in braconid wasp cocoonsCathy (Harvestmeister) discovered who was devouring the last of the cherry tomato plants. I might be blamed for helping myself to some of the tomatoes but this tomato hornworm was  filling up on foliage. We let him be though because a parasitic wasp has already laid claim, so to speak. Tomato hornworms can reach up to 4″ or so in length though this one is probably only about 2″.  I wonder if the tusk on their hind is a bird deterrant – though if not, I can’t imagine being covered in wasp cocoons is very appealing either. The braconid wasp, which lays its eggs on the hornworm is considered a beneficial parasitoid. Any time their eggs are observed on a hornworm, the hornworm should be left alone so that the wasp can keep doing what it does best. And when the hornworm grows up (if it’s not eaten by wasp larvae), it becomes the Sphinx moth a.k.a the hummingbird moth which has an impressive wingspan of 4-5″. It’s a bird of another feather for sure and a pollinator to boot.

Speaking of things that are larger than life, Augustus van Wribbit is back in our cement pond and easily twice his former size. I wonder what he’s been eating… We’re so glad the Display Garden’s guard is back at his post.

Gus the Great

Egyptian scarecrow And speaking of garden guards, the “History of the Scarecrow” exhibit is being installed near our vegetable bed just in time for Blithewold’s Autumn Splendor series of events. No doubt our Brussels sprouts and spinach will be extra safe from crow predation due to the row of formidable scarecrow examples from Ancient Egypt (the very creepiest) all the way to the Wizard of Oz. These days, I kind of think our gardens might be better served by Deerbullies or Groundhoghorrifiers. Perhaps examples of those will be displayed next year…

Is there anything scary in your garden yet?

5 thoughts on “Scarecrows come in all shapes and sizes

  1. I’ve found some more braconid wasp cocoons on my broccoli, but I’ve never seen anything like your punk caterpillars! Hope they aren’t playing their music late at night! And what a handsome fellow Gus is.

    Chookie, I love the description of the milkweed tiger moths as “punk” – that’s just what they are mohawks and all! And how interesting that the braconid wasps must be omnivores rather than just carnivores. -kris

  2. Kris, I was interested to read your blog about the Monarch butterflies this morning. Last weekend Duncan and I went to Morelia (I’m in Mexico for another week …) which is the center of the winter vacationland for the Monarchs from as far north as Canada. We saw hundreds of them, but we were told that in another 6 weeks or so there will be millions, and their swarms will darken the skies! Did you know that it takes 3 generations to get from Canada to Morelia and back?

    Margaret, We’ve always wondered how far along they are in their journey when they’re here! How amazing that you got to make a pilgrimage to their pilgrimage place. I hope you took pictures! – Maybe you’ll allow me to post one or two? -kris

  3. I’m glad to have that tiger moth caterpillar identified. I have seen them around here and scratched my head wondering what they are. As for those huge orb spiders. They’re here. They’re spooky.


    Robin, Even though I get all kinds of jittery when I see the orb weavers (usually from a too close distance) in the garden, I miss them! – Maybe it’s the adrenaline rush I miss or maybe it’s the fact that they’re good guys to have around. -kris

  4. I am going out to check in the morning for scary creatures. That is quite the description of the tussock caterpillar and I think you will look charming in that costume for Halloween. I do think I saw the frog in the pond today. There was a mighty one sitting there.

    Layanee, I’m not surprised you spotted Gus yesterday – he’s a biggie. I think, if he was a tree, we’d have to call him a “noble” one! -kris

  5. We had moths. Although I’m not very sure of its identified classification, but we called it the spider flower-eating moth.

    eeeuw. I’m sorry to hear that, grasshopper. Wonder what it was… -kris

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