It doesn't make much sense to be a gardener if you scream, jump a foot off the ground and run when you see a worm. But that's how the hateful things affect me. Give me any kind of a bug to deal with and I'm okay. But worms? Heck, I don't even like the friendly, environmentally healthy earthworms that are so beneficial to our garden soil.
So you can imagine the angst I just experienced when strolling through the garden and found our whole bed of comfrey heavily infested with army worms. ((Shudder!))
We had been warned that our area should be on the look-out for these nasty creatures this year. Several years ago a large part of our state had a terrible (and I mean terrible . . . as in sides of houses and whole roads covered with them . . . ish!) invasion of army worms and many mature trees died as a result of the infestation. At that time, we apparently were very lucky and were not affected by them.
Well, we have them this year. (You may have to biggify the picture to see the damage.) Papa Pea knows my aversion (that's putting it mildly) to worms so he came out to help me cut down the comfrey patch, pile everything in our big garden cart and truck it out to a distant part of the poultry yard where he assured me our chickens will feast with relish on the worms.
After disposing of the foliage, I carefully walked through the rest of the garden to see if I could spot them anywhere else. Lots of grasshoppers happily munching on various plants here and there but no other detectable army worms.
However (insert more cringing), I did find what I'm afraid is the variegated cutworm. (Arrrgh, how will I survive all this?) Supposedly this is a new kind of cutworm that hasn't previously been able to survive this far north. Thanks to our wimpy winters for the past couple of years, they have been able to migrate from farther south and take up residence here now. We've seen lots of the moths that lay the eggs that hatch into the worms, but this was the first sighting of the actual cutworm. (No picture of these guys. I was so freaked out by then that I was hopping up and down and squealing like a little girl.)
We've always had (regular, old, garden variety -- pun intended) cutworms and I lose a couple of newly set out plants to them each year. This old, familiar type wraps itself around the base of the tender stem of a plant at soil level and basically cuts it off in order to suck the juice from the stem.
This new-to-our-area variegated cutworm will also eat the leaves and will burrow right into the formed vegetables besides sometimes cutting off the plant at the knees. Or toes. Or whatever.
Upon discovering these blankety-blank variegated cutworms (four of them) on my snow pea vines (dining vigorously on the leaves), I ran to get my big, bad, better half to kill them. (No, I cannot stand to touch the hateful things.) He plucked them from the pea vines, dropped them on the ground and I pulverized them with the heel of my shoe. For about 5 minutes per worm.
Now I know each time I'm in the garden my eyeballs will be popping out of my head searching for worms trying to steal our fruit and vegetables from us. If the army worms get into other crops like they did the comfrey, it's gonna be curtains for any harvest around here. Cross your fingers for us.
P.S. You have no idea how creepy and crawly I feel right now. I've washed my hands at least six times in the hour I've been back inside. ((Shudder!))