Real Zombies in my Front Yard

I was harvesting some of my tomatoes this morning and came across the strangest thing. Two caterpillars with these white ovoids stuck all over them. I ran for my camera and hit the internets.

They appear to be the victims of parasitoid wasps, which inject their eggs into the caterpillar. They burst out of the skin and when the eggs hatch, the wasps suck the life out of the caterpillar.

Ick! Gross! But I was still fascinated enough to take pictures. I then found a third caterpillar on another plant which had already been through the process, it was quite dead. A grusome end for the poor friendly caterpillars.

I’m tempted to cut off the tomato branches where they are clinging to dispose of these wasps before they are even born, but would that be interfering with nature?

After all, I’m growing these plants and enjoying the fruits. I’m sharing with the bunnies and squirrels (reluctantly, yes..) Should I do away with these wasps before they reproduce via this gruesome life cycle again.

I dunno. In the meantime, take a look at the gross photos on my flickr photostream.

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