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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

… and the surprise is that the inside cover was done the way I requested it.
September 15, 2010

Rear Frontispiece

You can preorder the book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or an Independent Bookseller now!

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

The publicist at Penguin/Perigee requested that Daniel make a video to stir up interest in radio and television appearances prior to the release of The Curious World of Bugs.  Here is a simple home video of Daniel in the tomato patch:

Though a Tomato Bug, which is Grandma Nanowsky’s name for either a Tomato Hornworm or a Tobacco Hornworm, could not be located at the time the video was shot, there is nonetheless some helpful information contained in the video on these large green caterpillars that feed on the leaves of tomato and related plants.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Tomato Hornworm
Location:  Dayton, OH
August 12, 2010 7:58 pm
My kids found this guy on one of our tomato plants. It ate a huge hole in our biggest tomato. I had to pluck him off and relocate him to a tree at the other side of my yard. Beautiful creature, but I’m sad it ate my biggest tomato!

Tobacco Hornworm

Hi Jessica,
This may not matter much to you, but your caterpillar is not a Tomato Hornworm,
Manduca quinquemaculata, but rather the closely related Tobacco Hornworm, Manduca sexta.  The Caterpillars and adult Hawkmoths of both species look very similar and have similar diets, and both caterpillars will feed on the leaves, and occasionally fruit, of tomatoes.  According to BugGuide the Tobacco Hornworm can be identified by its:  “large green body; dorsal ‘horn’ (usually curved and orange, pink or red) on terminal abdominal segment; up to seven oblique whitish lateral lines, edged with black on upper borders. The similar looking Tomato Hornworm, Manduca quinquemaculata, has eight v-shaped stripes and a straight blue-black horn. These caterpillars are often confused and misidentified.”

We have an interesting personal anecdote to relate.  Our publicist has urged Daniel to create a short 2-3 minute video to use a promotional device for his about to be released book, The Curious World of Bugs.  The video would be used to drum up television appearances including his much dreamed about Martha Stewart spot.  The morning of the video shoot, while he was still trying to settle upon a topic, his neighbor Elena walked by.  She was delivering the caterpillar of a Tomato Hornworm to the child of another neighbor who was raising them to observe metamorphosis.  Daniel knew he had one lurking on one of his tomato plants because of the telltale signs of chewed leaves and green droppings, and he quickly located the culprit.  He was going to give it to Elena to deliver along with her caterpillar, but at the last moment, he decided it would be a nice treat for his Fuzzy Bottom Gals, the new chickens.  Moments after the happy chicks finished fighting over the succulent green caterpillar, Daniel realized he had just fed the ideal topic for the video to the gals, and he decided to walk to the neighbor’s house to borrow the Tomato Hornworm Elena had found.  He returned with the caterpillar in a plastic produce box and sat to write the bullet points for the video monologue, not wanting to place the Tomato Hornworm on the plant too early since they are so well camouflaged and he wanted to be able to place it where the camera could easily include it.  About a half an hour before the video shoot, Daniel discovered that the Tomato Hornworm had escaped and it was nowhere to be found, so two different caterpillar subjects evaded a video appearance.  Undaunted, Daniel did the video without the subject actually appearing.  Hopefully he will be bright, witty and charming enough to entice the producers of the Martha Stewart Show to consider him for a guest appearance, even without a caterpillar.  Daniel still has to inform the little girl up the street, Milo, that her Tomato Hornworm is an escape artist.

Update on the Tobacco Hornworm:  Parasitized by Braconid Wasp!!!
What a great story! I hope the little girl wasn’t upset about her caterpillar. Sad update though, it has since died. We decided after my first email to keep it and hope for the best. Fed it many fresh tomato leaves and thought things were going well. It got lethargic so I sat the critter carrier we bought for him outside in the sunlight and hoped the warmth would help him. The next day, my daughter came running in and told me of the oval things on its back. I had to break the news that this poor caterpillar was dying and there was nothing I could do. I’ve attached the most recent photo of our poor caterpillar in case you want to use it on the site.

Tobacco Hornworm parasitized by Braconid Wasp

Thanks for the update Jessica,
Daniel has still not told Milo, but he did notify her father that he would pay a visit and provide an explanation.  Your Tobacco Hornworm was a goner before you discovered it.  It had been parasitized by a Braconid Wasp.  The Braconid lays eggs by “injecting” them into the Hornworm with an ovipositor.  The larval Braconids feed upon the internal organs of the Hornworm, eventually emerging to pupate on the surface, which your photograph illustrates.  Braconids are considered biological control methods for many agricultural pests, though their hosts are not limited to plant feeding insects.  Most Braconids are very species specific when it comes to the choice of where to lay eggs.

Update on Mt Washington Tobacco Hornworms
August 24, 2010
Daniel told Milo and she was understanding.  Daniel spotted this Tobacco Hornworm on the Caspian Pink, and he is going to let Milo know there is a caterpillar for her.  He is going to recommend a terrarium with a live potted tomato plant for raising it.

Tobacco Hornworm in Mt Washington

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

“Pre-order The Curious World of Bugs”
August 4, 2010
I pre Ordered my copy on Amazon today! I can’t wait to get it.

I am actually really excited to get an early copy in my hot little hands.  Thanks for your enthusiasm.

I work for a pest control company and I am making the owners buy a copy for our front lobby too. We help people keep destructive pests out of their homes, but we also teach people about beneficial insects and integrated pest management. We are all excited to get the book! My personal copy will be shared with my 7 year old daughter who shares my fascination with all creatures great and small.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

July 31, 2010
Our book, The Curious World of Bugs, is being printed, and you may now pre-order on Amazon.  Follow the link on our homepage.

The Curious World of Bugs

If you want a great identification guide, we also strongly recommend The Kaufman Guide to Insects coauthored by Eric Eaton who frequently contributes to What’s That Bug?

Kaufman Field Guide To Insects

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Italics for genus and species names?                         Inbox        X
June 30, 2010
Hi Daniel,
Something I have been meaning to bring up for a long time is the convention in biology that the genus and species names of organisms are written in italics. (This is not true of any other higher taxa however: for example, family names are not written in italics). In situations like your site, where your answers to queries are written in italics, the genus and species name would be rendered in non-italics so that it stands out.
Maybe this is a stylistic choice that you made a long time ago, but since you have such a major following, and because you are educating so many people about biology, people who may know little or nothing about it, I thought you might want to consider this.
All very best wishes,
Susan J. Hewitt

Hi Susan,
Thanks so much for bringing up this issue as it has been a consideration for quite some time.  The italicized responses have been part of the What’s That Bug? design dating back to 1998 when the column first appeared in the photocopied “zine” American Homebody.  When the column went online in 2000, the format stayed the same.  When What’s That Bug? became a unique website in 2002, the italicized response format remained.  I have been in a quandry with how to deal with the convention of italicized genus and species names, and your suggestion to render them in non-italicized font is great.  However, if I took the time to retrofit the archives, I might not be able to respond to any new mail for months.  Since our website migration in 2008, there are numerous new features that the site offers, but preparing the archives for those items is an item for the back burner.  Perhaps one day there will be a real staff that can tackle things like that.  One of the major remaining tasks post migration is to take advantage of all the new subcategories.  Thanks again, and I will from this point on try to remember to post genus and species in regular, non-italicized font.

Hey, that sounds great Daniel, Thanks,

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination