Written by Marcia Moffitt

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Tomato hornworm larva, can also be black

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Feeding damaged caused by tomato hornworms

I was wondering why I picked 67 hornworms, Manduca quinquemaculata, on just two tomato plants in the last ten days. I notice that leaves were missing and holes were being chewed into my tomato fruits. This is the first year I have had hornworm problems on my tomato plants. Joy Paterson and I discussed this and I described what was planted next to my tomatoes this year.

My vegetable garden is under renovation, so I am gardening in containers in a new location. The realization came that it might not be a good idea to place my tomato plants near my butterfly bush. Why? Because I had created the perfect environment for the hummingbird or hawk moths to complete their entire life cycle within a five foot area. The adult moths were attracted to my butterfly bushes. Hornworm adults are diurnal, with peak activity times at dusk and dawn. Mating occurred and female moths had a very convenient habitat for laying eggs with my tomato plants just feet away. Each morning and evening the females were passing by and laying more eggs. I had multiple generations with larvae of various sizes on both of my plants. They were happily munching on the fruit and leaves of my tomato plants. Look for round holes in the fruit, large round “bites” out of leaves, or dark green clumps of frass (insect feces) to see if hornworms are feeding. If you notice damage, look closely at stems and in the soil around the the base of the plant. Searching at night with a flashlight will also catch them in the act of feeding.

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Round holes are the feeding damaged caused on fruit

The fact sheet Tomato and Tobacco Hornworms is a great resource on the life cycle of this particular pest and control methods. More information on the damaged caused can be found at Grow Your Own Nevada’s  web page on hornworms. These sites provide a good description of what I experienced as the damage was quick and severe to both the plant and fruit. Since they were detracting from my production, I decided to recycle and feed them to my laying hens that scarfed them up as a tasty treat. Squishing them is also an effective way to remove the larva, if you do not have chickens.

If you find these larva, you can also rear them out as a science experiment. The Manduca Project has some great suggestions for rearing them through to adults. Though after the devastation I experienced, I cannot imagine myself rearing these critters despite the beauty of the moth.

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Hornworms have 3 pairs of legs and 5 pairs of prolegs with a red “horn” at the end

Dark green specks are frass (insect feces) on the tomato

Dark green specks are frass (insect feces) on the tomato

Field Bindweed

Field Bindweed Flowers

Bindweed

Field Bindweed at the Lyon County Cooperative Extension Office

After assisting with the biological control release on field bindweed, I have started to pay attention and I am noticing it more places. I even found it at our office. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension publication “Managing Field Bindweed” has useful information for managing bindweed; if you ever find it hiding in plain sight, like we did. It is a vining plant, with white to pink trumpet shaped flowers and arrow shaped leaves. Not sure if it is bindweed? Send me a picture.
Bindweed is difficult to control, once established. Small areas of infestation should be aggressively managed to prevent spread. Mechanical control requires removing or destroying all the green above ground parts and going several inches into the soil profile to remove the rhizomes as deep as possible. Smothering or solarization will only work if the entire plant is covered long enough to starve below ground portions of the plant. Chemicals can also be effective; however, the area should be monitored and re-treated if any return growth is observed. Biological control is an option for large patches that cannot be treated other ways. Agents have been released in Nevada, but have had limited success establishing.

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Marcia in our hoop house next to winter kale

Have you ever stopped by our office to ask a weed question? Or, called to get information or schedule a meeting? You were most likely assisted by Marcia Moffitt. She is not one to shout her accomplishments to the world, but she has been humbly helping the Lyon County community for the last 15 years! Today, Marcia received her 15 years of service award at the county commissioners meeting. While the moment of acknowledgment was brief, I was very proud of her dedication during her time with Lyon County Cooperative Extension.

Marcia in the middle, next to Linda and Kate during a training

Marcia in the middle, next to Linda and Kate during a training

Marcia does not easily fit into any easy category in our office. While she is the first line of contact, answering phones and manning the front desk, she is not just a secretary. She runs the Master Gardener programs, answers horticulture questions and manages our arboretum. Information technology is where her formal training lies, so she keeps our technology up to date, virus free, and connected. If you need to know where something is or how something was done in the past, she is the person to ask. Marcia is also the accounting, paperwork and property manager, making sure everything runs smoothly and equipment is ready when needed. She is willing to share all this knowledge and is not afraid to say when there is something she does not know. Helping solve problems is a skill she has perfected and is the go to person in our office.

The next time you stop by or call to get some information, let Marcia know you appreciate her service too!

Desert Danelion

Desert Dandelion Blooming

Desert Dandelion Going to Seed

Desert Dandelion Going to Seed

This is becoming a more common question as people are interested in creating pollinator habitat and conserving water by using plants adapted for the local climate. At the Lyon County University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office, we are starting our own native plant garden to create a teaching garden and native pollinator habitat. Marcia started by using the native Desert Dandelion, Malacothrix glabrata, that was naturally growing in front of our office. She kept them weeded to avoid spraying herbicide and reduce competition. The building and the trees shade them, so we have small plants. Desert

Desert Dandelion Seed Head

Desert Dandelion Seed Head

Dandelion can be larger when grown in full sun. As they go to seed, we collect the seeds in a small paper envelope to let them dry. Next spring, we will plant the collected seeds to expand our patch.

Native plants are great for Lyon County gardens. In recent University of Nevada Cooperative Extension special publications “Flowers at the Borders” and “Penstemons are for Great Basin Gardens” have recommendations for native plants to include in your garden. Your native garden can also help native pollinators by providing habitat, like native milkweeds, or as pollen and nectar sources. Do not collect seeds from natural areas or areas where you do not have permission to collect seeds. Not all pretty flowers are beneficial, some can be noxious weeds. Make sure you know what plants you are spreading before moving plants or seeds.
Have a native plant that you want to know more about? Send me a picture! patersonj@unce.unr.edu

Asclepias fascicularis

Asclepias fascicularis

“What kind of plant is this? Is it native?” a Lyon County resident asked as we strolled past a flower garden during a farm visit. Virginia explained that she recently started growing a flower garden here and was not sure what it was. She did not want to keep it if it was a weed. I snapped this quick photo with my phone and told her that it was a milkweed, but that I would key it out and see if I could tell her more about it.

Based on what I could key from the photo, I identified it as Asclepias fascicularis, a narrowleaf milkweed. Milkweed plants are valuable habitat for Monarch butterflies and can be a great edition to your native plant flower garden. Xerces Society has great information on native plants and pollinators with a publication on Great Basin Native Milkweed.

Consider including milkweed plants in your flower gardens. Native milkweeds require less water than some other garden flowers. Anticipate that they might spread easily and remove seed pods prior to seeding to contain them. If you see monarch butterfly larvae, let them eat the milkweed and do not spray them with pesticide. Monarch butterflies have experienced a drastic loss in habitat. You can help by planting milkweeds in your garden in a pesticide free space.

Have a native plant that you want to know more about? Send me a picture! patersonj@unce.unr.edu