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Arden Raine is an ex-theatrical making sense of life through many lenses.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Matter of Virtue

So this evening as we worked in our tomato patch in our 4x8 patch of front lawn we found a gigantic caterpillar.

It was so big my husband which had moved the 10 gallon bucket with our "Boxcar Willie" heirloom tomatoes didn't see him. He thought the five inch critter was a leaf!
At first I was excited/creeped out. But curiosity prevailed. What kind of butterfly is this creature?

So I rushed onto the porch grabbed ye old smartphone and voilĂ !
Our little friend wasn't a Luna moth, nor Monarch, but the larvae form of the Hawk Moth or Tobacco Hookworm caterpillar.
My creepy feeling turned onto full blown willies after seeing the carnage these guys do to tomatoes.

We've, ahem, I've grown these babies (tomatoes) from seeds.
I've lovingly, obsessively, nurtured these plants. And today as I went out earlier to harvest I found no bless than 12 rotting on the vine.

That rotten SOM(son of a moth) was crushing my tomato heaven.
Aw hells no!

After reading up on this guy I found squish/cut in half or drown as the most reliable was of removing his heirloom snacking ass from 'my planet larva boy'!
But then I saw the green slime that consists of its innards and couldn't do it. Willies migrated to actual heebee jeebees at the thought.
So we, again I but with quorum approval, cut the stalk he was on and chucked it out into the street.

What?! I figured fate could decide.

Death by bird, death by car or 1% freedom as long as he moved on down da road.
So we corralled tomatoes upward. We searched for more green v striped behemoths in the foliage. We moved our bounty around to increase air flow and reduce risk of crowding diseases.

That took an hour.

The whole time Fritz, because frankly anything that big deserves a name, finished noshing his tomato stalk perch and proceeded to wander in a three foot spiral.
No birds came to claim him as offering. No vehicle came even close to smooshing him.
At this point my family and I sat on the curb in conference as we watched his methodical spiraling.

This guy will grow into a beneficial night pollinator.  He only eats tomato, nightshade, tobacco and bell pepper in a pinch and has survived to final caterpillar size.
He kinda deserved his 1% freedom.
But what to do?

Can we keep him in a jar? Watch his metamorphosis? A learning experience for us all?

Nope! Neither my hubster nor I wanted Fritz indoors. Nor did we want to feed it, touch it or clean up after it. Its frees (poop) is the size of pill bugs.(See heebee jeebees)

Yet I felt wrong from the moment of my exiling him to his doom. I felt deeply that the murder, let's call a card a card here, of this wondrous life was completely wrong. But ewwww.

He's doing his job and I want to kill him, without dirtying my hands, shoes or conscious, because he's eating the food I left out in the open for him to find.

So. I paused. I took a deep breath and asked myself can I condemn a potentially useful member of my ecosphere to death to save my salad?

Nope. It felt wrong from start to finish and both the husband and I felt it. But our crop must survive too.

Then it hit me.

We have backyard crops. Or as I think of them, groundhog bribes. We'll sacrifice the backyard tomato patch and allow Fritz a full pardon.
So he was carried on some yummy fresh tomato leaves down our alley and snugged into the back yard nightshades.

Sometimes you just have to stop and consider how all life fits together.
Fritz doesn't get to ruin anymore of our food crop but can live to become the gigantic night pollinator he's destined to be.

Well as long as the bats don't get him.

"The cirrrrrcle, the cirrrcle of liiiiife."

(In hindsight perhaps we should've named him Hamlet!)


  1. I don't know if it makes me a bad pagan, but I would have squished him. Without much worry or thought. Unless he was edible, in which case I would figure out the best way to eat him. I've worked on a number of organic farms over the years, and pest management is a big big issue. I'd far rather squish a bug than have it breed and have babies and have them eat my whole garden. The alternative being to spray with insecticides, which I do find repellent.

    My one exception to that rule was when my youngest was obsessed with "scrubs and worms" and insisted that any larvae, worms, or other wigglies were deposited into her hand or trowel to be played with. How could I argue with that, really?

  2. Nope in my book you're not a bad pagan for squishing.

    I have a particular piety towards Quan Kin that holds me to specific acts of mercy. I struggled with my oath in this specific regard.

    Had the moth form not been beneficial a death sentence pardon would not have been offered.

    And my kidlet was adamant about saving it. Really, really adamant. So I too couldn't really argue.