Something was eating my tomato plant. At first, I thought it was deer. So I moved the potted tomato onto the back terrace where I hoped they wouldn’t find it. Still, leaves disappeared and there were black castings on the ground that made me suspect something more insidious than deer. I was about to give up and toss it when I spotted the culprit.

Holy, hideous hornworm!!

I’d never seen a tomato hornworm before and was, well, horrified when I saw this huge green worm with freakish white spikes all along its back. The stuff nightmares are made of.

I looked this bad boy up in an effort to understand what I was dealing with. They don’t bite or sting but the do seriously decimate tomato plants. The advice, however, was NOT to kill this particular worm. Why? Because those crazy white spikes were actually parasitic wasp cocoons. The wasp larvae had been EATING the worm from the inside out and would soon make more wasps (non-stinging, beneficial wasps) that would keep the future hornworm population in check. That worm was already on death’s doorstep.

Once the cold shivers stopped running up and down my spine, I relegated the worm to the compost heap to go quietly into that good night. And I considered what lesson a hornworm could teach me.

I considered this: What are the sins I carry around that eat me up inside? The ones others can see while I obliviously go on about my business. The ones that are death to me whether I acknowledge them or not. Now that gave me the cold shivers. Food for thought if not food for a worm.