Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What to Do with a Hornworm?

by Guest Blogger, Jenny Holan

What an interesting dilemma. I haven't been persistent about outlining my creed or principles, or following a path illuminated by others.

This dilemma shows up once in awhile, as at present: I looked up the large pupa that appeared in my garden, and it's clearly that of a sphinx moth, a k a hornworm. What to do?? Interfere with the life cycle? Try to stay out of it by pretending I never saw it? I really want to remove it a long way from my tomatoes, preferably to some butterfly/hummingbird garden where the moth can enjoy a wealth of nice nectar. But it wouldn't be ethical to bring it anywhere nearer to someone else's tomatoes than to mine. This individual doesn't seem to have done damage to me in its dangerous tomato-hacking days, but I quail to think of the number of children it may produce, and the havoc that could happen next summer. I have waited so long for the tomatoes to bear fruit...
Perhaps I ought to keep it in a container, and if it emerges in time, volunteer it for the Hospice benefit event in Putney, planned for 11 September: a ceremony of remembrance and hope, featuring the "release" of donated butterflies (symbolizing the renewal of souls).

I know Buddhists have been releasing purchased birds for centuries, but I'm ambivalent about the karma-for-ransom concept, having trouble with the whole idea of an industry, or anyway a livelihood, predicated on a demand for captive lives, as it is for some people.

The Putney event is procuring its butterflies, along with organizing and naturalist advice, from a clearinghouse called Wings of Hope, which coordinates supplies of pretty insects (the ones reported are overwhelmingly monarchs and painted ladies) with those who wish to use them to call attention to the needs of wildlife, the search for health care and research, spiritual concerns and community, or any cause or occasion. I didn't know that there are such people as butterfly breeders, who raise and ship them out like ranchers, but these are the suppliers, who donate their livestock for educational purposes, including showing children and shut-ins something about butterflies, as well as for memorials and ecology studies.

Might a release to which a "minority volunteer" is introduced (local moth) be more in harmony with the balance of nature than one at which only the non-threatening elite "graduate"? Sure, one or two would be statistically absorbed, but if this was done by many at once, would there be less of an impact? Or would a reduction of control spell trouble?
So, here's an organism that exists, and all available tomato plants are part of its life cycle and support the survival of that species. What's my role as another strand of the Web of Earthlife? When I do pick this thing up, does the heart inside have any clue that its life is in my hands?

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