Tender loving violence

Looks healthy now, but he's got internal injuries.

Looks healthy now, but he’s got internal injuries.

In college, a friend once led off a story like this: “I performed surgery once. [Pause.] It was on a cat. [Pause.] The cat was dead. [Pause.] I removed its balls.” The friend had been a vet’s assistant, learning how to neuter cats, at the time of the “surgery.”


Yesterday, I performed surgery. It was on a zucchini plant. The plant is probably dead. I removed its worm.

Caterpillar, actually. One of the most pernicious pests of cucurbits is the vine borer, a huge and hideous black/red bug that looks more like a wasp than the moth that it is. The adult lays eggs on plants’ stems; when they hatch, they “bore” into the tender vine and eat their way along its length. By the time the caterpillar is crawling, it’s usually too late to save the plant, which is quickly cut off from its water supply. So when I saw adult borers circling my squashes, I started checking every day for their itty bitty red eggs. But I missed one — at least one. Yesterday, I saw the telltale frass — caterpillar poop — sprayed out around a zucchini stem like sawdust. So I did what the internet told me to do: grabbed a sharp knife, cut vertically along the stem, and found the squirmy baby jackass cozied up inside. Then I stabbed it to death. Vegans who think avoiding meat equals shunning violence: Ha! I’ve killed more bugs in the past three months as a vegetable gardener than I killed in my first 21 years, when I ate meat and couldn’t tell a pepper plant from basil. Don’t even get me started on the deer and rabbits that my farmer friends slaughter to protect their lettuce and carrots.

Anyway. Off to England. I don’t expect the zucchini to survive my absence, but I heaped a generous mound of compost on his wounded stem just in case.

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