I stopped at the edge of my garden and stared, first in puzzlement then in dismay. One of my prized pepper plants had been chopped off about half an inch above the soil line. I bent and stupidly tried to stand it back up — displaying Kubler-Ross' first stage of grief: denial.
There was, of course, no standing it back up. It was a
I looked around for footprints. Another gardener stopped
by and said, "Sometimes the police come through here looking for
contraband. Maybe someone stepped on it." But there were no footprints
so my suspicions soon turned to other species.
I talked to the garden worker, another prisoner named Dill, who said immediately, "It's probably cutworms."
A bell rang in my head. I remembered these guys from my gardening
days in the past. They're one of the garden's notorious vandals.
Dill suggested I dig around the downed plant — and others for that
matter — as they often remain at the scene of the crime like in those
"Dumbest Criminal" videos where the guy falls asleep in the store he's
broken into. Sure enough I found the culprit almost immediately.
There's an old wives tale that if you pulverize them and put them back in
the dirt, others will stay away. I don't know if that's true but I was more
than willing to try it.
I cultivated around my whole row of
peppers and found four more who hadn't struck yet but were certainly
casing the joint. They all went back into the soil as a warning to
Later I looked them up and I guess they're actually a
species of moth larvae. I like moths and I'll keep an eye out for these
medium-sized gray Noctuids so I can give them a nod and wish them well.