Sunday, June 08, 2008

Tomato Hornworm caterpillar

Manduca quinquemaculata. I noticed the damage yesterday on my Goose Creek tomato, and meant to find the bugger, but got distracted. Today it continued its rampage until I found it. Though very large (more than two inches long), these caterpillars are very hard to find, since they so closely resemble a tomato leaf. I find them by gently shaking the plant -- the hornworm "leaf" weighs so much more that it continues to bob after I stop shaking.





Given how quickly tomatoes grow, the damage they cause is pretty minor. I let the kids decide -- bucket of soapy water, or happy home next to the Swallowtail caterpillars. The kids gave me pollice verso and he's now contentedly munching on some tomato suckers I pulled for his delight.

12 comments:

Gardening Fool said...

I know this is terrible for your tomato plants...but...Hurray for your kids & for you! This caterpillar will become the cool spinx moth aka hummingbird moth!

John said...

I found one of these in my container garden a few days ago. It was huge!

http://desertcontainergardening.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

We picked a large one from one of our tomato plants yesterday and he has been in a ball jar since, dining on tomato leaves in copious amounts. My son, who is five, is becoming attached and I can't kill the bugger or feed it to the birds, any ideas on how to help it make it to moth-hood without eating our garden?
~Lizabeth in New Jersey

Anonymous said...

JACOB 8 AND DAD FOUND TWO SOFAR IN OUR GARDEN COOL VERY BIG WERE FEEDING IT THE RUINS OF ITS TERROR IN OUR GARDEN,
IS IT POISNESS

Lya Sorano said...

Beautiful, isn't it? And kudos to you, to let it feed. Caterpillars have to eat too, right? I just found the first Tomato Hornworm in my garden this morning and have added its image to my blog at http://georgiagardener.blogspot.com.

Happy gardening!

Anonymous said...

We keep finding black tomoato hornworms....what gives?? They are even creapier than the green ones!

Anonymous said...

I saw a huge one on my tomato plant and my friend thought it was poisonus what gives with the huge stinger?? Does it have poisons in it?

Anonymous said...

I saw HUGE ones in my cuz's garden they had huge stingers and when my cuz tryed to get them off they tryed to poke her with the stinger/horn!

Anonymous said...

I saw a big one in the road while riding my bike with my friend! I got it safely to the outher side but the stinger looked so sharp was careful not to get poked!

Anonymous said...

i fond a little yellow caterpillar on my tomatoes not like this one any idea what it is in western Washington state if that helps

Anonymous said...

Great photos! I'm in Lake Helen FL ... I decided to plant some tomato vines this year, so my father in law wanted to try the 'topsy turvy' system to see how they do against my plant... which isn't really very scientific seeing as how I'm sticking with organic fertalizer and pest control, and he started his out with the 'blue juice' (Miracle Grow) ... He is growing 'Red Beefsteak' vines (2) and I am growing four of the same variety, and two Roma vines - his vines are thick stemmed and leafy with a suprisingly decent fruit set... my Beefsteaks didn't get a great start, and became a little spindly with smaller fruit sets (I think the early heat and some early blight on my plants has contributed to my blossom drop problem) Since I have fertilized, I've been getting better results, especially on one 'late bloomer' I thought might have been a male. anyhow, I've been watching my plants like a hawk, and removing any worms and catipillars (one unidentified brown catipillar did a good deal of damage to the lower part of one of my plants..) My first fruit sets are still on the vine and growing slowly, my father in law's first fruit set was ate up with blossom end rot ... and then, this past week, while he was away I was charged with checking his plants ... out of nowhere, these horned worms appeared ... I picked five off of one vine and four off of another ... they are voracious eaters, yet, very fascinating... I took a photo for my F.i.L so he could see what caused the damage to his plants, and did some research ... wasps use these larvae as food for their larvae ... WOW!! Amazing creatures; however, very, very damaging to tomato vines!! Two days after I pulled the first ones off his vines, the in-laws arrived home from their week long vacation to find three more of these buggers on their plants, and one had eaten nearly half of a tennis ball sized tomato!!

Anonymous said...

They make great bait for bluegills. Freeze them as you find them and in no time you will have a mess of bait. Cut them in 1/2 inch pieces, it stays on the hook very well.