"Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away?"

Author: Unknown

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tomato Hornworm

             All I could say was "YUUUUCCCKKK!" when I was strolling thru the garden this morning, still in my p.j.'s. I found these two on one of my Early Girl tomatoes. I at first noticed a couple of tomatoes with areas kinda skinned. So I started looking closer for the varmint. Then I found the first. They are HHUUGGEE!.

I wasnt about to touch them. I wasnt sure what it was at first, since I have never seen them before. But the first thing that came to mind was a Tomato Hornworm. So I took these guys away for their moment in front of the camera, and then came inside to my "see all know all" computer. I found out my supposition was right.

According to this website: http://organicgardensite.com/bugs-harmful/tomato-horn-worms/
"Tomato Hornworms are the larva of a huge moth called five-spotted hawkmoth. Approximate size of the moth is around the size of a hummingbird so you can’t miss them. The hawkmoth is gray-brown with yellow spots on the sides of their body.
The hornworm caterpillars are pretty small at first and hard to see because of their pale green color, but they become huge – 3 1/2 to 4 inches (7-10cm) in 3-4 weeks. You can’t miss them then! They are green-brown colour with v-shaped markings on the body and unmistakable ‘horns’. Hornworm eggs are green and are laid on the underside of leaves."
Here is the google pic of the MOTH.

According to THIS site, solanaceous plants, mostly tomato.but larvae can also attack pepper, potato, and eggplant. The eggs of this worm grow into the adult moth often referred to as "Hummingbird Moth". It is a large heavy bodied moth with a wingspan of 4-5 inches. It is not uncommon for some people to mistake them for deformed hummingbirds.According too THIS site, it is in its last instar of development since it has the cream colored "V" shaped markings.It could soon be pupating and then the large moth emerge in about 2 weeks. 
The larvae are the damaging stage.They are capable of destroying several leaves and fruit, and leave behind large black droppings.
Handpicking off small crops works the best (eeewwww). Early instars are often preyed upon by ladybeetles and green lacewings. Later Cotesia congregatus, a small wasp will lay her eggs on the hornworm, which then form cocoons in her body.  These white coccoons stick up on the worms back. If you see this , leave the worm. When the wasps hatch they will destroy the worm, and seek out others to kill. 
So observe your gardens from early July into August for their eggs and small caterpillar.  Well Time to dress and head back into the garden, armed with a bucket of water, prepared to do battle. 

PS: While I was inside loading pictures onto the computer and starting this post, I had left the little (and I use that loosely) worm's  sitting outside on my deck. When I came back to take care of them, I found a few of these little droppings:

These are approximately 1/4" in width. The worms themselves are pretty hard to locate, since their coloring blends in with the tomato plants so well. The best times to look for them is early morning or late evening since they dont like the heat so much. You may also look around the base of your plants for these green to black droppings. Finding these would be a postitive sign you plants have unwanted company.
Note: As always, you can click on the image to bring it to a much larger size for close-up viewing.
Also, someone on the gardenweb forum said to plant Borage near by. This is supposed to deter the moth from laying her eggs, and "gently" re-seeds so you wont have to replant them again. I think I will try and remember to plant a few next year.


  1. Oh my goodness I am soooo glad we don't have those around here...bleck! Although their color is lovely I'm sure their damage is NOT!

    Great post, Kim

  2. Very interesting information Tammy. I remember the first time I saw one. I thought they were the biggest, greenest worms and I went ewww too.LOL! Great images of them!

  3. They look just like the hornworms I buy at the pet shop to feed my chameleon. I saw one of these outside today, but didn't know if it were safe to feed my reptiles or not.

    I also saw a lunar moth worm yesterday. It was about the same length, but it was bigger around and a tinge of orange on it's back. It didn't have any of the stripes like the hornworm.