Sharing is best

I've had a disappointing year for tomatoes so far, and I've decided that my veggie garden is too far away from the house. There are too many interesting plants that need care between here and there, so I don't make it back there enough.

I do get out there once in a while, and since the tomato plants are about the only thing still going strong back there I do look them over. The other day I got a surprise.


I've been wondering for over a week where the leaves on the top of this one plant were going. At first I just thought that deer jumped the fence, but realized there would be a lot more damage than I'm seeing.

For some reason I didn't even think about caterpillars, but that's what it is: a tobacco hornworm!

You might think this is a tomato hornworm, since it's feeding on a tomato plant, but it's not -- it's the similar tobacco hornworm. They both feed on the same family of plants, which includes tomatoes.

I've actually never seen a tomato hornworm on my tomato plants -- I always see tobacco hornworms. If you're interested in knowing the difference, the tobacco hornworm has a reddish horn and white lines on its sides.

The tomato hornworm has a straighter and blue/blackish horn as well as white V's on its sides. One good mnemonic I read about was the straight lines are like cigarettes (tobacco hornworm) while the V's stand for "vine-ripened" as in tomatoes (tomato hornworm).

There were actually two of these guys on one plant. There may have been more, but they're well-camouflaged. Even though they're about 4 inches (10 cm) long, they're not easy to see unless you really look closely.

The best thing about these caterpillars is they turn into quite large moths. I saw one a few years ago feeding on the white flowers in my yard as it started getting dark, and it was quite a sight. I'm hoping to see them again this year and get some new video footage, so I of course left the caterpillars alone.

There's still lots of flowers and plenty of fruit on the plants -- enough to share!


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Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (August 29, 2011 at 10:51 AM)  

These look like pretty big caterpillars! Do you have any problems with your daturas? Hornworms like those, too. The one time I tried to grow a brugmansia (they're all in the same family as tomatoes), it was chewed up by hornworms and never amounted to much.

Bom  – (August 29, 2011 at 11:33 AM)  

Great macro shots. Almost worth the leaves, eh? Butterflies are a wonderful reward for sharing. Hopefully your next macro shots will be of butterflies pollinating your blooms.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax!  – (August 29, 2011 at 4:47 PM)  

Do they stick to leaves or are the flowers and fruits at risk? You are very open-armed!

JiffyJ  – (August 29, 2011 at 7:47 PM)  

Eeek! Okay, I'm pretty tolerant, but the Hornworms gotta go! I used to relocate them, but have given up and now drown them. If I leave them alive anywhere, they make their way back.
Last year, two worms took out every leaf on all of my pepper plants. I don't plan on letting that happen again.
They do stick to the leaves, and leave the fruit & flowers alone, but a growing tomato will get sunburned and turn to garbage without a bit of shade.

Alan  – (August 29, 2011 at 9:24 PM)  

Actually, I found a couple of small fruits half-eaten today, but no sign of the caterpillars. Either they're hiding too well, got eaten by something, or have formed their chrysalis.

I can buy tomatoes at the store. I haven't found a place yet that sells big cool moths though. :-)

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