Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wild Wednesday, The Tomato/Tobacco Hornworm

The Tomato Hornworm and the Tobacco Hornworm though terrible pests to your tomato plants are still somewhat of an amazing sight to see. Both species are very similar in looks. We found this Tobacco Hornworm on our Tomato plants last year. The caterpillar shown here is about 4 inches long and has a sharp pointed horn at it's rear which is waved around to threaten predators. The Hornworms are the largest caterpillars in Michigan and feed not only on tomato plants but on many plants in the nightshade family. They are a host species to the Braconid Wasp, a small wasp that lays white oval eggs along the back of the caterpillar. The wasp babies feed on the caterpillar as they grow, eventually killing it. Don't kill a Hornworm caterpillar that has these eggs on it. These wasps will help control the Hornworm population naturally.
Here is a photo of the eggs. The bumpy yellowish cluster around the metal pole, just above the vertical stem. The Hornworms usually populate twice during the warm seasons.

The Hornworm will pupate and eventually becomes a moth. We found this large moth in the garage this year. Luckily I took pictures because I had no idea that the two were related until I started writing this.

The Tomato/Tobacco Hornworm turns into a Hawk or Hummingbird Moth. They are in the Spinx Moth Family.

1 comment:

Shelley Rains said...

Hornworms are untouchable in my yard. My husband thinks I'm nuts, but we all enjoy the hummingbird moths, and to get those you have to have hornworms. My tomatoes never seem to notice as they produce a lot of foliage, so we can share. The local name for the moths is "Papillotes" (I live in New Mexico), and the best spring sight is a lilac bush in full flower with the papillotes hovering all over.

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