The Very Hungry Hornworm

hornworm

This hornworm is being attacked by parasitic wasps and should be left in the garden.

Published: Thursday, June 27, 2013 at 14:58 PM.

Are leaves suddenly disappearing from your tomato plant? Take a closer look. Your plant is probably being attacked by hornworms. Despite their large size, these bright green caterpillars can easily hide among tomato leaves, staying out of sight until they have eaten most of the plant’s foliage. Inspect your plants for hornworms now before they strip it down to bare stems.

Identifying Hornworms

Tomato and tobacco hornworms are closely related large, bright green caterpillars that feed on the leaves of tomatoes, as well as tobacco, eggplant and occasionally peppers. They have a distinct single spine or “horn” on their rear end, but cannot sting. These caterpillars can reach up to four inches in length before they mature into large grey moths.

Despite their large size, hornworms are not usually noticed until they strip a considerable amount of foliage from a tomato plant, which can happen in a matter of a few days if several caterpillars are feeding on the same plant. If left unchecked, hornworms can devour all of a tomato plant’s foliage, severely weakening the plant. Hornworms will continue to multiply through the rest of the growing season, making control now and throughout the summer essential to keep your tomatoes productive.

Control Options

One of the simplest methods for controlling hornworms, as well as many types of insects, is to pick them off plants and drop them into a bucket of soapy water. Controlling hornworms by hand picking requires almost daily inspection to stay on top of the population. Adult hornworms, known as sphinx moths, lay new eggs every night, and each female can lay up to 2000 eggs during her short life span.



1 2 3
Next

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

COMMENTS
▲ Return to Top