Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tomato Hornworms

Over the long holiday weekend after the rain died down, David and I found time to work on our much neglected garden. We let the weeds run rampant and they had completely taken over. We ended up getting rid of the plants that weren't producing (green bell peppers) and transplanting herbs (sage, lemon balm) to different locations. Basically we only left the tomato plants that were still viable and producing and mowed over everything else. Like we've said before, we knew this first year would be a lot of trial and error and we are already planning next year's garden layout implementing changes as a result of what we've learned this year in our mistakes.

David started working while I was finishing up some things inside, and he came back inside after a few minutes saying, "Grab the camera. There are HUGE green caterpillars on the tomato plants." I said, "Will I be creeped out?" and he replied, "Yeah, most likely."

Ok, sufficiently creeped out! Am I the only one who sees all the "eyes" staring at me? Honestly I didn't even know if I could write this post because my skin crawls every time I look at these photos.

It's so funny, because my friend Sonja over at Lally Broch Farm wrote about these mysterious critters in this post just a few days ago! (PS - Sonja is giving away a few more samples of her handmade eucalyptus-scented goats milk soap. Go here to have a sample delivered to you. I can't wait to get mine!)

I did some research on these caterpillars and found that they are known as tomato hornworms due to the red horn on their tail end.

These worms eat the tomatoes and the plant itself, leaving the plant looking like the branches were cut off with scissors (maybe what I previously thought was deer damage was actually hornworms?). Apparently the best way to prevent them from snacking on your plants is to keep the weeds from growing around your tomatoes. Oops. The weeds act as a breeding ground for these little buggers. Also keeping a close eye on your plants so you notice any worms early on will keep them from decimating your harvest.

The caterpillars eventually morph into the five-spotted hawk moth (photo here) but David didn't let ours get that far. Let's just say the chickens had some special treats over the weekend.



  1. I preferred thinking that they were luna moth caterpillars! Now, I am REALLY glad we got rid of them!!! Our tomatoes were not damaged but the plants did look like someone had snipped off every branch. I think you are right about what they are. I will be keeping an eye out for more of these pests while we finish our harvesting!

    1. Sounds like you caught them fairly early. Which is good, because apparently they are very hungry and very destructive!

  2. I too had this visitor to my garden. I had never planted tomatoes so I was in for a treat one morning when I was inspecting my plants to see piles of little brown balls all stacked up on some of the branches. With my trusty +4.00 reading glasses I went to do some inspecting and when I came across this creature it look even bigger with my readers on. I gasped, and jumped backwards about 5 ft and not to mention what I did in my pants as I yelled for my citified hubby, like he would know what to do. They make a great photo op but I was too shaken to grab my camera. I spotted many on my 4 patio plants and one stalk was severed in half lying on the side of the tomato cage. I was enraged and plucked those suckers from my plants and put them in a bucket and took the bucket out to the backyard for whatever creature wanted them for breakfast. I learned if you are going to plant tomatoes on a patio in pots you can cover the dirt with wire screen so no eggs can be laid in the soil. Now for a large garden, I would not know what advice to offer accept let loose your chickens into the garden and give them ladders to climb so they can reach these awful creatures.
    God bless and keep you all safe.


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