On the Hunt

Yesterday afternoon when I was out in the garden, this is what I saw:

I know it’s kind of difficult to see, because it’s so bright, but there are several branches on this tomato plant that have been reduced to sticks. Something is eating the leaves right off this plant! I spent several minutes searching for the culprit, but couldn’t find anything.

This morning we took up the hunt again, and started finding lots of these black piles of caterpillar frass. We must be getting closer!

Ah ha! Gotcha! We found this guy hanging out on one of the plants.

Isn’t he a cool looking caterpillar? He is definitely some type of Sphinx Moth Caterpillar, although he doesn’t look like a typical Tomato Hornworm, which is green with yellow stripes and a red tail rather than brown with creamy stripes and a black tail. Just one of these caterpillars can be very destructive, but  I still think we have another one or two out there somewhere, because we found this one on the south end of the bed, and the other damage is on the north end. The hunt continues!

About Rebecca

I'm a Horticulture Educator with Sedgwick County Extension, a branch of K-State Research and Extension, located in Wichita, KS. I teach about fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Posted on July 26, 2011, in Insects Abound! and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Yikes!! We found 19 on four plants!! Wish we had found 19 tomatoes instead of 19 horn worms!! I’m craving my first tomato…

  2. According to Whitney Cranshaw’s book, “Garden Insects of North America”, this is the dark form of the tomato hornworm caterpillar…which I’ve never seen before. I wonder if the heat and drought has anything to do with this color pattern or if it’s just an occasional color variant that shows up in the population?

    Unless I have an overabundance of hornworms (yeah, 19 on 4 plants would probably qualify!), I usually just let them be. They turn into those neat hummingbird moths (aka hawk moths, aka sphinx moths) that hover in front of summer phlox feeding at the flowers in the evening.

    If I do have too many, hornworms are easy to pick off (once I find them!) and drown in soapy water or to simply squash.

  3. The best way is controlling the insects. The best control measure is prevention. Following tips will help you to keep these insects away from your tomatoes,

    • Control weeds
    • Wash plants
    • Hand pick bugs
    • Use green treatment

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