Friday, July 27, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week - Tobacco Hornworm

A Yard Critter of the Week detective story.

This morning, while walking in the garden, I noticed the tomato plants looking a bit ragged. When we were away, deer had gotten into the garden, but after a week home the damage was suspicious. This called for some investigating. Investigating means looking for the telltale signs of caterpillars.

Frass (aka "caterpillar poop).

And after looking around I found the source, a Tobacco Hornworm Caterpillar.

Not one but three, on two different tomato plants.

At about four inches long, it is almost fully grown. Fully grown caterpillars climb down from plants and make cocoons in the soil. The pupal stage can take a few weeks up to a few months, depending on the time of year. In the fall, pupae will stay in the ground until the spring, and in the spring the moth will emerge in about two to four weeks.

The pupae turn into large moths with four- to six-inch wingspans. They often are mistaken for small hummingbirds when they fly during the day and hover helicopter style to nectar on flowers, which is why they are also called Hummingbird or Hawk Moths.

I have yet to see the moth. But the caterpillars sure are voracious eaters, making their presence obvious.

This younger instar has lots of eating still to do. It's good that I planted four tomato plants for these caterpillars!


You can find all of the Yard Critter posts listed here.

Thanks to guest blogger Patty Rehn. The words and images are hers.

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