The Amazing Tomato Hornworm

My old nemesis the Tomato Hornworm is back! They certainly are an impressive creature!

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When the Five Spotted Hawk (Manduca quinquemaculata) moth finds a tomato plant, it will lay one or several eggs on the tomato plant. When the eggs hatch, the little caterpillar will eat its egg case and starts to eat like crazy! The caterpillar will molt several times until it becomes mature and ready to burrow in the ground and metamorphize into a chrysalis. By late spring the chrysalis will open and a new moth appears in late spring/early summer. Finally the cycle starts all over again.

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It is incredible how fast an almost mature caterpillar can strip a tomato plant. I recommend removing the worms by hand. Usually the creatures are found alone hiding amongst the damage. Beware, there color is a great camouflage! Check out the size of this critter!!

BTW, here is another indicator of their escapades. Giant worm poop!!!

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You have to admit, they are amazing!!!!!!

Papa

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Pest Control – Nature’s Way – the Braconid Wasp

You may have seen this phenomenon at one time or another. Little white cocoons on the back of a tomato hornworm. Those cocoons are from the larvae of the Braconid wasp.

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New adult Braconid wasps will emerge from those little cocoons!

Braconid wasp emerge

These amazing ladies and gents are only 1/8th inch long and rely on the caterpillars of many butterflies and moths to perpetuate the species. A fertile female wasp will use her ovipositor (egg laying lance) to lay eggs in the caterpillar of tomato hornworms and other destructive caterpillars.

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The life cycle continues over and over again causing destruction of the caterpillars and rewarding us with juicy tomatoes and undamaged plants!!!!

Papa