Green Gooey Caterpillars!

xica_da_silvaMay 22, 2011

Hi all,

Today, while watering my tomato plant, I found 3 large (about the size of my thumb) green, slimey, striped caterpillars with a red horn not unlike a unicorn's hanging from the branches. I'm assuming that they're baddy bads...ie. the culprits who are munching the leaves of my tomato plant? So I plucked them off and threw them into the trash bin. Also, something is laying little black seeds on the tops of the leaves...wonder what that's all about?

What surprised me was, the caterpillars seemed nonplussed by full sunlight and heat (it's already about 93 F here in CenPho), because they were all hanging from the highest branches. Is this the norm? Or should I also try to inspect the shady lower areas for these guys? They camouflage really well, don't they?! Sneaky critters!

Finally, I have some diatomaceous (sp?) earth I could try...are they immune to the stuff? Or should I just keep plucking them off? I don't like to use chemical pesticides on my food. :)

Any advice would be appreciated!

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haname(z9 AZ NE Phoenix)

These are tomato hornworms, pretty common and it's good to just hand pick them. I've read that they glow in the dark if you shine a blacklight on them at night. That would make it much easier to find them if true. Inspect the whole plant, also looking on the undersides of the leaves and check for smaller ones and the eggs which are small green globes. The black deposits are 'frass' (bug poo) from the caterpillars. As they get bigger sometimes the frass looks like pellets and can be greenish.

If you happen to see one that has some white cocoons on it, let that one remain because it is an incubator for parasitic wasps that help keep these under control.

Google natural control for tomato hornworm for other suggestions.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 5:12PM
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haname(z9 AZ NE Phoenix)

These are tomato hornworms, pretty common and it's good to just hand pick them. I've read that they glow in the dark if you shine a blacklight on them at night. That would make it much easier to find them if true. Inspect the whole plant, also looking on the undersides of the leaves and check for smaller ones and the eggs which are small green globes. The black deposits are 'frass' (bug poo) from the caterpillars. As they get bigger sometimes the frass looks like pellets and can be greenish.

If you happen to see one that has some white cocoons on it, let that one remain because it is an incubator for parasitic wasps that help keep these under control.

Google natural control for tomato hornworm for other suggestions.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 6:06PM
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mangledmind(AZ 9B)

BT works GREAT too ... found a bunch last year .. they ate our entire Habanero chili harvest to sticks, fruits and all .. then they moved to the bells and tomatoes, plucked for weeks, finally just sprayed BT and all was well ...

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 7:19PM
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xica_da_silva

Thanks for the advice, haname and mangled.

Just read a bit more about the parasitic wasps...how fascinating! Interestingly, the type of wasp that develops from the pupae is one of the few that help pollinate night-blooming flowers. So, if I see eggs, I won't interfere with the process. Unfortunately, right now my 'greenies' don't seem to have any wasp eggs, just slime. But I've heard there are some plants that attract these wasps...dill comes to mind. Maybe I'll purchase a few and plant them nearby.

Otherwise, I can try to BT if it gets a bit out of hand. I'll have to do a more thorough inspection soon. Just got 4 of my first juicy ripe tomatoes out of it...I'm willing to share a lot but NOT tomatoes! :)

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 10:41PM
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