Making finicky caterpillars eat

TomatoWorm59August 13, 2011

I had rescued a number of tobacco hornworms recently, from some old, played-out tomato plants. in all, I ended up with 18, but two got sick and died. 7 finished in due time and went into the dirt, but despite giving them fresh pepper and other solanaceous plants, they refused to feed. Good grief!

I took the remainder outside and placed strategically on my growing tomatoes and peppers. The 5 on the young tomato plants, just had to be switched to a different plant every 2 days, but when I brought them inside [they're almost ready], they again refused even cut tomato leaves in water to keep fresh! I finally took one large pillow cover [the kind with a zipper] and rounded up all 8 of my remaining hornworms. Some had just ran off. I placed them on a single, dense pepper plant, slipped over the pillow cover and zipped up all the way to the stem to secure it.

Okay....those cats have NO choice but to eat pepper leaves or go hungry. They chose the former. Three of them are now ready for the dirt. The rest will follow within 3 days.

the bag still lets in some light, breathes well, but best of all, protects cats from the tiniest of parasitic wasps as well as birds and predatory insects.

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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

Force feeding Hornworms!! Better not post this on the OK forum. LOL!!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 11:05PM
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susanlynne48(OKC7a)

That's no kidding, Sandy! I think TW already got a pretty good lashing over there!

TW - I've never experienced food refusal, so don't know what to think of that. Of course, I've never raised that many at one time either.

Good luck with pupation. Some may overwinter as pupae and emerge next spring.

Susan

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 8:31AM
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TomatoWorm59

Shoot! Next year, I can guarantee not only 20x more tomatoes and peppers, but will have eggplants, Daturas and even real tobacco in abundance, along with a border of four o' clocks. If I don't find at least 100 or more worms next year, I'm just not doing it right. LOL! The four o' clocks are for the white-lined sphinx.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 10:53AM
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bananasinohio(6OH)

Haha! Yes, I can't tell you how many people come into the butterfly house, look at Tobacco Hornworms, and tell me how they squish them, or were paid by parents, grandparents, etc. to squish them.

Your love of them is infectious!
Cheers,
Elisabeth

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 11:29AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I'm so glad to hear there's somebody out there who loves those tomato/pepper plant eaters!
Good luck in your efforts!
Sherry

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 1:02PM
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TomatoWorm59

It's too bad out of fear and ignorance, so many insects are needlessly destroyed. I can see controlling hornworms that get too populous on a few tomato plants, but as so many true moth enthusiasts know, no one or even half dozen big hornworms are going ot flat-out KILL an established tomato plant. Furthermore, by eating away excess foliage, they do prompt the plant to express more fruit.

So what if catalpa hornworms are numerous enough to defoliate that tree? It does not kill it. Leaves will grow the next year. Spraying to kill them, not only poisons wildlife, but upsets nature's balance, as this sphingid was MEANT to be en masse, in order to feed wildlife. They are valuable fish bait and treats for chickens, softbilled cage birds and of course reptiles and amphibians kept as pets.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 2:33AM
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