Raising Tomato Hornworm

dlguyerAugust 19, 2009

I found a tomato hornworm eating my tomatoes in my garden. It is about 3-4" long. I would really like to try to raise it so that my kids can watch it grow. Can you please tell me how to do this? I really need to know ground up info as I know nothing about them.

I have read that I need 3-4" of dirt in the bottom of his "cage".

-Does the "cage" need a lid on it if no plants are reaching out of the top?

-Does it need water to drink or just spray the leaves with water or just eat leaves?

-How long does it take for them to become a moth?

-We are in Indiana, will they wait until spring to become moths or still go sometime this summer?

-He is pooping a lot! Do you clean that out of the "cage" or leave it?

I've only read a little bit about him on other sites, so sorry if some of these questions seem silly! :) Thank you, my kids are VERY excited about trying to keep him.


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todancewithwolves(Z9 CA)

Your questions are not silly. They are so much fun to raise. You will be surprised as they become beautiful moths (I think).

Feed them tomato leaves in a container with approx 4" to 5" of dirt. When it gets ready to finish being a caterpillar it will bury itself in the dirt. Keep in the garage all winter in a safe place. Take out come spring. As the weather warms it will emerge.

The poop is called frass. It should be cleaned up as much as possible. Give fresh leaves daily. No need to give water or spray.

I added pictures to give you ideas of what to expect.


It's the dark brown cocoon.

Sorry, I don't have a picture of the moth but they are really big and beautiful.


    Bookmark   August 19, 2009 at 11:47PM
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Thank you so much for the information! A few more questions...

-I have read somewhere about there sometimes being two generations of moths in a summer. Is it too late for these to be a first generation do you think? Im just wondering if it might be possible if this guy will be a moth before this summer ends.

-Will they crawl up the sides of a plastic box? I have a great container for them but not sure what to cover it with. I want him to have enough air but not to get out.

-Will they eat anything besides tomato leaves?

Thanks again! My kids are so excited about having him. :)

    Bookmark   August 20, 2009 at 10:03AM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

Whomever put that pic on the web messed up. That is a tobacco hornworm. It does eat tomato leaves, just like a tomato hornworm. Both eat members of the nightshade family, such as ground cherry and horse-nettle. If you have a tobacco hornworm, some pet stores sell a processed food for them (I don't know whether tomato hornworms will eat it).

Decent chance the cat will crawl up the sides and out when it is ready to pupate so I would have something over the top. Don't worry too much about them having enough air. If you are changing the leaves once a day, the cat will have enough oxygen.

Since you live in Indiana, I'd say there is no way you will have a moth this year (unless you overwinter it inside, then anything is possible).

Trying to find a pic of a tomato hornworm was more challenging that I thought it would be. One of the Wikipedia pics is actually a rustic sphinx.

Here is a link that might be useful: Five-spotted hawkmoth AKA tomato hornworm

    Bookmark   August 20, 2009 at 11:59AM
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