HELP! Big green caterpillars are eating my tomato plants!

Tomato_problems(New Jersey)July 17, 2005

I went out to check my tomato plants and found two BIG all green horned caterpillars or worms eating me plants.The next day I found another one.They are all green, have a small horn on their heads and have segments.

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nctom(8 nc)

I see your new to the forum. Glad to have you. In the tomato forum ( not this one your in the tomato pest and disease forum) you can go to FAQ and gets lots of answers.You can also search by using key words in any forum. The info I'm posting came straight out of the FAQ'S.

In most cases you will only need to post your problem once give it a day or so for others to read.

Here goes

Tomato Hornworm - are 3-4" long green caterpillars with diagonal lines on sides, prominent horn on rear end. Eat foliage and may take bites out of green fruit. Tomato hornworms are the larvae of 2 large moths: the Hawkmoth and the Sphinx moth and overwinter in the soil in the pupal stage. Adult moths appear in late spring and lay single,
pearl colored eggs on the undersides of plant leaves that hatch in about a week. Larvae feed on foliage for about a month before they enter the soil and pupate. They can be difficult to spot as coloring matches plant. Look for them on the undersides of leaf-stripped branches. They can easily be hand-picked and destroyed or if infestation is severe, use Bt (Bacillius thuringiensis) dust. Braconid wasps will kill these caterpillars by implanting rice-like eggs on their backs and Trichogramma wasps parasitize the eggs.

The BT works best on the young ones. Pic what you see and squish.Available at Home Depot and Lowes.

Have fun.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2005 at 2:31PM
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Check a guy on this forum called tomato worm 59
Post on his thread he wants the little fellers.
I know he would like to hear from you.
Go to the tomatoes forum on the second page and look for the post that says
(Tomato worms still wanted)


    Bookmark   July 17, 2005 at 5:20PM
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I already saw this and want those big cats! Just e-mail me and I'll tell you how to send them.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2005 at 6:02PM
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Hello, I am trying to identify a 1/2 inch green worm with a very long red horn. Grandson brought it to me from the grape arbor. I took a really nice closeup picture but do not know how to link it to this site. I can email it in jig form if anyone would like to see it and maybe tell us if it's a good guy or a bad guy. Thank you.


    Bookmark   August 25, 2006 at 2:27PM
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I noticed a stripped stem just this afternoon, but it was the only one, and I had a hard time finding the culprit. After much searching, I just found one worm on my plant, but it had little white cocoons on it. I did some research, and the cocoons are from some wasp that will do the caterpillar in once they hatch. I posted a pic of it in the gallery. I love gardening, you learn something new every day!

Here is a link that might be useful: doomed tomato hornworm

    Bookmark   August 30, 2006 at 3:47PM
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dougs(z7 VA)

I had the thrill today to watch some wasps emerging from their cocoons on the back of my Hornworms. Remember: never pick infested Hornworms. They will do no more damage and you want to encourage the local wasp population by allowing the babies to complete their cycle and hunt down more Hornworms. I posted four wasp pictures today to my existing Hornworm gallery:
Doug Smith

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 4, 2006 at 9:05PM
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Cool pics, dougs! I've just found infested hornworms in the last week, and my kids & I have watched them closely--the neighborhood boys are fascinated!

    Bookmark   September 6, 2006 at 8:49AM
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Tomato Worm59 I have 2 of these big ones for you. Please contact ASAP me for shipping info. Man, they eat everything on the plants and they DO NOT have any wasp eggs.


    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 3:40AM
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Well I'd like to know what you can do to save a plant that has been TOTALLY stripped by a family of these monsters? Is there any hope for my tomatoe? or my pepper plants after an attack?

    Bookmark   August 29, 2007 at 7:24PM
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Tomato horn worms or cutworms? Anywho I noticed some defoliation last week and grabbed one off of the vine. Good stuff here, Thank you!

    Bookmark   August 31, 2007 at 7:39PM
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I found some this afternoon. (09/17) Wonder if that is why my tomatoes are big but green! It has been horrible weather here. I did find the white larvae on them that will soon be wasps. Maybe I will save them for when the Grandkids come if Tomato_Worm doesn't want them. Very intesting!

    Bookmark   September 17, 2007 at 4:18PM
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My tomato plants are done in by these green caterpillars so I've decided to let them continue their cycle. I do see small wasps around them but so far no eggs. What I want to know is the caterpillars are prolific poopers (my plants are in tubs so the poop lands on my patio) and my cat walks in it. Is their poop dangerous to my cat?

    Bookmark   August 5, 2009 at 1:08PM
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These things are gross ,ahhhhhh can;t Stand them florida has enough buggs I am not a bug lover they scare me .give me the demon max

    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 12:47PM
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Yes, the are tomato horn worms. They eat the tomato plants, and, if yours is still healthy, I do NOT suggest killing them, since all they are doing is what God sent them here to do. Wasps need them so they can lay their eggs. What you should do, is pick them up and throw them in the woods or wherever, that way the wasps can go to lay their eggs, and you'll be rid of them.

If you must kill them, (Heartless!) then go to Lowes. Lowes has bug killer, pretty cheap, and it will not hurt your plants.

Their poop will not hurt your cats. :)

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 7:30PM
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I found one on a pepper plant and one on a tomato plant which it ate a lot of already. I have removed them. Now why do I want wasps? I really want my tomatoes and my plants do not look good and are not producing much any more. I'm not sure if there is a connection to the worms and lack of production.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 10:35AM
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I saw 1 on my plant that I took off and eat 2 of my tomatoes. I put it in a bowl filled with battery acid. Animal cruelty? maybe, but it should have stuck to eating the leaves instead of the tomatoes!

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 5:10PM
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One night i saw that my red pepper plants were thriving, and then in the morning all the leaves and peppers were gone from the bush. the hornworms ate everything and i don't want to kill, but I want to remove it. And living in the desert makes that hard.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2011 at 11:38AM
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I did not realize these worms could eat my WHOLE tomato plants. Last week I picked 10 of them off and threw them out in the field(because I thought they would turn into pretty moths:/). I thought my plants looked a bit bare from my back window this morning... More of those worms are all over out there, and they ate every last leaf and took bites out of almost all my tomatoes. I am very sad...

    Bookmark   July 24, 2011 at 6:08PM
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Got five of them this morning, only got 1 tomato, but a bunch of leaves they were 3 inches in length, yuck, feed one to my Jack Dempsey fish, saving the rest for treats each day.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2011 at 7:18PM
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Man! Why would anyone want these? I found like 30 of them small and large on my plants. I didn't kill them as it is against my beliefs, but I threw them out of my large garden to find other homes. Wormguy if you want them, I will give you dozens as soon as I find more. Just contact me.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 4:32PM
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Okay guys, I have been offline since 07/06. Have moved around a bit too, and not so concerned with internet when full time farming, working a factory and later an office job.
Now, I'm back on a homestead farm, lots of pepper and tomato plants, wild nightshades of different kinds [weeds I refuse to kill]. Next year, I will have an acre of just tomatoes, along with some assorted peppers and eggplants, as well as 2 acres of squashes and gourds. I'm planting borders of datura and Mirabilis. The latter will be food for my beautiful white-lined sphinx. Viburnum, hydrangea, tons of blueberries and even catalpa [aka catawba] trees.

Come on hornworms of many species!!!!!

All are welcome on my own little U-pick and insect habitat farm, except you nasty cucumber beetles, squash bugs and potato beetles! Ha!

Ryan, this farm I help manage, is literally carved out of 65 acres of pristine, HARDWOOD forest, and also supports some unique fauna, including the southern flying squirrel and big pileated woodpecker. I am blown away by the presence of 7 species of giant silk moths [saturniids], but so far, the only sphingid has been the often maligned Manduca sexta [aka tobacco hornworm or Carolina sphinx].

No, the sexta is no enemy here. I never saw any, until the second week of July. By then, the old tomato plants were played out, rank and gnarled. I had planted 12 nice Celebrity bought from a local grocery store. I cannot let a hornworm finish on any of those, due to their size. Still only about 24". However, I still have a lot of pepper, groundcherry and eastern black nightshade for them to graze on, so Ryan, let's talk. In all, I only found 18 sextas.

3 died [virus/disease] and 2 more ran off [I did not have my sleeves to force them to transition to the groundcherry]. The lucky 13 are in pupa, in moist, sandy dirt in recycled ice cream tubs.
Yes, I will release the moths. Around here, there are fields of wild silver nightshade and Carolina horsenettle--their natural food. Any pupae formed after Sept. 1, will go in sealed bags of moist peat, and stay overwinter, in bottom drawer of my fridge. That's how it works.
You have already collected as many as 30! That's way more than I ever got. By all means, e-mail me!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 6:18PM
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Well...lots of opinions here about solutions to these yucky lookin' eating machines! Sure its cool that the wasp target them and, in time...will kill them! BUT...the fact of the matter the time you wait on the wasp...your tomatoe plants will be history! For peat sake...simply do what all the ladies that I know around here do...put those dudes on the ground...and step on them and crush them into the dirt! At least then...maybe you'll still have your plant and get some fruits..but you'll have the satifaction that you took care of your enemies too, ha! Seems most of you ladies naturally like to crush critters under your feet dudes should be no exception...stomp away! Lucky for me, my neighbor girls like to come by every two or three days and get some goodies from the garden..and in turn they hunt down every tomato worm they can find..and see who can step on the a competition, ha! teenage gals are a hoot, and a big help too!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 12:11AM
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Lookie here.....I knew my tomato plants were not happy about something but when i planted a new baby one and got decimated overnite i decided to spring into action. OK so i don;t have a lot of tomatoes left, but it's towards the end of the season and now i have these juicy, fat greedy caterpillars - picture attached! They should start burying themselves soon i think... I HOPE!! Anyone wants them, you can email me. Plus i had cocoons all over the leaves of the plants - what is that all about? I thought these guys like to bury in the dirt bellow the tomato plants...? Hmmm...

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 8:40PM
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Yes the green hard to see caterpillars i think are the most common and have damaged my tomato plants a little bit before i caught them. You have to look at every inch of your plant thorougly because they can hide anywere and not be seen. I found a little green worm under my pepper plants leaf one time (not sure what it was) but havent seen them since. I just recently started seeing my tomato plants stems turn hollow so i looked it up and there is a different type of caterpillar that will make entry into the stem of your tomato plant and will eat it from the inside. I had to throw my plant away because it was completely hollow and dead. I also had a watermelon plant which did really good until it started getting infested with melon aphids on the backside of the leaves. I heard that lady bugs are really beneficial for your garden and they say an adult lady bug will eat up to 5000 aphids in its lifetime. I will try this method and will post how it works but i seen someone post about wasps helping with problems in their garden and would like to know more about how the wasps work.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2013 at 11:46AM
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When we get those big green devils, I can actually hear them when I go in the garden! They curl back their ugly head & neck at me when I find them..... I either take a can of kerosene & a stick & knock them into the can or take them to the chickens... they love to eat them! For some reason we haven't seen any for the past two years in the garden .... haven't missed them either!

    Bookmark   August 9, 2013 at 8:18PM
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I just found a few on a plant that I don't have use for anyway so ill let them stay. Many kids are excited to see them in my `hood.

As long as they leave my milkweed and butterflies alone I don't care what they do.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 2:10PM
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Tomato_Worm59⦠what is your email? When I go to your profile and click to email you, it keeps asking me to log in⦠which I keep doing⦠I also have a ton of these fat hornworms tearing up my tomatoes and I'd like to send them your way if you still want them. Otherwise, they are going in my compost or being fed to my chickens :)

You can also email me at amanda at amandacausey dot com

    Bookmark   May 28, 2014 at 1:23PM
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