Arrrrrrrrrrrrgh!!!!!!!!My very first and second tomato hornworms!

sweet-tomato(9)August 23, 2011


This morning I noticed black droppings on tom leaves.

And then I found chewed off no leave stems.

And then, I found those! AWWWWWE !

I picked them off with my disposable chopsticks... Arggh!!

I gave the hornworms to illegal backyard chickens my neighbor's next door... is that ok?

I feel traumatized.

I need a hug :(


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

They're just so darn big. Seems like they should be a warm blooded animal! I think giving them to the chickens was a good choice. I havent seen any this year yet, she said knocking on wood. I think it may be due to the nesting Blue Jays which earlier wrecked havoc on my first maters. Maybe they have decided they like the hornworms better? Linda

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 1:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Oh, you poor thing! *hugs sympathetically* Does that feel better?

You found some real monsters! Technically speaking, they're the more common tobacco hornworms (straight lines on sides, red horn) as opposed to the true tomato hornworms (white chevrons on sides, non-red horn). But most people call them all "tomato hornworms."

You're not the first to feed them to chickens -- or the first to remove them with chopsticks.

If you ever see a hornworm covered with little white cocoons like this:
be sure to leave the hornworm in place on your plant (at least until the wasps leave the cocoons -- you'll notice holes on the tops of the cocoons). By the time the cocoons are formed, the hornworm is no longer capable of eating, so cannot further damage your plant.

I have 17 plants and am now up to 6 hornworms this year (not bad for my garden). The sixth had been parasitized. Go, wasps!

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 1:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
wertach zone 7-B SC

A friend found a hornworm covered with little white cocoons. He cut the leaf off and put it in a jar with holes in the lid. He kept it fed with leaves until it stopped eating. Then took the lid off so the wasps could escape.

That thing got huge!

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 2:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for the hug,missingtheovious! :D feeling much better! hehe...

I have a question, guys!

So I leave the worm alone if I see wasp eggs on their body. right?

Is that wasp gonna be dangerous?
(if it's called wasp...... Argh!!!!)


Is this freaky thing staring at me? :(

Is that his eye?

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 2:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
zzackey(8b GA)

The wasp is not dangerous. From the pictures I've seen it is tiny in size like a bee. It is more interested in stinging the caterpillar than you. Please check daily for the horn worms. I missed a few days and my tomatoes are almost destroyed. I've killed 16 so far. It looks like you might have a spider mite problem also. The leaves have that look. Do you have a 10x magnifying lens to look at the under side of the leaves with? They are hard to see otherwise. I could see them years ago when I had better vision. They look like red dots.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 7:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi, Zackey. Thanks for your input.

Is spider mite dangerous? Do they destroy the tom plants?

I am really scared to know that I might find more hornworms from now...

Where are they from???? Can I make them not come to my garden? :(

Oh, they are really ugly and they scare me :((

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 11:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

The parasitic wasps that are responsible for those cocoons are tiny. You'll not even recognize them as wasps. Remember, fully grown adults will emerge from those itsy cocoons. Not even close to the size of a bee, or a house fly. They can't-won't-don't sting with their little ovipositors, just lay eggs into caterpillars. Their grubs are so tiny that dozens of them can take up housekeeping inside the body of the hapless hornworm.

Your hornworm (it's the tobacco hornworm that has the red horn...tomato hornworms have black horns) are not harmful at all to no need to be afraid. As a matter of fact, they are rather soft and smooth to the touch.

Those 'eyespots' aren't eyes at all, just fake eyes to make them look scarier. I guess it works, right? The head of your caterpillar is that smooth, round disc shaped thing under those 'eyes'.

Click on the attached link. It's a picture of your caterpillar at the right angle to see that little smooth head. If you look closely, you can see the teensy pin point eyes on that head.

I always toss any that I find out to the birds that usually follow me all over the place in the garden.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 24, 2011 at 10:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks, rhizo!

In the picture of yours the hornworm kinda look cute :D

But I can never ever touch them with my bare hand! Argh!!!

Since you said the wasp on the worm won't be scary, if I see hornworm with those eggs, I will let leave them alone. :D

Thanks for your advice!!!!!

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 12:03AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Found 2 smaller hornworms this morning, gave it to chickens next door.

Still scary and they released some body fluid when I tried to pull... yuk!

They really bother me. :-(

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 10:44AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Ha! You'd release some body fluids, too, if some giant monster pulled YOU away from your supper, lol.

Seriously, I totally 'get' not liking these things. A lot of people are squeamish or timid when it comes to insects or other such animals. Knowing that these can't hurt you should be a little comforting, right? And I'll bet that when next year comes around, you'll find that you aren't quite so bothered by them.

Now, I can show you another harmless caterpillar, if you like...only this one will have you running down the street screaming. But I won't show you unless you want me to.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 12:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

rhizo! Go ahead!

Is that caterpillar has million horns around them and has fake eyes staring at me? :^O Argh!!!!!!

Hairy caterpillars give me chills down to my spine. :-(

So excited to see what you are going to show me!

And I also really hope I get little used to deal with this weird creature in my next season. :D

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 1:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 1:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


wertach, That orange color and hairy spikes sure give me chills!!

It looks like it will poke you and hurt you :-(

Ouch!!!! It might bite too! Arrrrgh!!!

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 3:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

ohhhhh, I cant open the scary caterpillar picture. =( Sweet Tomato, I use tongs in the garden to pull those tomato hornworms off so I dont have to touch them. Creep me out too! Keep a special pair of tongs just for them! LInda

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 4:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I brought one of these beauties into a class I was teaching one evening and I couldn't get ANYbody to hold it. No bribes, no promise of an A in the class, nothing coaxed those adult he-man types to touch this awesome guy. It was close to 5 inches long.

I thought of this one for you, because it's something you might actually see on a walk in the woods this late summer or fall. It's called the Hickory Horned Devil, and is totally harmless. The adult is the very, very beautiful Regal Moth....look it up.

wertach's caterpillar is that of the gorgeous Gulf Fritillary butterfly.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 4:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Howdy all! Just joined by suggestion of a gardening friend! Glad I did as, I will probably be spending alot of hours reading here! I am in SW Missouri and raise a med.size garden every year! And those darn hornworms show up every season! I try my best to stay as natural and use the least amount of chemicals as I can....usually only some miricle grow..or expert grow about every week or ten days! This garden is a late one and planted in mid june simply due to my heavy work schedule! My tomatoes are gorgeous right now! 3-5ft. plants! and with that the worms have shown up the past couple of weeks! neighbor girls(good ol' country kids) come over every 2 or 3 days to help theirselves to some goodies..and while in the garden, they go through the tomatoes plants and pick off every worm they find and kill them for me! they say they are fun to squish under their flip-flops, ha! Works for me..stomp away ladies! But the ones that they miss...usually get found by the little wasp..thank goodness!

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 5:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
zzackey(8b GA)

Spider mites are damaging. I'd ask at the garden store (take a leaf in with you of each plant to be sure that's what it is)what is safe to spray on food crops. Try to stay away ffrom chemicals. They scare me! You will get kinda used to the caterpillars. They give me the willys too. Just think what your poor tomato plants would look like if you didn't remove them. I read if you till the soil 3 weeks before you plant it will destroy the hornworms in the pupae state that overwinter in the soil.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 6:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi, Linda!

Using tongs is a great idea too!

I used pair of chopsticks and OMG I could feel that thing through tip of chopsticks! lol


Argh!! You got me! That thing is HUGE! and the weird horn on their head! Argh!!! Of course, no one wants to touch that!!! :-O

I can kinda see where the regal moth's nice color is from. (the caterpillar's horn!)

Hi, Pianotony!

Welcome to this forum :D

I am new here too and to the gardening and I really really enjoy this forum and learned a lot!!!

See you around! (You are lucky to have kids like that around to help you out! :D )

Hi, zackey!

I should fine out if that web is spider mite's sooner than I thought since it could be damaging! Thanks :)

I have safer brand insecticidal soap on hands I hope it is considered safe since I have already used it couple of times on my other veggies!

Oh! also.. My tomatoes are on raised garden bed! :-( how could hornworms got there? :-( If they didn't come from the soil under.. maybe adult moth laid eggs on my toms directly?? Argh!!! I will see more of them then! may be hundreds???? Argh!!!

Oh, my... I'm so worried. :^(

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 7:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

After the scary-but-harmless caterpillar photos, I'm going to link to a cute one: the puss moth caterpillar.

I saw one a couple of years ago on a daylily leaf just a few feet from my house. There's a lilac nearby; they like to feed on shrubs.

Luckily I had my pockets and both hands full of seed pods from various daylilies (and was trying not to forget which seeds were from which daylilies), or I might have tried to pet it. And there was a small voice inside my head that told me that was a bad idea. Scroll down to see it in all its fuzzy white glory:

The white coloring is less common; they also come in grey, taupe, brown, yellow, and pale orange. This type always makes me think of 1950s rock singers (male) with curly pompadour hairdos:

Well, it could be worse: there are copperheads around here; at least I haven't found any of them in my backyard!

Photos of other dangerous caterpillars (unfortunately not always describing where they are found):

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 10:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Sweet-tomato...yes, the adult moth lays her eggs directly on the tomato leaf. It's a beautiful, big moth, often called a "Hawk Moth" or "Sphinx Moth" along with several others that come from a wide variety of hornworm caterpillars.

The life cycle of moths and butterflys are: the adult female moth or butterfly lays eggs on the host plant of choice (tobacco and tomato hornworm adults only deposit eggs on members of the Solonaceae family)...the eggs hatch and a tiny caterpillar emerges, which first devours it's egg then begins on our plants....the caterpillar proceeds to eat and grow, eat and grow, shedding its skin several times to accommodate its enormous growth....when it reaches a certain size, it looks for a place to pupate. Moths will often create a cocoon of some kind and butterflies form what is called a chrysalis. Inside those little protective cases the caterpillars turn into adults.

Your hornworms will pupate and over winter in the soil.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 11:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


Thank you! That is one cute caterpillar! They are really reall hairy! :D

Is that a real hair like dogs' ?

Wow. :-D


I see. So I really need to sterilize my garden bed for next season! Thanks!!! :D

I guess I am going to see more worms then I hoped :-(

Thanks for your help!

    Bookmark   August 26, 2011 at 12:00AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Sterilize your garden?? Never. Talk about doing more harm than good. Best thing you can do regarding next year is to keep your eyes peeled for those little eggs. Inspect your plants every once in a while. Learn what the hornworm eggs look like and get rid of them before they hatch.

Don't remove ladybug eggs.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2011 at 12:36AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
topping off tomato plants?
My heirloom tomato plants are usually tall and robust...
Fourth of July ....
Fourth of July is my favorite day. How about a tomato...
Seysonn_ 7b-WA/HZ1
Supermarket Tomatoes Plants II
Here we go again. I have started 8 more seedlings for...
Row Covers for Frost Protection on early tomatoes?
I'm in southeast Ohio and I'm wanting to plant tomatoes...
Is any one growing Delicious?
Is any one growing Delicious?
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™