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Tomato Horn Worms

Posted by kek19 5b-Michigan (My Page) on
Tue, Jul 3, 07 at 21:43

Talk about a good day for eggs...I think I just picked off about 200 tomato horn worms, and eggs. I'm seeing these guys a foe, not a friend though. From what I hear they do some serious damage to tomato plants. (my first year w/ tomatos)

Do they go after the fruit or just the leaves? I'd like to know how avid I need to be with picking of these cats. Is this the best way to fight them w/o poisons? I have a lot of Queen Anne's Lace around my tomato garden. I know, it seems hypicritical to want one cat and get rid of another. But the monarchs and bst's aren't climbing all over my food!

I didn't kill them, just picked off the leaves they were on and put them in a bucket. I might keep one or two, just for the expirience of raising them, seeing them go thru their stages. We'll see. The cat. ID site says they can grow up to 6 in long, is that true?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

They are fun to raise.
They need several inches of dirt in the bottom of the container for when they are ready to pupate. They go down into the ground.
The hook on the pupa case is where the proboscis is formed.
Connie


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

Send them to me :-) I'll give them a good home. I always plant extra tomatoes in hopes I'll attract them. The moths are really beautiful.

Edna


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

I love 'em too! My neighbor grows tomatoes and she brings me ALL of her Hornworms. I give her cups to keep on hand for when she finds the cats. :) I always think of it as a 'present' when I see the cup on my doorstep. Google Hummingbird moth or Sphinx moth to see what these beauties can become. :) They are diurnal.


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

Ya don't wanna talk about destroying these beautiful larval stage of the Manduca quinquemaculata on this forum, cuz a lot of us love and raise them. They are great pollinators of flowers that other insects cannot reach.

Here's a photo of one of my cats last year. I grow tomatoes and daturas just for them. If you plant a bunch of daturas next year, you can use them as an alternate host. You may also attract Manduca sexta as well.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Scroll down the page on the link to the info on both Manduca Sexta and M. quinquemaculata and you'll see both similarities and differing characteristics of both. For instance, M. Sexta has a red horn, and M. quinquemaculata has a black horn. Actually, they both eat plants in the solonaceae family, which includes tomatoes, potatoes, petunias, egg plant, and many others.

Susan

Here is a link that might be useful: Sphinx moth photos (Bill Oehlke)


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

  • Posted by kek19 5b-Michigan (My Page) on
    Wed, Jul 4, 07 at 20:32

I didn't destroy any, just picked them off, leaf and all. Do they go after the tomatoes too, or just the leaves? Cause if it's just the leaves, that wouldn't really bother me. Someone told me the crawled into the fruit and ate that as well.

I also have some datura planted, they haven't gotten to them yet. I hope they don't, the plants are really small yet, 2 only have 3 leaves!


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

I've been growing extra tomatoes for the last few years, just in hopes of getting some hornworms. But the last hornworm I did see was hit by a parasitic wasp, a few years ago :(


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

They will eat the tomatos if lacking foliage for food, I'm told. Mine never made it to the tomatos because I put them in a container and raised them on the leaves.

Tracy, these big moth caterpillars are highly susceptible to predation. I try to collect them in 1st instar to avoid predation, but I had one Nessus sphinx cat this year, that was parasitized despite my best efforts. Last year, I had no parasitized cats (perhaps because we were in a drought, so fewer predators?), but this year, I've already had one, and the moth season is just starting.

Susan


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

  • Posted by kek19 5b-Michigan (My Page) on
    Thu, Jul 5, 07 at 10:59

Man, I have so many, what's USDA regulations on these guys crossing state lines. I'll start mailing eggs!! LOL. I don't have a cage big enough, or enough smaller containers to keep them all.


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

I have about 60 tomato horned worms that are ready to pupate. I have been unable to find much on the internet but I put them in pans with soil and mulch and they buried themselves. I have them in my basement in the dark. It averages about 65-70 degrees. Will they emerge this year or will they emerge next spring if they dont die. These guys started out as feeder insects and I as I research them I became more interested in watching them progress through the stages. I haven't found if they are native to Nevada so I don't know if they could be released when they become moths. Any ideas? Thanks, Kat


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

  • Posted by kek19 5b-Michigan (My Page) on
    Fri, Jul 6, 07 at 10:59

I looked it up for ya, Yes they are native to Nevada.


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

Kat - 60 of them? Wow, that is a bumper crop. Also put some sticks in the containers (stand them up) for the moths to climb on to dry their wings. I use sturdy twigs or wooden skewers. Otherwise, their wings will be deformed in the process of pumping fluid into them and drying.

They usually emerge at night from their cocoons, sometimes early morning. It takes awhile for them to be ready to fly, and since it will be daytime while they are drying and pumping their wings, you will have an opportunity to photograph them. These are night flying moths.

Susan


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

I am going to confess my vanity in thinking of myself as an expert egg and caterpillar finder. However, I feel absolute humility when it comes to Tomato Hornworm cats. I can find big ones on my six little plants (peppers and tomatoes) after watching so carefully every day for earlier stages. I have the plants in pots on a big glass table and I keep the glass clean so I can watch for frass. Even so, I still get fooled and lose leaves and fruits. Darn!!!!!!!!


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

I usually look for what appears to be a "scratched" area on the leaf first. Then look underneath the leaf and usually can find the baby which is about 1/2" to 1" long with a horn that appears oversized for that tiny little caterpillar body.

Remember the one MissSherry found that was white? It was newly hatched and had not consumed any food yet. As Bill Oehlke says, they are fun to watch as the consume their first meal, and the green chomped foliage moves through the white body turning it green!

Susan


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

I found 2 4-5" cats on my maters this weekend.
I cat-apulted them (pun intended) over the fence into my neighbor's yard. If anyone would like to raise any others I find, just let me know. Not sure how difficult they are to ship, but I'm in Sacramento.


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

katgargoyle,
is it possible to tell me how successful you have been with maintaining the pupae of Manduca quinquemaculata (changed Temperature, humidity, light conditions...) How did you break the diapause, in case you wanted to have eclosion still this summer? I am very interested in this since i have a few pupae of the tomato hornworm and i am very anxious about them. I want to study them and therefore i just hope that they hatch. Few pupae look already bad, the pupae are at 77F and 50% humidity.


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

Henne - I've raised several of them, as have many people on the forum. If the moths haven't been parasitized, you should have very good luck when they eclose. Watch your container closely - especially in the mornings. That's when I usually find them drying their wings, and that's a good time to photograph them as well. They are night-flying moths, so they'll probably be lethargic most of the daytime hours. I usually release them at dusk.

I'm sure you'll get some hatchlings. Maybe 1 or 2 (depending on how many you have) won't eclose, but, like I said, aside from predation of some sort affecting what emerges from your cocoons, you should have very good luck.

What season is it in Germany right now? If it's winter, they won't emerge until the weather warms up (nights in the 60s, days in the 70s). If you have them indoors, and it's winter, get them outside or they will emerge to early to survive. They need to stay cold (in diapause) until conditions improve.

If it's late summer there, they may overwinter. I would still leave them outside, because I've had some late caterpillars form cocoons and emerge before cold weather sets in, and some that stay in their cocoons, in diapause, until the next spring.

Last year, I kept several cocoons in a container, with shredded paper towels, in the vegetable crisper in the fridge. I took them out once a month and gave them a cool water bath, with water the same temp as the crisper (I kept a bowl of water in a plastic lidded container in the crisper as well). When the weather started to warm up, I took them outside, put them in a tall container, put some 10-12" sticks in the container, and eventually they all successfully eclosed.

Susan


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

  • Posted by kek19 5b-Michigan (My Page) on
    Wed, Jul 18, 07 at 11:57

It's funny this thread came back up. I just declared these guys the enemy! I took a few indoors, and left a few on the plants (I have 10 toms). Over the past few days I noticed the tops of the plants browning. It confused me cause we just finally got some much needed rain. I went out to trim off the brown last night, just letting the cuttings fall, but I didn't quite cut thru one so I grabbed it to yank it, well it squished!! YUCK! Yeppers a 4" Tob. worm. I started looking at all the brown branches I cut, every one of them had one on it. I started chucking the branches out in the yard. After that, I just looked for the dying leaves, and there was another. So they are killing off the tops of my tomato plants! If it was just a little, I wouldn't mind, but it's a lot. I do have some small toms in pots, trying to learn how to root from cuttings. I gave those to some of them.


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

thank you susannlynne for your fast answer.

I got the pupae from the semi desert in Utah near Salt Lake city. The larvae were pupating and soon after they were shipped via air mail to our institute in Germany, http://www.ice.mpg.de/main/home/home_en.htm. Each day i check for the pupae more of them become shriveled and soft. Could it be that the strong humidity change, 2% in Utah and 30%-50% in our growth chamber, is the cause for this dying of our pupae, maybe the shipping itself harmed them? As far as i know, it has been a very elusive task to establish a continuous breeding of the tomato hornworm, e.g. successful mating and oviposition. However, we want to answer a few questions about insect physiology and performance and we need the larvae of this species.

Now my request: Is there somebody who could promote our scientific effort and provide us with eggs of Manduca quinquemaculata? If there are questions about the seriousness of this request; please check the web page mentioned above, our institute profile. For delivery, the institute's FEDex number will be provided, no payment for the shipper, and a notification will be send for the German customs to forward those eggs.

If there is somebody who is willing to help a scientific endeavour, please answer this comment or email to hwuensche@ice.mpg.de

Greetings

Here is a link that might be useful: MPI of CE Jena


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

It could be some kind of disease, predation, or it could be that that the humidity is too high. Can you put 2 or 3 in another location with less humidity? I have not overwintered the manducas, just the hemaris species. But, I would imagine they are very similar. On one hand, you don't want the cocoons to dessicate, but on the other hand, too much water or humidity may cause them to deteriorate as well. So, it's kind of a "balance" between the two. Leaving them outdoors in their natural element, or keeping them in a cool fridge, as I mentioned in earlier in this thread, to prevent emerging at the wrong time, will usually solve the problem.

Are Manduca quinquemaculata native to your country? Even if we wanted, we are not able to send eggs or larvae overseas; too many legalities to overcome. We are just hobbyists on this forum. Perhaps you should contact one of the Universities in the US to find out if it is possible for them to work something out with you and your institute?

We can help answer questions based on practical experience raising these moths, but other than that our hands are tied.

I wish you much success in your endeavors.

Susan


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How can I raise tomato hornworms?

Aloha,
Found two beautiful tomato hornworms on my dying tomato plants. I want to raise the worms but I have never done it before. Where do I start? how do I do it? right now, they are feasting on one of my non-producing plants. What else could I feed them? could I buy leaves somewhere for them or should I let them eat all the plants. They are about 3 inches long. How can I tell when they are ready to pupate?

Thanks.


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

They should eat almost anything in the solonaceae family, Corenam. This includes daturas, brugmansias, nicotianas, petunias, peppers, eggplant, and potatoe foliage. You could start a potatoe in a glass of water (stick toothpicks in the side to hold it up in the water) and grow foliage for them, but you'd need something to keep them going for now. Watch plants that you purchase at nurseries because they may be sprayed or doused with systemic pesticides.

I raise mine in a shoe box (clear) or a tall plastic pretzel container, or about anything I can find handy that is deep enough to hold about 3-4" of soil as well. I use potting soil because it's been sterilized and is fluffy enough for them to get down into and pupate and easy for them to emerge.

Where are you located? That would help in knowing whether your caterpillars will overwinter as pupae or emerge this summer.

These cats can eat a ton of foliage, so feed them daily, sometimes twice a day. Just check to make sure they have food available.

I also put sticks (twigs, skewers, whatever you can find) in the cage after they have pupated, so they can climb up on them to dry their wings.

Hope this helps.

Susan


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

I have a few hornworms too. I was pretty freaked when I first noticed it as it was eating my pepper plants and I almost pulled it right off thinking it was a jalapeno! I'm just letting them do their thing, although I did move them to the tomato plants because those are much bigger than my peppers.
I am still not convinced on raising caterpillars, I like to let them do their thing in my garden, I provide the plants and free rent. besides...how do you guys keep your containers clean without constant changing?
Susan- I think your tall plastic pretzel container is a good idea, if I change my mind I may get some like it at the dollar store. My hornworms are the ones with the reddish-orange horn.
they are kinda cute and scary looking at the same time.
Firegurl
Danielle


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

Danielle - you have the tobacco hornworm, then. They have the reddish horns. Tomato hornworms have black horns. There are other differences between the two also, as larvae and as adults.

I put a paper towel down in the bottom of my cages and just take out the old one and put in a new one. I put my tomato cutting in a cup of water covered with saran wrap. And did you know, your tomato cutting will root and you can plant it for another tomato plant? They root very quickly. As the cats get into the late instars where they are about 4" long, I put about 3-4" of potting soil in the bottom because the sphinx moth caterpillars bury themselves in the soil to form their cocoons. I leave a few sticks from the yard or skewers, whatever you choose, in the container, so that when they emerge they have something to climb onto to dry and pump fluid into their wings. Otherwise, the wings will not inflate and they will be crumpled, and the moth will not be able to fly.

Danielle, just the fact that care enough to allow the hornworms "their territory" in your garden, is a good thing you're doing. These are the best pollinators of many plants, and they have great value in the garden. You are to be commended.

Susan


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

yes, the tobbaco hornworm is them alright. I checked online. Thanks for the info Susan. I haven't seen them in a few days. Maybe they have already cocooned. They were around 4" long last time I saw them. I don't mind them in the garden I just don't have the time to care for them this summer. It's so hot here, they are better off on the plants I think. Has anyone ever been invaded?? I don't mind as long as they don't "bring in the troops" like those tent caterpillars do.

:) Danielle
Firegurl


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

Danielle,

I used to have many more tabacco hornworms in my veggie garden. Then we had a pair of cardinals move in and I've seen them searching through the tomato plants, I assume looking for hornworms.

In the past few years I haven't seen any. Although last year I found an adult moth.

This year the cardinals have been frequenting my Kwazaan Cherry tree. This is where I let loose about half of my cecropia caterpillar brood. I think the cardinals must love the big caterpillars.

Maryann


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

  • Posted by rjinga middle ga, zone 8 (My Page) on
    Wed, Aug 29, 07 at 19:20

I'm intrigued that you all find these "creatures" enjoyable to have on your plants...I have 2 potted pepper plants that I've been watering and watching EVERY day...except today...I went out and one entire plant is literally stripped clean...It looks like Edward scissor hands got ahold of it...then I started searching my tomatoe plants and another COMPLETELY BARE OF IT'S LEAVES, in one day. I'm not going to tell you what I did with them. And to find out how to keep them away, I guess I will have to search another forum. very frustrating to say the least. I had big beautiful lush peppers (full of flowers) just wonderful and now I have a pile of green poop pellets. Let's suffice it to say I'm NOT A FAN.


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Tobacco Hornworms and Orange dog

Well, I live next door to my grandparents and my grandfather has a garden with all sorts of good stuff including tomato and pepper plants.

He despises any animal that would hurt his plants so I have been trying to find them before he does.

I found an orange dog on my Abaco Lemon tree so I will keep that one outside on the tree and check it ever day.

As for the tomato hornworms, I found 2. One is about half an inch long and looks like it has hair with little white tips on them in a very uniform pattern all over it's body (I am assuming it is not any type of parasite). The second one is much larger, about 2 and a half inches and is very beautiful with the seven stripes and the cute little horn.

My question is how can I keep these little fellas alive so I can see them flourish into something even more amazing? Is there a website you can link me to? If not I would greatly appreciate some tips and general info about raising them.

Thanks so much!
Jessica


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

Jessica,

Are you sure you have tomato hornworms? Tobacco and tomato hornworms both eat tomato leaves. If you figure out you have tobacco hornworms, some pet stores now sell them and food for them. Google "goliath hornworm chow" and you will find some sites about raising them.

KC


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

Ah Kcclark, I mixed up the names!

I really do have two tobacco hornworms. I searched and searched for how to keep them alive and I now have them in their pupal state in soil in my 5 gallon bottle. I cut it in half so I can use it as a "tank" for them.

I believe the older one has been in the soil for 3 weeks now and the younger one just pre-pupated about a week ago.

Hopefully I'm doing well with them. I have soil and sticks inside so they can climb on them so they have something to hold on to when they morph.

Also, I used seran wrap with a big rubber band on top and poked a bunch of holes in it so the soil can breath.

:D


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

It's kind of funny, I don't eat tomatoes but I plant them for the 'worms! My dad,who loves tomatoes has his vines infested with hornworms. I brought them over to my place and within a week they were gone, I hope they are in the ground. The funny thing is my dad sprays all kinds of chemicals and I don't, he has hornworms and I don't!
Go figure-is that the difference between an organic and a "kill it all" attitude? They've got no enemies at his place and I'm sure they do at mine ;-)
-B


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

B - I plant them for the hornworms, too! That's too funny! I do eat the tomatoes if any are produced, but I'd much rather have the sphinx moth caterpillars. They are the only moths that can pollinate any of your deep-throated flowers, like daturas, brugs, moonflower, nicotianas, etc. Their probiscus can range anywhere from 4"-8". How's that for a tongue!

I love them and encourage them by planting hosts for them in the garden. Another great host for the smaller sphinx, like the clearwing sphinx, is honeysuckle. They lay their eggs on it, and they are not near as large a caterpillar as the tomato/tobacco hornworms. Also, Virginia Creeper is another great host for sphinx like the eumorphas - achemon and pandoras - and the Nessus sphinx - if you are in their range. The 8-spotted forester, a real beauty of a moth, also uses it as a host plant.

Susan


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

I had one of those 8 spotted foresters too! Either in the grapevine or the blackberry bush. I was going to try and keep it in a jar but wasn't sure if it would need to pupate under ground.
-B


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

WOW! 200 hornworms? 60 pupae? It's hard to find 20 live ones or even get 6 finished pupae, here in a state wracked by a non-native parasitic fly!
Susanlynne, I've been away for some 4 years, but I'm back, gardening, and rearing Manduca sexta. I have 5 in the dirt now and 7 more on the way. Mine were all found under 2" and half were under just 1"! I had to pull up my old growth, played-out tomato plants, but I combed every leaf and stem and saved all, including one 12-24 hour old hatchling, not even green yet! In all, 14 cats, but 2 got sick and died. Oh well. That's nature. At least they were NOT parasitized.
We have a lot of braconid wasps here, but they stay largely on the catalpa hornworms and there's no shortage of them, although I am looking for a source of catalpa trees for the farm, so I can plant a grove and draw them in, too.
I am seriously needing some seedstock of M. quinquemaculata, so any of you western gardeners who may have some, please contact me, and I can tell you how to safely send them, even with this severe heat.


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

I have a few pupating (?) right now. I'm in Michigan and it freezes the first couple of inches of soil - where should I keep them so they don't emerge until spring? Do they need to stay in the dirt? Or can I put them in a container?


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

WOW! I am so glad that I found this forum! I live in Augusta, GA and visited my Dad in Clay Co, AL this past week. We were looking at his tomato plants and found 2 tomato worms, which had the parasitic cocoons on them. I picked the worms off the plants and brushed the cocoons off of them. Dad wanted to squish them, but I said that I was going to take them home and raise them and teach our 4 year old son about metamorphosis. I wasn't sure about how to go about keeping them, UNTIL I found this forum! We cut alot of leaves and stalks for them to chew on until I can get a plant for them to live on. They are about 2 inches long, and fat. I had no idea that they bury themselves in dirt to go into their pupa state. SO again I am glad I started researching and found this forum. I was kinda bummed that we won't be able to watch them form cocoons but I am happy to know that they will turn into these particular moths, which I didn't know what they turned into before.
So with that, I am wondering how will I know when they will go into the dirt, I am planning on putting them in the fridge while they are in the dirt so they won't come out to early and die. My only other issue is going to be we are moving in Missouri in late March early April and I am wondering if they will survive the move? Is there anything I should do to protect them during the move? When should I expect them to be ready to make their grand appearance?
This is the 1st time ever doing this.So an extra pointers are welcome! ALSO I had read that some of you had the caterpillars with the parasites on them and you left them alone. Do you think mine will be OK since I took them off?
Thanks!
Kim


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RE: Tomato Horn Worms

I bought two tomato plants from a nursery (although I will need to make sure they haven't been sprayed with anything harmful) to house a couple of hornworms I found in my roommates garden.
As soon as I put them in a pan with a few inches of soil they buried themselves right away. After a day or two they quite moving under the soil and I wasn't sure what to do from there.
I had been watering my plants, but realized it might incase them in the wet dirt and they might not be able to breath.
I read all of the postings on here, and no one mentions anything about what you do once they're in the soil.
Will the "mud" suffocate them? Do they still need water?
What are some things I should be looking for? Will I know parasites when I see them? Are they good or bad? Once they're buried how long till they are ready to come out.
Any advice would be great
^-^ I'm thinking about getting a terrarium for them. I've found 4 total in the last three days!
Do you think they could get eaten by little gecko lizards? The smallest one I found was over an inch.
Thank you so much for all the forum postings.
~Cassiopeia


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New to rearing up tabacco horn worm

I went and bought some tabacco cats and they are so dang cute i put twigs in there gave them they food that they were raised on since they were babies (it almost looks like cream of wheat) they eat alot and also some peppers they love those so i have notice that in the soil they keep going in and out of the dirt they will stay in the dirt just a while them come out again and they are starting to slow down and get hard and they are starting to turn a yellow color. Are they getting ready to pupate? I want this to go well i love moths and butterfly and want to raise them and give them back to nature I keep touching them to make sure they are alive Any help will be great thank you


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