The very hungry caterpillar

Yesterday’s healthy tomato plant reduced today to a stick? Tomato hornworms may be to blame.

What’s new in your garden? In mine, it’s tomato hornworms.

My vegetable garden is in a location where I walk by it virtually every day. One day, my plants were tall and lush. The next day, one looked like this.

tomato plant foliage stripped off

Holy cow. It couldn’t have been deer or groundhogs; the garden is fenced off in a way that prevents either of those from invading. A closer look (much closer, because the little rotters are exceptionally well adapted to their dinner of choice) revealed them to be tomato hornworms, Manduca quinquemaculata.

These suckers were, as you can see, the size of an adult thumb after having munched a five-foot-tall tomato plant to the stalk.

tomato hornworm caterpillar manduca quinquemaculata

How to treat tomato hornworms

Being an eco-friendly pest management type, I grabbed a pair of scissors from the kitchen (I will touch a lot of things in the garden, but not these guys) and snipped off the part of the stem where they sat munching away. With a collection bucket in hand, I dropped the stalk remnant and fat caterpillars into it, then collected another three (thankfully, much smaller) ones from adjacent plants. I dropped them in soapy water and disposed of them in the garbage. Alternative control methods include Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) and insecticidal soap, but using scissors means you don’t have to go out to the store.

Monitor plants several times a week to stop these guys before they decimate your entire tomato planting. (Decimaters…?)


2 thoughts on “The very hungry caterpillar

  1. They are truly voracious. Thankfully, once tossed across the yard (yes, I pull them off by hand) they’re gone for good. It’s amazing how fast they can consume a plant.

  2. Pingback: The very hungry reclassified caterpillar | MissingHenryMitchell

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