Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tobacco Hornworm

Hornworms are a sad fact of gardening life.    There's no avoiding them, so I just watch for them.
It takes constant vigilance!   

If you've got good eyes, you'll start seeing a single tiny, perfectly round, light colored egg on some of  your tomato leaves.   That's a hornworm egg.   Take it off now and destroy it.  You'll be glad later.

There are a few different kinds of hornworms that attack tomatoes in Indiana.   I get the tobacco hornworms.  That is a medium sized one in the pic above.   They get bigger.

A lot bigger.

And they don't like being removed from the plant.   They twist and squirt green goo at you.  They act really scary.

I have to remind myself that it doesn't want to eat me, it wants to eat my tomatoes, so I should just suck it up and get the blasted thing off.   They don't bite.

It's not always easy to spot these things.    They are perfectly camouflaged in a tomato plant.

It's much easier to see their poop - and to be perfectly honest, when I'm looking for these guys, I look for their poop.

This is the poop from that guy in the photo above.  It's medium sized hornworm poop.   The greener it is, the fresher it is.   The bigger it is, the bigger the hornworm that dropped it is.    [Warning:  there will be another poop quiz later.  You're excited, I know!  It's been ages since the last one.]

The law of gravity being what it is, once you find the poop, you can generally look straight up to find the source.   As the hornworms get bigger, they eat and move faster so sometimes you still have to search a bit.   A little patience is all it takes to find your culprit. 

Not everyone finds these as unwelcome as gardeners do.  My lovely friend Heidi loves them and collects them so they can become adults.

photo: www.ext.colost.edu
Unfortunately, she lives in another state. I told her that if she lived here, she could come over and get as many of them as she wanted and I'd giftwrap them for her.

And I would.    Gladly. 

Then she could raise adult tobacco hornworm moths like this one.

Since Heidi is not here to rescue and revere these beauties, I'll just keep picking them off and feeding them to the chickens.   The chickens love them.


  1. At least the little buggers make good chicken food. That is a pretty moth, but I'd just as soon not have them around either.

  2. I love to watch the chickens eat bugs. I love to feed them palmetto bugs which look like giant cockroaches. I bet it would be a sight to see a chicken runing from the others with that big green worm hanging out of its mouth!

  3. Kitten - I have the same thought every day when I take my findings to the coop.

    Debbie - We have one hen that watches for me. She's small and fast and snaps them up before they hit the ground.

  4. And this, boys and girls, is why I am not a farmer. Ick.


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