Grit Blogs > Sassy and Sweet - Life on the Farm

Tomato and Tobacco Hornworms

This week was an overly busy week, and the time I was able to spend on plant patrol in the evening was limited. I'm battling blight on the tomatoes, and the blight is winning on a few plants.

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I've been reading about ways to reduce blight and have some organic products on order that I'm hoping help me with my battle on the younger plants that have yet to show any symptoms. With my limited time this week, the blight spread on the older plants.

Yesterday evening I went out to do a bit of clean up and to remove the plants that were affected and beyond the point of repair, and noticed that on my highest producing cherry tomato, nearly every single leaf, and nearly half of every single tomato was gone. Missing. No sign of them. Seemed I was having issues with something other than just blight!

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Thankfully, I found the culprit before it moved to the other plants... a Tobacco Hornworm. (You can see the blight spots on the plant...terrible...I was sad to have to remove that plant from the garden.)

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This hornworm was at least 3" long when it was scrunched up, so the full body length had to be at least 4". It was HUGE! I had never seen such a thing before, and it's one of those things that when you see it once, you never forget it! I ran to the house to get the camera and Alan.

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When I found it, it was busy busy busy snacking away at one of my tomatoes. Look at that! It ate nearly half of that little green tomato, and would have surly moved on to others.

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Don't you think it kind of looks like a manatee? Or a walrus? And the markings on it are really something! All of those eyes... kind of eerie, don't you think?

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While reading about this critter, I learned that you can tell the difference between a Tomato Hornworm and a Tobacco Hornworm by two things. They both have a "horn" on their hind end, but the Tomato Hornworm's "horn" is black, and the Tobacco Hornworm's "horn" is red, like this one's. Also, the Tobacco Hornworm has these white stripes on its sides, where the Tomato Hornworm has "V" shapped markings on its sides.

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He wasn't too sure of Alan and me.... he stayed in this slightly upright position the entire time we were there and I was taking photos.

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This hornworm no longer lives in my garden... hopefully, you don't find one living in yours!

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Other than losing one of my cucumber plants to what I think is bacterial wilt caused by cucumber beetles and larvae, everything else is growing nicely! One of the organic products I have on order also helps reduce cucumber beetle and larvae issues as well... they are the #1 pest in the garden, now that the hornworm has been evicted!

allan douglas
8/11/2010 4:41:39 PM

Anna, thanks for the great photos. A neighbor found these monsters in his tomato garden last week and brought one around to show us. He thought it was a tobacco worm, (who obviously is missing the tobbaco no longer grown here) your photos and the red horn/black horn statement confirms his assessment. He will be pleased. I'm watching our tomato plants closely. Do you know of any safe 'repellant'? Thanks again!


carol dee_1
7/22/2010 5:04:59 PM

ANNA, Hello, it is ME !!!! What fun to pop over here and see what you are blogging on Grit. Ewwww, you know I don't like that critter but admired your photography skills. Sure wish I lived close enough to have you give me some photography lessons. :) See you back at Sassy and Sweet. Hugs....


nebraska dave
7/9/2010 11:55:05 PM

@Anna, I sure enjoyed the horn worm tour. My grandson did too. He’s five and happened to be walking past when I had the pictures up. We looked at the pictures together for a while. He enjoyed the stink bug pictures as well. You certainly have the close up shot down to a science. I’m guessing that you do this for a living. If not you should. You never quite said what happened to the worm. Did you give him a new home or was he euthanized? It’s just too bad that they are so destructive because they are really beautiful. The multiple eye spots down the side are interesting. We have those here but they are just plain green. We have nothing like your bright colored ones. So for this year I’ve been able to stay away from the blight and the bottom rot that did almost everyone in last year. I was one of only a few people that I knew that escaped the bottom rot issue last year. I contribute it to my raised beds filled with compost mixture. I a firm believer after last year that a healthy plant can ward off many diseases and bugs on their own. I’m patiently waiting for that first tomato to ripen.