I was inspecting the last of my actively fruiting tomato plants when I noticed two tomato hornworms (Manduca quinquemaculata) eating away at one of my plants. This was absolutely appalling! And yes, these caterpillars will devour and kill your tomato plants if you don’t remove them right away. Their green color is a close match to the stalks and leaves of the plant so you do have to look carefully. They can be easily missed even if right in front of your eyes. If allowed to mature, these caterpillars will become five-spotted hawkmoths.
And then, there’s the indelicate matter of removing these things from the plant. They cling hard to the plant so you will either have to forcibly remove them by hand (I was too grossed out to do that) or by some other method. I opted to poke and smack them off with a small stick and then smacked them some more once they got to the ground so that they would not make a reappearance. A very hungry pile of ants quickly moved in for their unexpected feast. I found that yelling, “Get off my f***ing plant!” several times helped with the process immensely, to deal with the awfulness of the moment, kind of like that scene in the Harrison Ford film, Air Force One, when he, as the US president, is fighting off Gary Oldman and (spoiler alert), tells him, “Get off my plane!” and out the plane he went.
More information on tomato hornworms and their abatement can be found here: http://www.almanac.com/pest/tomato-hornworms
CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE: The non-fruit parts of tomato plants are poisonous if ingested. More information on toxic plants can be found here:
Filed under: Gardening | Tagged: caterpillar, caterpillars, consumer alert, five-spotted hawkmoth, fruit, Gardening, hawk moth, insect, insect abatement, insects, Manduca quinquemaculata, poisonous, tomato, tomato hornworm, tomato hornworms, tomatoes, toxic plants, vegetables | Leave a comment »