Red Alert – Hornworms are Bad Bugs

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Hornworm Circled in Red

If you grow members of the nightshade family such as such as tomatoes and tomatillos, the tomato hornworm can destroy your plants.  The hornworm will grow between 3 and 4 inches long.

First of all, I noticed that the leaves on my one tomatillo plant looked like they were sagging. Then I noticed a rather large and fat looking caterpillar that was the same color green as the plant. I had never seen one before so I ran in the house to do a search on the internet and determined that it was a tomato hornworm which is a caterpillar.  I am not sure why they don’t call it a horn caterpillar!

My search disclosed that I should pick it off the branch and dunk it in soapy water.  So I filled a ziplock bag with water and a few drops of dish detergent and went out to pluck it. This sounded easy, but it wasn’t! That hornworm was stuck like glue to the plant stem so I had to cut the stem and put the stem and the hornworm in the mixture. I got to admit this was gross! However, it was the best alternative because it was too big to squish.

Adult Moth - a large one!
Adult Moth – a large one!

Another thing I learned about the hornworm is that it comes from a very large brown moth. While I am not positive that the hornworm came from this moth that I found in the front yard, the size fits the bill.  The moth’s wing span was about 4 inches wide.  If this moth didn’t lay the hornworm eggs, I am sure I’ll find a different caterpillar to deal with.

Check the leaves of your tomatoes and tomatillos and look for eggs on the leaves to make sure you don’t get any hornworms.  If you find the eggs that are white to light green, then pick them off and tramp on them.