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Smulax

What are these things?

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Ok here is one for all you garden guys, I went out to check on the tomatoes this morning and saw one plant completley eaten. Upon closer examination I notices these two caterpillars, they ate the whole thing in one night. What are they and how to I make sure no more show up on the other 10 plants? I plan on taking them down to the garden shop where I got the tomato plants. Just thought I would check here first. Thanks

 

Mike

525

 

525

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Tomato hornworm. They will almost completely de-foliate a tomato plant in a very short time. I can see the damage they have done to the plant in the picture.

 

They are masters of disguise, blending right in with the stems and leaves, and can be very hard to find at times. Best way to track them down is to look above their "droppings" which are green.

 

Just hand pick them off and drop them in gasoline, or just on the ground and step on them.

 

If you get them soon enough, no worries, the plant will recover and still produce.

 

It is said that if you find some with white/yellowish "growths" on their backs, you should leave them, as those growths are the larvae of beneficial wasps that kill the hornworm.

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I just did a search on tomato hornworms, I am 99% sure thats what they are. now I just have to go over the other plants with a fine tooth comb and see if there are any more. Thanks for the quick replies.

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Big problem here in B-ville, Mike. Lost an entire patch last year because I caught them too late. Go over your plants every day, get every one of them.

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tomato-hornworm-control.jpgTomato Hornworm Control

 

 

Description: Common throughout North America, the tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata) is one of the most destructive pests of tomato, potato, pepper, eggplant and tobacco plants. They consume entire leaves, small stems, and sometimes chew pieces from fruit. Despite their large size, hornworms are often difficult to spot because of their protective coloring. Growers will often find large areas where feeding has occurred before they see this garden pest. Damage is most often noticed in midsummer and continues throughout the remainder of the growing season.

 

Likely to be the largest caterpillars you'll see in the vegetable garden, tomato hornworms (3-4 inches long), are green with seven diagonal white strips and a black or red horn projecting from the rear. Adults are large (4-5 inch wingspan), heavy-bodied moths. They are gray or brown in color with white zigzags on the rear wings and orange or brownish spots on the body. Also called a sphinx or hawk moth, they fly quickly and are able to hover like a hummingbird.

 

Tip: To find the larvae hidden among plants, look for black droppings (frass) on the leaves and ground and spray the foliage with water. The caterpillars will thrash about and give away their hiding spots.

 

Life Cycle: Overwintering occurs in the soil as dark brown pupae. Adult moths emerge in late spring, mate and deposit spherical green eggs on the underside of leaves. In 5 days hatching begins and the larva passes through five or six stages before reaching full growth in 3-4 weeks. These larvae eventually burrow into the soil where they transform into the pupal stage. Adults develop in 2-4 weeks and work their way to the soil surface, where they mate and begin laying eggs for the next generation of hornworms. There are two generations per year.

 

Tomato Hornworm Control: Because they are so large hornworms are most often controlled in home gardens by handpicking. Once removed from the plant, they can be destroyed by dropping them into a bucket of soapy water. Beneficial insects including lacewings, braconoid and trichogramma wasps, and ladybugs attack the eggs. For best results, make releases when pest levels are low to medium. If populations are high, use a least-toxic, short-lived natural pesticide to establish control, then release predatory insects to maintain control. Both Dipel Dust (Bacillus thuringiensis, var. kurstaki) and Monterey Garden Insect Spray (spinosad) are very effective, especially on young caterpillars (larvae). If pest levels become intolerable, spot treat with botanical insecticides. Roto-tilling after harvest destroys overwintering pupae in the soil. This is especially effective since pupae are large and not buried very deeply in the soil. Results have shown that greater than 90% mortality is caused by normal garden tilling.

 

Note: If you have caterpillars that have parasitic wasp cocoons attached to them, don't destroy them! Collect them instead and allow them to eat unwanted or volunteer tomatoes until the wasps hatch inside. Now you've got an army of free, natural predators to work for you.

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If any of them look like this DON'T kill them! Kill the ones that are clean.

 

Those white eggs are from a parasitic wasp that feeds on the hornworm and kills it. Very beneficial wasp and a good reason to 'sacrafice' some foliage "for the greater good."

 

525

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I bet those suckers taste like tamaters. Steve, you should eat some and get back to us.smile.gif I bet you've considered it.

 

PS - obviously no Buddhist gardeners in the forum. Drop in gasoline, step on them, poison them with soap. Jeese. Pick them off, and bring them to Home Depot outdoors, and place them in the tomato section. They give them safe haven there.

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