June 27, 2011

Creepy Crawlers

Gardening has become one of my favorite summertime hobbies and I even have the sun-burned shoulders to prove it.  This weekend, I noticed that my pepper plants were in bad shape.  Terrible shape actually as all of their leaves had disappeared.  One of the plants was even growing a pepper, but the leaves on the rest of the plant were gone.

purple-pepper-plant

I looked around and found the culprits hiding in my tomato plant.  WARNING: Shield your eyes if you are grossed out by alien looking bugs.

It was a caterpillar!

tobacco-hornworm

A really weird, alien looking caterpillar!  This guy was a far cry from the cute fuzzy caterpillars I used to play with as a kid.  This one was huge and has a pattern that looks like little eyes down its body.  I did some Googling and through this cool caterpillar identifying website, found out that this is a Carolina Sphinx Caterpillar.  Also known as a tobacco hornworm (similar to the tomato hornworm).

carolina-sphinx-caterpillar

Sure enough, these guys love to munch on tomato and pepper plants.  Since they're so big, they can be sneaky and eat an entire plant pretty quickly before anyone notices.  I found three of them hiding in my tomato plants.  I had no idea caterpillars could get so big, and weird looking.  Have you ever come across one of these?

5 comments:

LDH said...

I have seen these caterpillars on parsley and they do a lot of munching! I am not sure but I think they turn into Monarch butterflies.

Brandi said...

I got these on my tomato plants last year. I've had better luck this year, even though I haven't done anything differently. Someone I work with said that I should put a birdfeeder near the plants because the birds will eat the worms, but I'm not sure if that's true or not. Good luck with the caterpillars!

Kacee said...

I hate tomato horn worms. Luckily our garden has parasitic wasps which lay their eggs on the caterpillar and kills them. Here is a pic of them: http://www.dreamstime.com/tomato-hornworm-with-wasp-eggs-image881436 If you find them with these, I would leave them because that allows the wasp to complete their life cycle and return next year if needed. I often find their dropping before the caterpillars which look like little square barrels.

Jenny @ DIY Newlyweds said...

Kacee,

Eeek! That photo gives me the chills!

Anonymous said...

I just found two of these guys in my garden! They've eaten one entire pepper plant! According to wikipedia they are tobacco hornworms:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manduca_sexta

When they mature they turn into a brownish moth.