What's Eating My Tomatoes!

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Tomato and Tobacco Hornworms are sneaky, pesky little creatures that could be lurking around your garden this time of year.  The other day when I was out weeding my garden I noticed that some of the pepper and tomato plants were becoming defoliated and I noticed little frass pellets on the ground and remaining foliage. These are tell tail signs of hornworms.


  I began to look for the hornworms, which are hard to find because they blend in with the green foliage.

I didn't find tomato hornworms but instead found tobacco hornworms on my plants.  They both look very similar and can be mistaken for each other.  The tomato hornworm has a black horn and the white stripes on it's sides are slightly different than the white stripes on the tobacco hornworm.  The tobacco hornworm has a red horn and the white stripes are again slightly different than the tomato hornworms stripes.  The life cycle of the worm starts when they finish eating and drop from the plant to the ground where they burrow into the soil and begin to pupate and overwinter.  They start to become active in mid summer when the adult moth emerges from the soil and lays a single pale green yellow to cream colored egg on the bottom sides of the tomato plants. They can lay hundreds of eggs at a time but all singular not clustered. 

The eggs will hatch and a tiny little hornworm with a horn almost as long as their body will start to feed on the tomato or pepper plants and will soon grow to a 3-4" worm and start the cycle all over again.