Giant moths and hornworms in the garden!

Submitted by:  flutterby

Giant moths and hornworms in the garden!

I found this giant moth in my garden a couple of days ago. He was the biggest moth I’ve ever seen, and he was butt ugly…I’m sorry…but he was! He had to have been four inches long, wings tucked beside the body. He’s history.

moth

 

And yesterday, I found two of these guys in my garden:

 worm

But only one of them was doing any damage. The other one was being eaten alive by two wasps! Did you know wasps actually EAT these worms? I knew wasps would kill them, but I did not know wasps were “carnivores. Of course, while his buddy was being eaten alive, the other was happily munching along. I had to leave quickly for an appointment. I came back two hours later, and all I found was one partially-eaten carcass. Way to go, wasps!

This morning, I did an early “hornworm” check and found one. That guy is also history. I will keep a close eye out, as I’ve learned they can destroy my tiny gardens in record time.

Do you know the difference between a tomato hornworm and a tobacco hornworm? Apparently, they get confused a lot. Acc

According to about.com:

Tomato Hornworm, Manduca quinquemaculata. However, the tomato hornworm and tobacco hornworm Manduca sexta, are often confused with each other. They are very similar in appearance and both attack members of the Solanaceae family. The tomato hornworm is three to four inches long at full size (likely to be the biggest caterpillar we see in our gardens) and green in color with white v-shaped marks along its sides. A black “horn” projects from the rear of the caterpillar. Tobacco hornworms have diagonal white stripes and a red “horn.”

Life Cycle:

The tomato hornworm represents the larval stage of the hawk or sphinx moth, also known as hummingbird moths. The moths overwinter in the soil as dark brown pupae, then emerge and mate in late spring. They lay their eggs, which are round and greenish-white, on the undersides of leaves. The eggs hatch in four to five days, and the hornworm emerges. It spends the next four weeks growing to full size, after which it will make its way into the soil to pupate.

Signs of Tomato Hornworms:

Tomato hornworms are voracious, munching entire leaves, small stems, and even parts of immature fruit. While they are most commonly associated with tomatoes, hornworms are also common pests of eggplants, peppers, and potatoes. Most likely, you’ll notice the damage before you notice the hornworms, because their color helps them blend in so well with the plant foliage. You can also look for their black frass (droppings) on the foliage and around the base of the plant.

Effect on Garden Plants:

Undetected, a tomato hornworm can do a fair amount of damage to its host plant. They have hearty appetites, and can defoliate a plant in a matter of days. If they are detected and removed early on, the plant will recover just fine.

Organic Control for Tomato Hornworm:

Because the hornworm is so large, the easiest and most effective way to get rid of it is to pick it off of plants as soon as you detect it and either squish it or toss it into a bowl of soapy water. A bad infestation can be treated by applying BT (Bacillus thuringiensis). This is most effective when the larvae are small. If it is a problem year after year, try rototilling the soil either in late fall or in spring before you plant–this will either bury the pupae or destroy them. However, if you see a hornworm covered with white egg sacs, leave it be. The egg sacs are those of a parasitic wasp called the Braconid wasp. Let the eggs hatch, and you’ll have an army of wasps ready to defend your garden against all types of pests.

 


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