What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Hi. Digging in the dirt where I usually plant my tomato plant, I discovered a cocoon the size of my thumb. It is brown and like I said, it is the size of my thumb. Any ideas what it may be? I put it in a jar with some of the dirt from where I was digging. I hope it will live. I can send a picture If will help you identify it.
Thanks
Michelle


Dear Michelle,
Did it have what looks like the handle on a jug? If so, it is the pupa of a Tobacco Hornworm Moth (Manduca sexta) which in its larval, caterpillar form is the dreaded Tomato Hornworm, a four inch long behemoth that devours the leaves of tomato plants, sometimes leaving them defoliated. The larva eventually buries itself in the dirt to pupate without spinning a cocoon, leaving its bare pupa to mature. The handle of the jug is actually the place where the long proboscus, a tubelike mouth that the moth uses to gather nectar from deep throated flowers. We would love a photo.

Hi Daniel. Thanks for getting back to me. I have attached a photo, but I’m afraid it’s not a very good one. It sounds like your know your bugs. My next question is, how do I get this thing to hatch? Is the moth beautiful? I would imagine that it is. I currently have it in some soil in a jar without a lid. Should I keep it out side or in the house? Let me know.
Thanks
Michelle

Dear Michelle,
The moth is large and mottled grey with very elongated wings. There are a series of yellow spots along the body. They are very strong fliers. While not traditionally beautiful, they are truly awesome. They are very similar to the moth used in the "Silence of the Lambs" advertisements, and you can also see a swarm of them crawling on Patsi Kensit (spelling?) in the totally awesome movie" Angels and Insects". You are doing the right thing as far as getting the pupa to metamorphose. Do not let the soil either dry out or get too wet. Keep it out of the direct sunlight.

Thanks again for your time and the information. I hope I get to see him. I think I forgot to ask if you know how long it could take? Do you know?
Michelle

Dear Michelle,
Normally they overwinter as pupa and then metamorphose in the spring. I’m guessing your specimen has passed the necessary time underground and it should be happening soon.
Good luck.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
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