Currently viewing the category: "Tomato Bugs"
What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

So we found 3 of these in the soil of our vegetable garden. In case location info helps, we live in Orange County, California about 4 miles from the beach and our soil has a lot of clay. The only things I’ve seen large enough to come from this are what are commonly called tomatoe worms here, or potato bugs. We saw a couple potato bugs in the garden last year but I haven’t been able to find any information about their life cycle, so I guess my question is two-fold: what is this chrysalis, and if it’s not a potato bug, what is the life cycle of a potato bug?
Thanks,
Linda

Hi Linda,
You have a pupa from the Tomato Hornworm, also known as the Tobacco Sphinx, Manduca sexta. The large green caterpillars you find on your tomato plants bury themselves in the dirt and pupate into the form you have dug up. They emerge as large moths, lay eggs and begin the cycle again.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

I did my research on your site (it was very helpful…thanks) and took this pic to send for your files if you want it…
Liisa Abbatiello

Dear Liisa,
I’m so glad our site was helpful. We have gotten several letters describing what your photo depicts, the parasitization of the Tomato Hornworm by Braconid Wasps. A picture is worth 1000 words. Thank you so much.

A HUGE bug I thought was going to carry my dachshund away!!!

Dear Bugman,
I looked through ALL of your pictures to try to ID my bug and not "bug" you, but I didn’t see it. I live in San Antonio, TX. The other night I heard a loud "bump" on the window near my recliner. I looked out to see the LARGEST bug I have ever seen. I thought perhaps it was a bird or a bat, but it hid under my son’s toy lawnmower, and my husband got a broom to move the lawnmower to get it out, and he said it was a bug. It was attracted to light, because when it was dark outside, it hit my window trying to get to my light inside. When we turned the lights on the porch on, he flew around, rather clumsily, toward the light. It’s wingspan had to be close to 6"-8", and it was black and white variegated, almost like a flame stitch… kind of striped, but scribble striped. I swear I thought it had a skin-like covering over itself. I didn’t see an exoskeleton, but my husband swore it was a bug, and he was closer to it.
Thank You
Rebecca

Dear Rebecca,
I sure hope I can help you before you loose your dachsund. I’m not exactly sure, but here goes a guess. Tobacco Sphinx Moths, Manduca Sexta, grow large, and can have a wingspan in excess of five inches. They also have a robust body. They are attracted to lights and have a mottled pattern on the wings much as you describe. Since their bodies are covered with scales, they do not appear to have an exoskeleton. Here is a photo. Let us know.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Hi,
Recently we have found about 6 of the very large tomato hornworms(?) on our 2 tomato plants. They look very similar to the black and white photo on your website. Half of them had white oval fuzzy pieces all over the outside of their bodies. What are those? Eggs? We took them off the plant by either breaking the stems they were on or by picking them off with a Popsicle stick. They are eating our plants down to the stalks!
Thanks,
Rebecca

Dear Rebecca,
Those "eggs" you saw were in fact the cocoons of a parasitic Braconid wasp which was devouring the tomato hornworm alive. Nature’s own pesticide.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

It has been raining for days and the leaves toward the bottom of my tomato plants are starting to look yellow. Then I saw what I thought were tiny little white bugs and figured I could just pluck them off. Much to my surprise they were part of, or attached to, a very large slug like creature that had suction cupped itself to the plant. What the heck is it, or are they? What can I do to get rid of it? I also found a smaller orange like slug that I smushed. Again, what is it and what do I do about it? And then, because things come in threes, I found droppings, on the leaves, that were the size of a small childs fingernail bed. hard to tell if it is bird poop or otherwise. This is the first time I am growing vegetables and these plants were hand cultivated by good friends. I want to make sure I do the right thing…too embarrassing to let their hard work, and mine, go to the bugs.
Please help.
Many thanks!
Risa Hochroth

Dear Risa,
I wish you had sent a photo. The tiny white bugs you found were doing your job for you. It is perfect bio-warfare. They are the pupae of a type of parasitic Braconid wasp. The female wasp lays her eggs inside (using an ovipositor) the larva of a tomato hornworm, a common pest on tomatoes. It is the green sluglike creature you found. The larvae of the wasp eat the hornworm inside out, then pupate on the outside, the stage you discovered. The caterpillar then dies and the wasps mature and begin a new cycle. The Tomato Hornworm >is the caterpillar of a large moth, Manduca sexta or Manduca quinquemaculata. The larvae are identified by the horn at the posterior end and they attain a length of four or more inches and a girth equal to a human finger before burying into the ground to pupate. While in the caterpillar form, they can defoliate entire branches of a tomato plant as well as nibbling on the still green tomatoes.

Thank you.
So, if I have handpicked the two I saw, what should I do to prevent others from appearing and destroying the plant. I assume if there were 2 there are more, yes? I sprayed insecticidal soap on the foliage, but I am wondering if there is more I should do other than just keep looking for them and handpicking them off. On the web I read that I should not have killed the hornworm with the wasps, which is consistent with what you have said, but should I have left it there to have the wasps potentially kill other worms. I thought leaving them would just give them more time to eat the foliage and the tomatoes that they have already munched on. Also, once I harvest the last tomatoes, isthere anything I need to do to the soil to make sure that they are not going to be there next year?
Risa Hochroth

Hand picking is, in our opinion, the best means of control. Watch for the telltale signs, nibbled leaves and droppings, then search for the grazer. You can sift through the soil to locate the large pupae, but adults can just fly in and lay eggs. A dilligent eye is the best form of control since we do not endorse undue use of pesticides in the garden, especially on produce meant for human consumption.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

I have grown tomatoes for many, many years and this is a first for me. I have enclosed a picture. Can you identify the larva/pupa? that is building the cocoon on my tomato? Good bug – bad bug? Thanks so much for your help.
Pat in Ida

Dear Pat,
That is one beautiful tomato. The caterpillar might be an Omnivorous Looper, Sabulodes aegrotata which matures into a medium sized rather pretty moth, however they are still garden pests. They defoliate my mint plants every year and also eat the leaves from my roses. As their name implies, they eat most any plant. They are very abundant in city gardens. During the day, the caterpillar hides in a loose webby shelter that they spin in a leaf fold, or between leaves, or in your case, on a ripe tomato. They will probably not chew the tomatoes, just the leaves.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Hello,
I was wondering if you could identify this bug on my tomato plant for me…THANKS
Colloquially known as the "tomato bug", the tomato hornworm is the caterpillar of the Tobacco Sphinx, Manduca sexta or Manduca quinquemaculata, large night flying moths.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination