What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

I just finished reading your letter about the evil “tomato bugs”. On a 3 day weekend last year 4 of the nasty guys destroyed 3 of my tomato plants. I DO NOT want this to happen again. I was wondering what they look like when they are just starting out their reign of terror. I have only ever seen pictures of them when they were about 3 inches long. Also where do they come from, and is there a way of preventing their arival at all?

Dear Stephanie,
I’m sorry for the delay in this reply. Somehow, your letter got lost in cyberspace. “Tomato bugs” are the larval stage of a sphinx moth, Manduca sexta. They begin life as eggs and hatch into tiny caterpillars about 1/4 inch long. They are green, and their coloration combined with their lighter traverse markings help them to blend into the foliage of the tomato plants they feed upon. Look for them on the undersides of the leaves where they prefer to hang. Often the first evidence that there is a tomato hornworm is the presence of their telltale droppings along with nibbled leaves. They eat the soft portion of the leaf, leaving only the stems behind. Diligence is your best defence. Spend time with your plants, especially when they are young, and search for evidence of grazing hornworms daily.

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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

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