Subject: What’s on the caterpillar?
Location: Southeastern Virginia
July 21, 2014 12:33 pm
A friend has a caterpillar in her garden and she found it like this today. It was fine a few days ago…What in the world is going on with it?
This caterpillar is a Carolina Sphinx or Tobacco Hornworm, Manduca sexta, and they are frequently found feeding on tomato plants and related plants in the garden. Your second image documents the results of a parasitization by a Braconid Wasp, Cotesia congregata. The female Braconid lays her eggs inside the caterpillar using an ovipositor and the larval wasps develop inside the caterpillar, feeding on the caterpiller beneath its skin. When the larvae mature, the make their way to the surface and spin cocoons, and that is what is shown in the second image. The caterpillar will not live to maturity even if the cocoons are removed. See BugGuide for additional information on the Braconid.