Currently viewing the category: "Braconids and Chalcids"

Location:  Edon, Ohio
September 17, 2012
Sorry to bother you through your personal email.  For some reason I can not get my pictures to send through the web site.
I have begun the task of trying to identify the caterpillars I have pictures of.  (I am having trouble finding a good resource for this.  I keep going through page after page and can not find what I have…. but anyway…)  I have one from N.W. Ohio, I believe it is a sphynx moth.  Possibly the great oak.  The picture was taken at the end of September of 2007.  My question is more about the little “sacks” that appear to be attatched all over it.  I was not sure if they were egg sacks or parasites.  Have you ever seen anything like this before?
Janet Fox
Picture from Edon, Ohio

Tobacco Sphinx parasitized by Chalcids

Hi Janet,
This is a Tobacco Sphinx,
Manduca sexta, one of the species of Hornworms that are frequently found feeding on the leaves of tomato plants.  It has been parazitized by a Braconid Wasp.  The larval wasps feed on the internal organs and then emerge to pupate.  Alas, this Tobacco Sphinx did not live to maturity.  See BugGuide for confirmation.

Wow!  I didn’t think we would have one of those in Ohio… since there are no tobacco plants up there.  My book didn’t even show a tobacco sphynx.  I know I had just never seen one with those sacks hanging on one before.  Thanks for clearing that up.
You guys do a wonderful job and are very helpful.

What’s this bug
Location: West Virginia
June 30, 2011 2:53 pm
Hi there. I have seen this guy twice now and have no idea what kind of critter it is. Any ideas? Thanks much.
Signature: Bill Wells

Tomato Hornworm parasitized by Braconid Wasp

Hi Bill,
The caterpillar is a Tomato Hornworm, and it has been parasitized by a Braconid Wasp.  The female Braconid Wasp lays her eggs inside the body of the Hornworm, and the larval wasps feed on the tissues of the Hornworm.  Eventually, the Braconid Larvae burrow to the surface and form cocoons, which is what you are seeing.  Here is a nice set of images from BugGuide.  The Hornworm will not live to metamorphose into a moth.

Tomato horn worm and a killer?
Location:  South-Eastern Michigan
August 19, 2010 1:49 pm
I took this picture in my garden today, I was told that the caterpillar is known as a Tomato Horn Worm. I was wondering what kind of moth or butterfly does this caterpillar turn into (if it turns into one at all) and what are the white larvae on it’s body?
Thank you so much.
Curious about Critters

Tobacco Hornworm Parasitized by Braconid Wasp

Dear Curious about Critters,
You caterpillar appears to be a Tobacco Hornworm, not a Tomato Hornworm, a funny distinction since both feed on tomato and other solanaceous plants.  According to BugGuide, the two may be distinguished from one another by:  “Larva: large green body; dorsal “horn” (usually curved and orange, pink or red) on terminal abdominal segment; up to seven oblique whitish lateral lines, edged with black on upper borders.  The similar looking Tomato Hornworm, Manduca quinquemaculata, has eight v-shaped stripes and a straight blue-black horn. These caterpillars are often confused and misidentified.
”  The cocoons belong to pupal Braconid Wasps which tomato feeding Manduca caterpillars.  This parasitized caterpillar will not mature, but if it had not become a living feast for the parasites, it would have buried itself in the ground to metamorphose into a juglike pupa (see BugGuide), and then emerged an adult Hawkmoth with narrow gray, patterned wings and yellow spots on the body (see bugGuide).

a strange large bug in our garden
Location:  West Mifflin, Pa, 6 miles south of Pittsburgh PA in our garden
August 19, 2010 6:17 pm
We found this on our tomato plants & we have never seen anything like this. Any information you can share with us about it would be greatly appreciated, including what are the white things attached to it? Should we be concerned for any reason or take precautions, or just ignore it?
Thank you, Crystal Lyons

Tomato Bug

Hi Crystal,
Alas, your Tomato Bug is not long for this world as it has been parasitized by a Braconid Wasp, mostly small wasps that lay their eggs inside of living insects, often caterpillars.  The female Braconid Wasp has an ovipositor and she injects the living hosts with an egg mass.  The Larval Braconid Wasps feed on the internal organs of the
caterpillar, being careful to stay clear of vital organs that would cause the caterpillar to die and the caterpillar flesh to putrify and dry out, an unappetizing meal for the Braconid Larvae.  According to BugGuide, the Braconid Wasp that parasitizes the Tomato Bugs is Cotesia congregata.  Please forgive us for using a very non-entomological term, Tomato Bug.  Grandma used to call any large, green caterpillar with a horn a Tomato Bug.  She didn’t care if it was the Tobacco Hornworm, Manduca sexta (see BugGuide), or the Tomato Hornworm, Manduca quinquemaculata (see BugGuide).  She didn’t know it is not a True Bug in the suborder Heteroptera (See BugGuide).

caterpillar with white sacs
Location:  Church Hill, Tn
August 11, 2010 6:17 am
Can you identify this caterpillar found
in my backyard?
Linda Luster

Parasitized Hornworm Larva

Hi Linda,
Your caterpillar is a Sphinx Moth Caterpillar, commonly called a Hornworm.  Since the caterpillar was found on tomato (as evidenced by the name on the photographic digital file), it is one of two species in the genus
Manduca.  It might be the Carolina Sphinx, Manduca sexta, whose caterpillar is known as the Tobacco Hornworm (see BugGuide), or it might be the Five Spotted Hawkmoth, Manduca quinquemaculata, whose caterpillar is known as the Tomato Hornworm (see BugGuide).  The distinguishing features on the caterpillar are obscured by the angle of view and by the pupae of a Braconid Wasp. There are many different Parasitoid Wasps that look very similar, and it is believed that Cotesia congregata may be host specific to Manduca sexta, according to BugGuide.  The female wasp lays her eggs inside the caterpillar using her ovipositor.  The eggs hatch and the wasp larvae feed on the inner organs of the caterpillar, eventually burrowing to the surface where they form the cocoons visible on your specimen.  The caterpillar is doomed from the point the eggs are laid, but it continues to live and feed so that it can provide nourishment for the growing Braconid Larvae.  Both the Tomato Hornworm and the Tobacco Hornworm feed on tomato plant leaves.

Thank you for your prompt response to my question. I am amazed at the wealth of knowledge that
can be found on your website. Keep up the good work.
Linda Luster
PS I grew up loving bugs and at age 55, I am still facinated by them. I am one of 8 children. My sister, who
is 2 years older than me, hated bugs as we grew up. Since there were always baby food jars at our house,
I would take an empty one and go outside to “catch bugs”. One night, I took the jar with me to bed. I shared
the same bedroom with my sister. During the night, the lid accidentally came off and the bugs were in our bed.
My sister woke up, screaming. The bugs were rolly-polly’s and were crawling in the bed. Needless to say, my mom
ask me not to take them to bed with me anymore.
Thought you might need a chuckle.


what kind of caterpiller is this ???????
i found this catapiller on a bell pepper plant in my yard in jacksonville NC..was wondering what are the white things on it and what type is it and does it turn into a butterfly??
julie – jacksonville nc

Hi Julie,
Your Tobacco Hornworm Caterpillar, Manduca sexta, has been parasitized by a Brachonid Wasp that laid her eggs inside the caterpillar. The larval wasps fed on non-vital tissues and have now formed pupae of the surface of the caterpillar. The pupae will hatch into adult wasps and the caterpillar will die, never maturing into an adult Hawkmoth, the Carolina Sphinx. According to BugGuide: “Larva: large green body; dorsal “horn” (usually curved and orange, pink or red) on terminal abdominal segment; up to seven oblique whitish lateral lines, edged with black on upper borders. The similar Tomato Hornworm, Maduca quinquemaculata, has eight v-shaped stripes and a straight blue-black horn. These caterpillars are often confused and misidentified.” Growing up, we referred to this as a Tomato Hornworm or Tomato Bug. We have received numerous images of Brachonid parasitized caterpillars recently, and are posting your letter and image as an excellent example.