Hornworm: Exploring their Fascinating World

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This article will be your one-stop guide for everything that you need to know about the notorious pests called hornworms that grow up into beautiful sphinx moths.

Hornworms can sound intimidating, but they’re quite fascinating!

Also known as tomato or tobacco hornworms (depending on which crop they prefer), these harmless insects have a curved “horn” at their rear end.

Pests Destroying Your Garden? Learn the secrets to eliminating pests in your yard or garden in the most earth friendly way possible.

Despite what most people think, they are not caterpillars of butterflies – they are, in fact, moth caterpillars.

They’re usually found in gardens where their size makes them easy to spot.

In this article, I will explore all you need to know about hornworms, including their appearance, habitat, behavior, life cycle, and predators.

Unknown Hornworm

What Are Hornworms?

Hornworms are some of the most interesting and visually arresting garden creatures around.

The larvae of hawk moths, these green-bodied invertebrates sport a ‘horn’ on their posterior end.

Their diet consists mainly of plants, so their presence in the garden is unwelcome to many gardeners.

They feed on tobacco and tomato patches and can destroy an entire crop in no time.

Although harmless to humans and pets, hornworms multiply very fast if left unchecked.

If you see an excessive number of these worms in your garden, it may be time to take steps to reduce their population.

I will discuss what you can do about it in later sections.

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How To Get Rid of Hornworms?

Hornworms are one of the most common pests that attack vegetable gardens.

To get rid of hornworms, you’ll want to start by inspecting your plants for any hornworm scarring or damage.

If there’s evidence of just a few of them present, you can pick them off by hand and dispose of them in a sealed bag far away from your garden.

You can also apply a block of insecticidal soap or neem oil to your plants.

This can help keep the pests away while not harming beneficial insects like bees.

For heavier infestations, it’s best to try using a BT (Bacillus thuringiensis), a biological pesticide product that works well with most pests, including hornworms.

It quickly kills off large groups of larvae without impacting other helpful creatures, such as ladybugs.

Lastly, ensure to practice good garden hygiene and clean up any debris that might be encouraging the hornworms to come back.

Hornworm of a Convolvulus Hawkmoth

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How Big Do Hornworms Get?

Hornworms get quite big! Most commonly, they reach lengths of around 2-3 inches, although some can even get up to 5 inches in length.

They are among the largest caterpillars in the world.

When the adults come out after the pupation stage, they can also be quite big. Their wingspan is typically anywhere between two to eight inches.

Add to that the long proboscis that they use to suck nectar from flowers, make them appear quite large.

They are, in fact, so big that some people mistake them for actual hummingbirds, which is where their name comes from.

Hornworm caterpillars are easily identifiable by their unique “horn” at the end of their abdomens and their bright green color.

They feed on plants like tomatoes, eggplants, and potatoes. This is why gardeners will often find them among their vegetables when picking.

Hornworm: Theretra alecto or not???

Hornworms Types

Several types of hornworms can be found around the world.

But the two most commonly seen varieties are the Tobacco-Hornworm and the Tomato-Hornworm.

There is not much difference between them, however, except for the fact that they prefer different crops to attack.

The Tobacco Hornworm has seven pairs of diagonal white markings running across its green body, while its relative, the Tomato-Hornworm, is recognizable by its deep maroon stripes.

Both feed voraciously on the respective foliage.

What Do Hornworms Turn Into?

Hornworms are the caterpillar form of a large family of moths commonly known as the hawk or sphinx moth.

Once they are fully grown, hornworms transform into these impressive-looking moths with vibrant colors, large wings, and long tails.

Firstly, they change from an active eating stage to a dormant pupa.

They build their cocoon and metamorphose into the adult stage.

In this cocoon, most hornworms stay in the pupal stage for 2-4 weeks before emerging as fully grown moths ready to fly off and start another generation.

What Does A Hornworm Eat?

Hornworms are incredibly voracious eaters and have a preference for tomato leaves, pepper, and eggplant plants.

They also munch away at the flowers and stems if given a chance.

While hornworms can feed on other types of foliage, they are especially partial to tomatoes.

It’s common for gardeners to find these creatures happily chowing down on their prized fruit in the summertime.

Luckily, there are a variety of easy-to-apply pesticides that can help protect your garden from hornworm damage without posing a risk to humans.

Hornworm: probably Manduca florestan

Where Do Hornworms Live?

Hornworms, also known as tobacco or tomato hornworms, can usually be spotted living in regions that have warm summers and mild winters.

They live on the leaves of garden plants such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and potatoes.

They can occasionally be found on other weeds and shrubs too.

During winter months, they form pupae which remain dormant until warm weather returns when they emerge as fully grown moths with bright yellow stripes on their wings.

Life Cycle of A Hornworm

The life cycle of a hornworm begins when the female moths lay eggs on host plant leaves.

These include the tomato or tobacco plant that will become fodder for the worms.

In a few days, larvae hatch from the eggs and begin to feed on the leaves.

Over time, the larvae keep eating and growing until they assume the large green worm form that you might have seen in your garden.

They molt several times until they reach maturity, at which point they bury themselves in the soil to pupate.

In about two weeks, they turn into adults.

Adult moths have long, curved abdomens and brown coloring. Many species also bear white or yellow stripes along their bodies.

Some species have wings that remain close together atop their abdomens, while others have separate wings opening wide to fly away.

A full cycle from egg to adult moth usually takes about 30-35 days before it’s ready for another generation of larvae.

Hornworm: Smerinthus ophthalmica

How Long Do Hornworms Live?

Hornworms can live up to 4 weeks, and their life span may vary depending on the conditions they’re kept in.

They need access to a food source like foliage or fruits to reach their full lifespans.

However, even without adequate nutrition, they can still survive for a while.

At maturity, these insects will pupate and eventually hatch out and become adults when conditions are favorable.

Interestingly enough, though, if the weather isn’t quite warm enough, these hornworms can remain in diapause until temperatures begin to rise again.

Do They Bite?

Hornworms aren’t usually dangerous as they won’t bite humans.

However, if you come in contact with one, you may feel a pinch.

They have mandibles, which are jaws that allow them to chew through leaves and other vegetation they feed on.

However, they’re rather gentle, so even if something brushes up against them, it will result in the faintest of pinches.

That said, it’s probably best to keep an eye out for their presence.

Are They Poisonous/Venomous?

Hornworms, or caterpillars of the hawk moth family, are not poisonous or venomous.

Despite their appearance with a horn-like protrusion at the rear end, they pose no harm to humans.

One should exercise caution while handling them, though, as they may try to bite if threatened.

The bites are actually nothing but nibbles, so its not likely to cause any damage.

Feeding on foliage in gardens, these large caterpillars are voracious eaters and can defoliate plants rapidly if left unchecked.

Hornworm

What Are Hornworms Attracted To?

Hornworms are surprisingly attractive to a range of different things.

They tend to be attracted to the color yellow.

This is why yellow sticky traps and lures are often used effectively to help contain them in gardens.

They also respond positively to bright lights, like those found in fluorescent lamps.

They are also attracted to certain smells, such as ammonia or soap scents mixed with certain plant oils.

How To Breed Hornworms

Breeding hornworms as bait for your pet lizards or arachnids or else raising them as pet hawk moths is not very difficult!

First off, you’ll need two adult moths of either sex.

You’ll also need food for the worms to eat, such as overripe fruits or vegetables, which should be changed every few days.

Next, set up an environment with a substrate like soil or vermiculite and some sort of shelter that will absorb moisture.

Once you have your environment in place, provide places for the moth to mate on (think sticks or branches).

Then add the food for the caterpillars to munch on.

When larvae hatch from hornworm eggs laid by the adults, provide them with more food until they reach full size and form chrysalises.

In due time, adult moths will emerge from pupae, and then the cycle starts all over again.

Hornworms As Pet Food: Who Eats Hornworms?

Hornworms are an immensely popular pet food choice for owners of lizards, frogs, birds, and other small reptiles.

Generally found in warm climates like the southern United States and parts of Central America, these plump creatures pack a ton of protein into their small bodies.

For pet owners, hornworms are a great way to provide your pet with an easy-to-digest meal.

Hornworm: Smerinthus ophthalmica

Can Leopard Geckos Eat Hornworms?

Leopard geckos are some of the most popular pets, and they make excellent additions to any household.

They thrive on a diet of live insects, such as crickets, waxworms, and even hornworms.

Feeding them hornworms is generally safe and can provide some variety for your pet reptile.

Hornworms are chock full of nutrients like protein and calcium, which can help leopard geckos grow strong and healthy.

They should never be overfed, though – a single medium-sized hornworm per day is plenty for an adult leopard gecko.

If you’d like to offer these worms to your pet, ensure to purchase only fresh, organic ones from a reliable source.

Can Bearded Dragons Eat Hornworms?

Bearded dragons can safely eat hornworms in moderation as a supplement to their regular diet of greens and insects.

Hornworms are high in protein and calcium (good for healthy bones and muscle growth), low in fat, and rich in nutrients like vitamin A that promote good eyesight.

That said, they should be introduced into an adult dragon’s diet only as occasional treats.

Since they have a slightly higher phosphorus content which may cause a mineral imbalance over time if fed too often.

Hornworms usually come from breeders who feed them artificial diets. Owners should ensure the ones they get for their pets are organically raised to prevent nutrient deficiencies.

Can Chickens Eat Hornworms?

Yes, chickens can eat hornworms! Hornworms are a surprisingly nutritious snack for your chickens.

They provide a good source of essential proteins, vitamins, and minerals, as well as omega-3 fatty acids and some healthy fat sources.

Hornworms have a mild taste, so they’re relatively easy to feed to chickens.

They also contain high amounts of calcium and other trace minerals, which can be beneficial for egg production in poultry.

Hornworms are live larvae that are typically sold frozen in pre-packaged portions. You’ll want to thaw them before feeding to ensure safe digestion.

To keep things interesting for your chickens, you can vary the type of insects they receive.

Can Bearded Dragons Eat Hornworms

Can Chameleons Eat Hornworms?

Chameleons can indeed eat hornworms, as they make for a great snack that is packed with

like calcium and protein.

The crunchy exoskeleton provides efficient exercise for the chameleon’s jaws while still being relatively easy to consume.

It is important to always double-check the supply of live hornworms you purchase to ensure their diet has been properly supplemented with vitamins.

Inadequate nutrition can lead to digestive issues in your chameleon. Although live hornworms can be more expensive than other feeders, investing in them will likely be worth it.

Can Tarantulas Eat Hornworms?

Yes, tarantulas can eat hornworms! They are an excellent source of high protein nutrition for your spider.

Hornworms are the larvae of Sphinx moths and can be found in most garden centers or online.

When purchasing these worms, look for ones that are plump and round with no discoloration.

They’re easy to feed to your tarantula as well.

Simply drop them into their enclosure, and watch as your pet wraps up the wriggly snack either immediately or over the next few hours.

Can Pacman Frogs Eat Hornworms?

Pacman frogs can benefit from including hornworms in their diet.

Hornworms are high in protein and low in fat, making them a good choice for these active amphibians.

Not only do they provide an excellent source of nutrition, but they also help the frogs maintain their energy levels through movement and active digestion.

They can also act as a natural defense against parasites due to their spines covering the body, discouraging potential predators from attacking them.

Please note, when feeding your pet Pacman frog with hornworms is to select ones that have been raised organically.

Many commercially raised hornworms may have been treated with chemicals or antibiotics, which could be hazardous for your pal to consume.

Can Pacman Frogs Eat Hornworms

Can Sugar Gliders Eat Hornworms?

Sugar gliders are omnivorous and can eat a wide variety of different foods, including hornworms.

Hornworms are a type of caterpillar that is both high in calcium and protein, making them an ideal snack for sugar gliders.

A sugar glider should be given small amounts of hornworms as part of their diet, but larger quantities may lead to digestive problems.

Since they are natural prey to birds, they should always be purchased from an approved source.

As with any animal, it’s important to consult your vet before introducing new elements into their diet.

Can Hedgehogs Eat Hornworms?

Hedgehogs love hornworms! They make an ideal on-the-go snack for your pet since they are high in protein and calcium.

They are also very easy to catch, as the bright green color makes them stand out in foliage.

Additionally, some species of hornworms can curl into a ball when threatened.

Hedgehogs have the perfect weapon – their quills – to tackle this curling prey.

However, it is important to only feed your hedgehog wild-caught varieties as store-bought ones may contain toxins due to pesticides or hormones.

If you’re concerned about what else they can eat, crickets and mealworms also provide a nutritious diet that your pet will enjoy.

Can Turtles Eat Hornworms?

Turtles sure enjoy hornworms. They make an excellent and nutritious treat that is easy to find and store.

These larvae are rich in calcium, providing turtles with a great source of minerals without the need for supplementation.

While some people may worry about them choking on the hard exoskeletons, their mouths are designed to devour them easily.

Hornworms also offer more variety than most insects, as they come in a range of sizes and colors.

It provides much-needed stimulation to turtles whose diet can become monotonous quickly.

Turtle owners must take care not to overfeed these critters, though, as they can cause digestive distress if overindulged.

Can Axolotls Eat Hornworms

Can Axolotls Eat Hornworms?

Axolotls can eat hornworms as a great supplement to their diet.

Hornworms are soft-bodied larvae of moths and provide essential nutrients such as calcium, protein, and carotenoids.

Feeding hornworms are a great way to vary up your axolotl’s diet.

To prepare hornworms for your axolotls, drop them into boiling water for around five seconds to kill them. They can then be fed either live or frozen.

Ensure whatever you feed your axolotl is small enough for them to swallow it properly. About two-thirds of its head size is best.

You should also introduce any new food items slowly over time. Start with just one or two worms before offering more if they’ve handled those well.

Interesting Facts About Hornworms

Hornworms, or tobacco hornworms, are fascinating creatures. They get their name from the white “horn” protruding from the end of their tail.

While they may look intimidating, hornworms are surprisingly docile and make great pets for children to observe.

Here are eight interesting facts about tobacco hornworms:

  1. Despite being called “hornworms,” they don’t really have a horn – it is just a soft protrusion meant to scare off predators.
  2. Speaking about predators, these worms emit a strong scent that helps ward off would-be attackers.
  3. Hornworms frequently shed their skin as they molt.
  4. Green and black splotches along their body help camouflage them in nature
  5. Hornworm larvae feed on plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes
  6. After reaching maturity, adult moths emerge out of a brown chrysalis shell
  7. Adult moths sport bright yellow stripes and wings lined with black dots;
  8. Moth adults consume nectar from flowers and other plants at night.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do hornworms turn into butterflies?

No, hornworms do not turn into butterflies. Hornworms are the caterpillar of the moth family Sphingidae.
They go through a process of metamorphosis before becoming moths.
After the caterpillar goes through its final molt, it enters the pupal stage, which is a chrysalis or cocoon, depending on the species.
Once fully formed, the adult emerges from the cocoon as a hawkmoth or sphinx moth. Therefore, hornworms will never turn into butterflies.

What are black tomato hornworms?

Black tomato hornworms are nothing but a final stage of tomato hornworms that are very near pupation.
As the caterpillar keeps feeding and growing, it starts to turn black or brown before it becomes a pupa.
They grow to be around 3–4 inches long and start out green in color.
An infestation of tomato hornworms can cause extensive damage to tomato crops by feeding on the leaves, stems, and even unripe or ripe fruit.
Their presence can be identified by large amounts of feces near affected tomatoes, which are often riddled with holes from their sharp mandibles.

Can a hornworm hurt you?

No, a hornworm will not hurt you.
Hornworms are larvae of a Sphinx Moth, and they feed on plants, so they may nibble on your vegetables or flowers in the garden if they come across them.
They can be a nuisance since they can cause damage to crops, but their “horns” are too weak to break through human skin and cause harm.
Neither do they have teeth or any sort of biting force to cause any damage, nor are they poisonous or venomous to us.

What is a hornworm good for?

Hornworms can be great pets for folks that enjoy studying insect behavior.
They are relatively easy to care for and have few special requirements, making them suitable pets for those just starting out in the field of exotic insects.
With their voracious appetites, hornworms are also excellent food sources for a variety of reptiles, amphibians, and arachnids.
In addition, many people use hornworms as bait for fishing because of their size and toughness.
Lastly, due to their ability to convert plant material into fat reserves quickly, they can make great feeders for poultry, pigs, and other livestock as well.

Can you eat hornworms?

No, it won’t be the best idea to eat hornworms.
They are the larvae of moths, and their diet consists mainly of vegetation such as leaves, stems, roots, and some fruits.
They may not be poisonous to us, but the diet they take may contain pesticides and other chemicals that can cause illness in humans.
Many people keep the hornworms as pets for educational and research purposes. They are also great for pet food.
However, even when feeding to pets, make sure not to use hornworms picked from fields because of the same reason.

Why are hornworms toxic?

Hornworms are toxic to some predators, because they feed on poisonous plants, such as tobacco and tomato plants.
This toxicity is passed through the hornworm’s system and is therefore considered harmful if ingested.
The toxic chemicals in these plants increase their defense mechanism against predators but pose a hazard to pets or anyone else who tries to eat them.
Once ingested, the toxins weaken the nervous system and can even cause death in smaller reptiles and amphibians.

What happens if you touch a hornworm?

Nothing will happen on touching a hornworm. They are neither poisonous nor venomous, nor do they have the ability to bite or sting us.
Their “horns” are soft and not able to pierce human skin.
They don’t have chewing mouthparts or any other way to bite our hands, which can cause any injury.
All in all, hornworms are completely harmless. In fact, you can even pick them off leaves and throw them outside your garden if there is a small infestation on your hands.

Should you remove hornworms?

Hornworms are a natural pest for many plants. However, too many of them can cause serious damage to your garden.
Therefore, it is important to remove them from your garden if their population is growing out of control.
You can manually pick off the caterpillars or use an insecticide to get rid of them.
If you decide to go with a chemical solution, make sure to read and follow the instructions carefully in order to avoid any potential harm to beneficial species living in your garden.

Wrap Up

In conclusion, hornworms are a captivating and unique type of caterpillar.

While they can cause considerable damage to crops, they also aid as an essential food source for many birds and animals.

To control their populations, it is recommended to handpick them off of plants or use organic pesticides.

With the right management practices, it is possible to effectively control the hornworm population and reduce crop damage.

Authors

  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

    View all posts
Tags: hornworm in garden, hornworm infestation, Hornworms, remove hornworm

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44 Comments. Leave new

  • Bostjan Dvorak
    August 13, 2013 7:08 am

    Very interesting! I was first confused by the colour of this specimen – though Agrius cingulatus could also occur in very similar colour variations (as is the case in Agrius convolvuli from the Old World) – and its unusual pattern of the regularly drawn white stripes (which, indeed, can occur in the grassgreen type of A. convolvuli caterpillars as well, as sometimes found in summer months in Europe and Japan). But as the original colour is not easy to see (for the caterpillar is possibly infected or already entered the pupating stage), we need to focus on some details to identify it; the clear black-white pattern of its graspers and roundly circled anterior stigmae finally reveal a species of Manduca (M. sexta, according to its colour pattern and red horn), and so does its hairy skin (which is completely smooth in Agrius). The second confusion is due to the popular name of the plant; “potato vine” makes us expect an Ipomea batatas (< Mexico) plant from the Convolvulaceae family, but it is actually a real potato relative from the Solanaceae family, namely Solanum jasminoides, a popular ornamental plant with white blossoms and little leafs, climbing over walls, – which corresponds with the fact that this caterpillar was found on or under it. I am highly surprised, btw, by the information that caterpillars of A. cingulatus can also be found feeding on jimsonweed (Datura sp), as no information about any foodplant from the Solanaceae family is yet known for A. convolvuli. I suspect this information originates from the fact that caterpillars of this species can be frequently found along with those of Manduca sexta or M. quinquemaculata, sometimes similar in colour, as Convolvulaceae may often spread over fields cultivated by Solanaceae crops or secondarily covered by jimsonweed – and, maybe, because the moths can be observed feeding from their flowers (misunderstanding). However, both species of caterpillars can be easily found in Arizona – mainly in the autumn, I suppose. There is an easy method to recognize those of Agrius cingulatus: when shocked, they dont know any "sphinx position", but will vigorously turn the head aside instead and swing the body to a circle. And under their head You can see two steadily vibrating tentacles, which are calm in other species.
    Both species can eat quite a lot – but occur singly in nature, due to the fact that attacked plants signalize their infection to other egg-laying females of the species by special pheromones; however, this ability is lost in cultivated plants (on fields with cultured soil), which additionally present a huge secondary biotope for them.

    Thank You for submitting this interesting discovery – and good luck for further sightings!
    What a great page!

    Bostjan Dvorak

    Reply
  • Bostjan Dvorak
    August 13, 2013 7:08 am

    Very interesting! I was first confused by the colour of this specimen – though Agrius cingulatus could also occur in very similar colour variations (as is the case in Agrius convolvuli from the Old World) – and its unusual pattern of the regularly drawn white stripes (which, indeed, can occur in the grassgreen type of A. convolvuli caterpillars as well, as sometimes found in summer months in Europe and Japan). But as the original colour is not easy to see (for the caterpillar is possibly infected or already entered the pupating stage), we need to focus on some details to identify it; the clear black-white pattern of its graspers and roundly circled anterior stigmae finally reveal a species of Manduca (M. sexta, according to its colour pattern and red horn), and so does its hairy skin (which is completely smooth in Agrius). The second confusion is due to the popular name of the plant; “potato vine” makes us expect an Ipomea batatas (< Mexico) plant from the Convolvulaceae family, but it is actually a real potato relative from the Solanaceae family, namely Solanum jasminoides, a popular ornamental plant with white blossoms and little leafs, climbing over walls, – which corresponds with the fact that this caterpillar was found on or under it. I am highly surprised, btw, by the information that caterpillars of A. cingulatus can also be found feeding on jimsonweed (Datura sp), as no information about any foodplant from the Solanaceae family is yet known for A. convolvuli. I suspect this information originates from the fact that caterpillars of this species can be frequently found along with those of Manduca sexta or M. quinquemaculata, sometimes similar in colour, as Convolvulaceae may often spread over fields cultivated by Solanaceae crops or secondarily covered by jimsonweed – and, maybe, because the moths can be observed feeding from their flowers (misunderstanding). However, both species of caterpillars can be easily found in Arizona – mainly in the autumn, I suppose. There is an easy method to recognize those of Agrius cingulatus: when shocked, they dont know any "sphinx position", but will vigorously turn the head aside instead and swing the body to a circle. And under their head You can see two steadily vibrating tentacles, which are calm in other species.
    Both species can eat quite a lot – but occur singly in nature, due to the fact that attacked plants signalize their infection to other egg-laying females of the species by special pheromones; however, this ability is lost in cultivated plants (on fields with cultured soil), which additionally present a huge secondary biotope for them.

    Thank You for submitting this interesting discovery – and good luck for further sightings!
    What a great page!

    Bostjan Dvorak

    Reply
  • The information on Tobacco Hornworm (Caterpillar of the Carolina Sphinx) Parasitized by Braconid can be improved. I have many of these exact caterpillars in my backyard. I live in San Diego California and I suggest adding this area for “location” This section will then be more accurate and helpful for others.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your information Luis. The location information is specific to the actual sighting with the photograph. We also have photos from our own offices in Mount Washington, Los Angeles, CA. If you would like to send images of your Tobacco Hornworms, we will gladly post them.

      Reply
  • My husband just found a dark horn worm with pink markings for the first time. He has killed, through hand picking, over 170 worms this year. We had an amazing amount of the moths this spring. They are in our green house as well in the raised bed gardens. Our location is very close to Death Valley.

    Reply
  • Bostjan Dvorak
    August 7, 2014 12:39 pm

    Hello together,

    this is a very interesting and rather confusing colour variation of a sweet potato hornworm caterpillar (Agrius cinqulatus), I suppose; the brown and brownish pattern variations are more common in the closely related Agrius convolvuli from the Old World, on the other hand.

    Best wishes,
    Bostjan

    Reply
  • Hi Suzanne,

    Whilst your photo is lovely, I was sad to read that you had trimmed twigs and leaves away to achieve the shot. This is considered to be unethical behaviour by birding and photography organisations as nests are built in concealment for obvious reasons. A friendly reminder that photographers must be mindful of the subjects we are trying to capture as their welfare is always the priority!

    Happy shooting.

    D

    Reply
  • Hi Suzanne,

    Whilst your photo is lovely, I was sad to read that you had trimmed twigs and leaves away to achieve the shot. This is considered to be unethical behaviour by birding and photography organisations as nests are built in concealment for obvious reasons. A friendly reminder that photographers must be mindful of the subjects we are trying to capture as their welfare is always the priority!

    Happy shooting.

    D

    Reply
  • What happens if the larvae are knocked off? Does the caterpillar still die?

    Reply
    • Most likely the caterpillar will die. The damage has been done by the time the parasites pupate.

      Reply
  • Looks like Noctua pronuba to me.

    Reply
  • Marcelo Brito de Avellar
    August 5, 2015 11:49 am

    Looks like Spodoptera littoralis to me. Just my opinion! Hugs!

    Reply
  • I agree with Spodoptera, dunno if littoralis, BugGuide does not recognize this species in U.S., seems to be Old World species.
    It must be S. dolichos http://bugguide.net/node/view/57552

    Reply
  • Love the “eyes” (spiracles) on these guys! #eerie

    Reply
  • Tomato and chili plant destroyers! Good thing they make a cool moth…. 🙂

    Reply
  • Here’s our Tobacco Hornworm…. Thought he was going to turn into a beautiful butterfly ~ oh well ~ a moth will do! Our “Spike Willar Hodges” has become the object of affection for my 5&9yr old daughters. I

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  • Just yesterday I found this poor guy in my garden. A victim of the braconid wasp.

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  • Chris Bender
    May 18, 2016 8:17 pm

    Kalona iowa here, I just uncovered a hard shelled cucoon with a handle shaped tail. This website informed me that it is a tomato worm which was in the process of becoming a moth. It was found underground where we had our tomatoes planted last year. I set it aside while doing garden work and forgot about it and later tilled the ground. Needless to say, now can’t find it. Guess I’ll just have to be on the lookout for the nasty worms to come harvest the nutrient rich leaves which would otherwise provide me with juicy, delicious tomatoes.

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  • KILL THE CATERPILLARS!!!! They will destroy your Moonflowers. Especially since the plant is young. I had caterpillars buzz their way through my Moonflowers, eating the leaves and the blooms. I have two HUGE (2nd year) moonflower vines/bushes, and they just destroyed them. I then learned to use BTK insecticide. I’ll be spraying as soon as this season is over, next month,and then at the very beginning of next season. (I too am in Virginia….in Richmond). They also leave tons on black “waste” all over the place. They are AWFUL!!!!

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  • we have 10 of these same catterpiiers on moon flowers. were the eggs laid on the moon flower ? do they bury themselves? since this is sept 1 will they not hatch till spring?

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    • Tobacco Hornworms do pupate underground, and we cannot predict when they will emerge because you did not provide a location. The further north you live, the better the chances are that a spring emergence is more likely.

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  • i just found one on my pepper plant i thought it was a leaf is it dangerous to my veggies?

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  • Linda Chamberlain
    September 25, 2016 8:52 pm

    Actually, this was a tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta.

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  • Yes.

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  • I found a tobacco Hornworm and was hoping to keep it in the bucket of dirt but the dirt was too wet so now I think it died and I’m kind of sad about it. I then put it in a bucket of shredded paper hoping it’s just in diapause, but I think it might be deceased. Any suggestions or what I should look for if he’s dead? Thanks! ~April~

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  • I put lots of grass in my glass aquarium for my bandied sphinx that we caught on the side of a pond while fishing, and assumed that they eat leaves… so I put Grass and leaves in the aquarium as well as large leaves from a flower plant growing outside of my house… He has not eaten any of the leaves or grass and is getting shorter by the day. He pooped a lot on day one of captivating him, and has nearly halved his length, since…(which has been about 4-5 days) Is he dying? Please advise.
    Sincerely,
    Concerned Catterpillar Captain

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    • According to BugGuide: “Larvae feed on Evening Primrose, Oenothera species, Water Primrose, Ludwigia species, and other related plants (Onagraceae).” Grass and random leaves will not sustain your Banded Sphinx Caterpillar and without the correct food, it will starve. It is also possible that it is preparing to pupate. BugGuide also notes: “Mature larvae leave host foodplant to bury themselves in an underground cavity in fall. Caterpillars pupate during winter, then crawl out of their burrows in Spring (Appear May-August) as Moths.”

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  • I put lots of grass in my glass aquarium for my bandied sphinx that we caught on the side of a pond while fishing, and assumed that they eat leaves… so I put Grass and leaves in the aquarium as well as large leaves from a flower plant growing outside of my house… He has not eaten any of the leaves or grass and is getting shorter by the day. He pooped a lot on day one of captivating him, and has nearly halved his length, since…(which has been about 4-5 days) Is he dying? Please advise.
    Sincerely,
    Concerned Catterpillar Captain

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  • Steve Carras
    March 1, 2018 10:00 pm

    Edible caterpillars..I somehow think if eating them a big huge moth will emerge in my stomach lol..with pupa…

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    • According to Desert Museum: “Known as makkum by the O’odham People, these caterpillars are bright yellow or green with longitudinal black stripes and lateral red dots. Fully grown, they are about three inches in length. … Tohono O’odham men, women, and children collected makkum during the caterpillar’s wandering pre-pupation phase. After removing the head and viscera, the larvae were traditionally roasted over hot coals and either eaten immediately,”

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  • Bostjan Dvorak
    July 23, 2018 2:10 am

    Yes, this is a Cocytius antaeus caterpillar on its pupating march! All the speculations and assumptions are correct. The foodplant corresponds… Amazing record, congratulations. It should be unusual to find this species’ caterpillar in such a dry climate area, but, as already commented, there may be reasons… It would be great to observe the pupation of this caterpillar; could You do that? — The caterpillar possibly needs a more humid soil, more of it, and some leaves and other dirt – to construck a crater-like, raised hollow, a kind of nest, inside of which it will calm down and shed…

    Good luck and best wishes from Berlin,
    Bostjan

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  • Bostjan Dvorak
    July 23, 2018 2:10 am

    Yes, this is a Cocytius antaeus caterpillar on its pupating march! All the speculations and assumptions are correct. The foodplant corresponds… Amazing record, congratulations. It should be unusual to find this species’ caterpillar in such a dry climate area, but, as already commented, there may be reasons… It would be great to observe the pupation of this caterpillar; could You do that? — The caterpillar possibly needs a more humid soil, more of it, and some leaves and other dirt – to construck a crater-like, raised hollow, a kind of nest, inside of which it will calm down and shed…

    Good luck and best wishes from Berlin,
    Bostjan

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  • Bostjan Dvorak
    July 26, 2018 4:53 am

    Dear John, dear Daniel, Thank You so much for this rich information and wonderful documentation!! – For the first time I can see a pupating caterpillar of this species – in live, which is an important experience. An amazing behaviour, the video perfectly documents its movements. This is really a great site. We can discover so much about these fascinating moths here. Many Thanks! – I guess the caterpillar is now hidden and will stay in the construction to pupate… This may take two weeks, but can be finished in some days… After a month or two, You will admire the elegant, huge moth… Good luck and best wishes from Berlin, Bostjan

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  • Bostjan Dvorak
    June 11, 2019 9:40 am

    Dear Daniel, dear Mike,

    Thank You so much for kindly sharing this nice hornworm-photo; the Eumorpha (“nice-shaped”)-genus is one of the most fascinating ones among the Dilophonotini… I hesitate here with my judgement too… between the two named species, as their caterpillars are as similar indeed; I tend to say Eumorpha vitis, due to the stripe shape and the position of the little spots…

    Nice pentecostal wishes,
    Bostjan

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  • Bostjan Dvorak
    June 11, 2019 9:40 am

    Dear Daniel, dear Mike,

    Thank You so much for kindly sharing this nice hornworm-photo; the Eumorpha (“nice-shaped”)-genus is one of the most fascinating ones among the Dilophonotini… I hesitate here with my judgement too… between the two named species, as their caterpillars are as similar indeed; I tend to say Eumorpha vitis, due to the stripe shape and the position of the little spots…

    Nice pentecostal wishes,
    Bostjan

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  • Thanks for your prompt and interesting response. We had no idea of the fascinating things going on right under our noses.

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  • I wonder if your friend ever finished her report or if her notes are still safe? I’m from near St George UT. Came here 40 years ago and at that time there still a few Paiute elders who spoke English as a second language. That one old lady used to have access to people’s tomato patches. She would go in there and gather these caterpillars. She would squeeze the guts out and drop the good part into her bucket. I never did hear how they are cooked but i will guess they are parched or toasted.
    Sometimes i see these “hornworms” on Datura plants and i wonder what she would have to say about that.

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  • Are there horn worms on tomatoes in Wyoming?

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