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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

caterpillar
Location: Cheyenne, Wyoming
August 1, 2011 12:12 pm
Please identify. Many of these healthy looking critters are in our greenhouse munching away on the remaining tomatoes!
Signature: Beth

Tomato Hornworm

Hi Beth,
We only know of two Sphinx Caterpillars, commonly called Hornworms, that feed upon tomato, and they are both green, so we were very surprised to learn that the Tomato Hornworm,
Manduca quinquemaculata, also has a dark form.  Your individual is considerably darker than the example posted on the Sphingidae of the Americas website, the best place to identify Sphinx Moths in the family Sphingidae.  We are going to copy the webmaster at Sphingidae of the Americas, Bill Oehlke, because he may be interested in posting your very dark Tomato Hornworm.

Bill Oehlke responds
Hi Daniel,
The dark form is actually quite common. There are a couple of links on quinquemaculatus file where sources have sent green and dark forms feeding in same location, some of them are very dark.
Thanks for thinking of me. The Laramie County sighting confirms/documents a suspected presence in that county.
Bill Oehlke

Hello Dan,
Thanks for doing the work! I am intrigued!  We have not used any pesticide in the greenhouse and only had a limited amount of tomatoes.
Thanks for passing this on – my husband and I are teachers, Paul a middle grades science teacher and I teach second grade so this will start the year with interest for the kids.
With appreciation,
Beth Crips

gardening blog update:  August 18, 2011
We allow Tomato Hornworms and Tobacco Hornworms to feed on our tomato plants.  There are usually no more than two caterpillars per plant.  We love the adult moths, though we have only seen one.  The pupa we tried to raise in a terrarium emerged and its wings did not enlarge.  It might benefit this species for the female to stay by the food source and attract the male.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination