Currently viewing the tag: "Tomato Bugs"
What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Hi,
Recently we have found about 6 of the very large tomato hornworms(?) on our 2 tomato plants. They look very similar to the black and white photo on your website. Half of them had white oval fuzzy pieces all over the outside of their bodies. What are those? Eggs? We took them off the plant by either breaking the stems they were on or by picking them off with a Popsicle stick. They are eating our plants down to the stalks!
Thanks,
Rebecca

Dear Rebecca,
Those “eggs” you saw were in fact the cocoons of a parasitic Braconid wasp which was devouring the tomato hornworm alive. Nature’s own pesticide.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

It has been raining for days and the leaves toward the bottom of my tomato plants are starting to look yellow. Then I saw what I thought were tiny little white bugs and figured I could just pluck them off. Much to my surprise they were part of, or attached to, a very large slug like creature that had suction cupped itself to the plant. What the heck is it, or are they? What can I do to get rid of it? I also found a smaller orange like slug that I smushed. Again, what is it and what do I do about it? And then, because things come in threes, I found droppings, on the leaves, that were the size of a small childs fingernail bed. hard to tell if it is bird poop or otherwise. This is the first time I am growing vegetables and these plants were hand cultivated by good friends. I want to make sure I do the right thing…too embarrassing to let their hard work, and mine, go to the bugs.
Please help.
Many thanks!
Risa Hochroth

Dear Risa,
I wish you had sent a photo. The tiny white bugs you found were doing your job for you. It is perfect bio-warfare. They are the pupae of a type of parasitic Braconid wasp. The female wasp lays her eggs inside (using an ovipositor) the larva of a tomato hornworm, a common pest on tomatoes. It is the green sluglike creature you found. The larvae of the wasp eat the hornworm inside out, then pupate on the outside, the stage you discovered. The caterpillar then dies and the wasps mature and begin a new cycle. The Tomato Hornworm >is the caterpillar of a large moth, Manduca sexta or Manduca quinquemaculata. The larvae are identified by the horn at the posterior end and they attain a length of four or more inches and a girth equal to a human finger before burying into the ground to pupate. While in the caterpillar form, they can defoliate entire branches of a tomato plant as well as nibbling on the still green tomatoes.

Thank you.
So, if I have handpicked the two I saw, what should I do to prevent others from appearing and destroying the plant. I assume if there were 2 there are more, yes? I sprayed insecticidal soap on the foliage, but I am wondering if there is more I should do other than just keep looking for them and handpicking them off. On the web I read that I should not have killed the hornworm with the wasps, which is consistent with what you have said, but should I have left it there to have the wasps potentially kill other worms. I thought leaving them would just give them more time to eat the foliage and the tomatoes that they have already munched on. Also, once I harvest the last tomatoes, isthere anything I need to do to the soil to make sure that they are not going to be there next year?
Risa Hochroth

Hand picking is, in our opinion, the best means of control. Watch for the telltale signs, nibbled leaves and droppings, then search for the grazer. You can sift through the soil to locate the large pupae, but adults can just fly in and lay eggs. A dilligent eye is the best form of control since we do not endorse undue use of pesticides in the garden, especially on produce meant for human consumption.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

I have grown tomatoes for many, many years and this is a first for me. I have enclosed a picture. Can you identify the larva/pupa? that is building the cocoon on my tomato? Good bug – bad bug? Thanks so much for your help.
Pat in Ida

Dear Pat,
That is one beautiful tomato. The caterpillar might be an Omnivorous Looper, Sabulodes aegrotata which matures into a medium sized rather pretty moth, however they are still garden pests. They defoliate my mint plants every year and also eat the leaves from my roses. As their name implies, they eat most any plant. They are very abundant in city gardens. During the day, the caterpillar hides in a loose webby shelter that they spin in a leaf fold, or between leaves, or in your case, on a ripe tomato. They will probably not chew the tomatoes, just the leaves.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Hello,
I was wondering if you could identify this bug on my tomato plant for me…THANKS
Colloquially known as the “tomato bug”, the tomato hornworm is the caterpillar of the Tobacco Sphinx, Manduca sexta or Manduca quinquemaculata, large night flying moths.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Hi. Digging in the dirt where I usually plant my tomato plant, I discovered a cocoon the size of my thumb. It is brown and like I said, it is the size of my thumb. Any ideas what it may be? I put it in a jar with some of the dirt from where I was digging. I hope it will live. I can send a picture If will help you identify it.
Thanks
Michelle


Dear Michelle,
Did it have what looks like the handle on a jug? If so, it is the pupa of a Tobacco Hornworm Moth (Manduca sexta) which in its larval, caterpillar form is the dreaded Tomato Hornworm, a four inch long behemoth that devours the leaves of tomato plants, sometimes leaving them defoliated. The larva eventually buries itself in the dirt to pupate without spinning a cocoon, leaving its bare pupa to mature. The handle of the jug is actually the place where the long proboscus, a tubelike mouth that the moth uses to gather nectar from deep throated flowers. We would love a photo.

Hi Daniel. Thanks for getting back to me. I have attached a photo, but I’m afraid it’s not a very good one. It sounds like your know your bugs. My next question is, how do I get this thing to hatch? Is the moth beautiful? I would imagine that it is. I currently have it in some soil in a jar without a lid. Should I keep it out side or in the house? Let me know.
Thanks
Michelle

 

Dear Michelle,
The moth is large and mottled grey with very elongated wings. There are a series of yellow spots along the body. They are very strong fliers. While not traditionally beautiful, they are truly awesome. They are very similar to the moth used in the “Silence of the Lambs” advertisements, and you can also see a swarm of them crawling on Patsi Kensit (spelling?) in the totally awesome movie” Angels and Insects”. You are doing the right thing as far as getting the pupa to metamorphose. Do not let the soil either dry out or get too wet. Keep it out of the direct sunlight.

Thanks again for your time and the information. I hope I get to see him. I think I forgot to ask if you know how long it could take? Do you know?
Michelle

Dear Michelle,
Normally they overwinter as pupa and then metamorphose in the spring. I’m guessing your specimen has passed the necessary time underground and it should be happening soon.
Good luck.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

HHHHHHEEELLLLLLLLPPPPPPP!!!!
I’ve grown tomatoes for years, and recently moved. When I go out to my garden, EVERYTIME a tomato starts to turn red, something eats a hole in it. I thought it was worms, but I have sprayed for them twice, with no results. Today when I went out, one of the tomatoes had split at the top (due to the weather), and there were little bugs with wings inside them, they had red heads. Is that what keeps eating my red tomatoes?? Please help me, I’m loosing my mind. Whatever it is, it only eats a hole the size of a half dollar, then moves on to the next, and doesn’t seem to be bothering anything else in my garden. Thank you soooo very much, hopefully you have an answer for me.
Kristi

Hi Kristi,
I suspect birds. I have mockingbirds that frequently nibble my ripe tomatoes. Also squirrels. I have taken to draping the plants with tulle, or netting, when the tomatoes begin to ripen. Tomato bugs, or tomato horn worms, occasionally nibble the tomatoes, but usually the green ones. They also defoliate the plants, and you should be able to find them because of their droppings. Good luck.

OMG,,,,,,, i never thought of that!! We do have mocking birds living next door. We watch them attack the neighborhood cats. Funny that the tomato’s usually only have holes toward the bottom of the plant. Maybe because the birds are short?? What can i cover them with so they can’t get through? I’m afraid they can get their beady little beaks through the netting??? Thank you soooooo much for your advice. You have no idea how much this helps me!!

Hi Kristi,
Some garden shops sell a black or green netting that is more durable than tulle. I got it at Home Depot. I haven’t had a problem with the tulle. The netting at the garden shop has a stronger weave with larger holes, and it can be reused from year to year. Remember, everyone loves tomatoes, even birds and small mammals. The position of the holes probably has something to do with where the birds perch while eating.

You are awesome,,, Thank you so very much for taking time out of your busy day to help others. I think that is wonderful!!! May God bless you richly. 🙂

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination