Anyone Know What the Heck This Is?!?

Adam Taggart
By Adam Taggart on Thu, Sep 19, 2013 - 8:46pm

Just found this caterpillar in my garden. It's HUGE!!!

Serously, it's bigger and fatter than my index finger.

Anyone know what kind of caterpillar this is? I'm located in Northern California.

Maybe Fukushima fallout really is messing with the natural order of things out here on the West coast...

15 Comments

Adam Taggart's picture
Adam Taggart
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Tomato hornworm

Thanks to those who responded so swiftly on social media.

Tomato hornworm it is!

Wikipedia explains it as:

The five-spotted hawkmoth (Manduca quinquemaculata) is a brown and gray hawk moth of the Sphingidae family. The caterpillar, often referred to as the tomato hornworm, can be a major pest in gardens.

Guess I'd better go check for more to save what's left of my tomatoes...

Ken C's picture
Ken C
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tomato horn worm

It looks like a tomato horn worm

 

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=Tomato+Hornworm+Caterpillar&FORM=RESTAB

 

Ken C's picture
Ken C
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too late

oops it looks like you found it while I was typing

 

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redinr08
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Caterpillar ID

Could it be one of these?

 

http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/insects/catnw/pht45.htm

 

Pachysphinx occidentalis [Sphingidae]

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RoseHip
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I rember these

When I was little my dad would pay me 5 cents per worm I found. We always keep a bucket of either gasoline or vinegar in the garden that we would toss those things in most days I could find 5-10. I remember one day I filled the bucket. They have an amazing ability to either procreate or let the nest know where the tomatoes are. this was in Eastern Washington state. 

Rose

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maceves
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tomato hornworm

A tomato hornworm.

I wish all the pests were as easy to rid of as he is.  Scary looking, but easy to find and pick off.  The butterfly stage is big too---reminds me of an ugly hummingbird.  You see them darting around in strangest places, like Walmart parking lots, just looking for  another tomato to devour.

Amanda Witman's picture
Amanda Witman
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Adam, I remember when I saw my first tomato hornworm

I was just as stunned as you were.  Thought my garden had attracted aliens.  And then I found that many of my friends knew what they were already... 

Though I'm wondering if what you found might have actually been a tobacco hornworm, a close cousin of the tomato hornworm and equally happy to gorge on tomatoes.  Which was it? 

Tomato hornworms are closely related to (and sometimes confused with) the tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta). This confusion arises because caterpillars of both species feed on the foliage of various plants from the family Solanaceae, so either species can be found on tobacco or tomato leaves, and the plant on which the caterpillar is found does not indicate its species. The larvae of these species can be distinguished by their lateral markings: tomato hornworms have eight V-shaped markings while tobacco hornworms have seven diagonal lines.[2] Furthermore, the caterpillars can be distinguished from the larval stage onwards by the color of the horns on their back ends: M. quinquemaculata caterpillars have black horns, while M. sexta caterpillars have red horns. The moths can be distinguished by the number of spots on their abdomens, with M. quinquemaculata having, as its name suggests, five.[2]

(Source)

Adam Taggart's picture
Adam Taggart
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Correction: Tobacco Hornworm

Upon closer investigation online, it looks like this bug is a tobacco (vs tomato) hornworm.

Tobacco hornworm:

Tomato hornworm:

Doug's picture
Doug
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Parasitic wasps

Both the tomato and tobacco hornworms are prey to parasitic Braconid wasps.  According to the second article, the caterpillars likely already harbor the wasp eggs, and you can encourage the wasps in your garden.

http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/beneficials/beneficial-04_braconid_wasp_on_hornworm.htm

http://www.aces.edu/dept/extcomm/specialty/march18d02gard.html

Good luck.

Doug

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jasonw
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Chicken Food?

When I first saw this my initial thought to your question was - Chicken Food!  Does anybody know if these big uglies are good for the chickens to eat?

Jason

robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
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absolutely!

chickens love'em. the parasitic wasp will be visible as a white rice sized cocoon on the pillars back sucking the juice outa de'pillar.

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ferralhen
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crows love em too! i keep the

crows love em too! i keep the compost pile right next to the garden. i wet their appetite with my scraps but once there, they forage the garden. i've seen the parasitic wasp...way cool how nature works.

Don35's picture
Don35
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Didn't know

I didn't know there was a difference between a tomato worm and a tobacco worm! My family called them tobacco worms. Ya learn something every day! My chickens love them.

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Doug
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Guessed

I guessed chickens would like them based on my chickens' behavior when one of them caught a small snake.  The feeding frenzy can only be compared in my experience to the same phenomenon I once saw with sharks.  They aren't pretty.

Doug

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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by the bucketful?

I love the idea of feeding them to the chickens! Turning pests into eggs is way cool.

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